Encounter #103 - Sept 25, 2016
L22 spyhop
L22 spyhop

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

J46 and J54
J46 and J54

Photo by Dave Ellifrit


Photo by Dave Ellifrit

L22 spyhop
L22 spyhop

Photo by Dave Ellifrit


Photos taken under Federal Permits



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Dave Ellifrit

J and L pods

Members of J pod, the K16s, and the L12s

Swanson Channel

48 38.74/123 12.91

48 51.02/123 20.46

Encounter Summary:

After receiving several calls from Jane Cogan reporting whales heading north up Haro Strait and other reports of whales down the west side of San Juan Island, Dave headed down to Snug Harbor and left aboard “Orcinus” at 0955. The whales that had been northbound earlier were found in lower Swanson Channel and, on the way to them, “Kodiak” found another two whales halfway between Henry Island and Stuart Island. These two were reported to be taking long dives and acting like transients when “Orcinus” arrived on scene at 1010. This pair of whales ended up being K16 and K35 although, admittedly, they were not being easy to identify and K35 was throwing some very “big” looks.

Once the K16s were identified, “Orcinus” headed north and, ten minutes later, found more spread out whales in Swanson Channel around 1030. J46 and J54 were foraging together mid-channel and looked like they might have been either chasing a salmon or sharing one. J44 moved north past this pair while they were foraging. J54 still looks too thin for his age but it was encouraging to see him try to catch fish with his older sister. Other whales could be seen along the North Pender Island bluffs and the J22s were spread out on the west side of Swanson Channel. Up ahead of these whales, J27 and J31 were spread out foraging off Mouat Point. Across the channel from J27 and J31, another bull and a couple other whales were seen. These whales ended up being J35 and J47 and the bull was L85. It was surprising to see L85 up in Swanson Channel as the L12 group has rarely made it north of Stuart Island in recent years. L85 was behind the J35s when “Orcinus” approached but he quickly caught up to the pair and immediately began some sexual social activity as he tried to woo J35. This was the third CWR encounter in a week where L85 was traveling and socializing with J35 and it certainly seems like a possible case of courting.

By about 1140, a large group could be seen forming near the shoreline off Otter Bay and other whales could be seen farther north off the entrance to Navy Channel. “Orcinus” headed north to the whales up there and found L41. Other L12s began appearing off the entrance to Navy Channel and Stanley Point on N. Pender Island and they all seemed to be milling. All the L12s with the exception of L41 formed up off Stanley Point and began logging in a line pointed south. The L12s were vocalizing loudly above the surface as they waited for the J pod whales to approach. After a few minutes of this, the J pod whales approached to within a hundred yards or so of the L12s and all the whales went on a vigorous dive which left swirling water and a small standing wave. About a minute later, most of the whales surfaced porpoising north near Crane Point on Mayne Island. While trying to catch up to the porpoising whales, “Orcinus” found a group of three whales heading north much more slowly than the porpoising whales and about a half mile behind them. This was the J28s and they slowly followed the other J pod whales north toward Active Pass. J28 was very thin looking and moving slow but was still hanging in there. The larger group of J pod whales slowed down between Enterprise Reef and the Mayne Island shoreline. This group included the J11s (minus J39 who must have been off with other whales), J16s, J17s (minus the J28s), and the J22s. This group continued north in a tight group at a medium speed and “Orcinus” left them about a quarter mile south of Active Pass at about 1207.

The L12s had dropped back and were now between the entrance to Navy Channel and Crane Point on Mayne Island. After another brief pass by the J28s, “Orcinus” headed back to the L12s who were in a tight group and now appeared to be resting. The L12s continued slowly north near shore by the points on Mayne Island but across the mouth of Village Bay as they passed the ferry landing there. “Orcinus” ended the encounter around 1330 with the L12s still heading slowly north about a quarter mile south of Active Pass. On the way home, “Orcinus” saw some very spread out K pod whales heading slowly in Haro Strait off Spieden Island but did not stop for them. Other K and L pod whales were reported off the south end of SJI and Mark Malleson had the L54s along with L84 and L88 west of Sooke today too.