J50 and J16's flukes

J50 and J16's flukes

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

J16, J50, and J26

J16, J50, and J26

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

J27

J27

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

J26 and J50

J26 and J50

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

J17

J17

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

J38

J38

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

J22

J22

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

J27

J27

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

spyhop

spyhop

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

Steller Sea lions at Green Point

Steller Sea lions at Green Point

Photo by Dave Ellifrit

Encounter #23 - Mar 16, 2017

Date: 16-Mar-17

Sequence: 1

Encounter Number: 23

Enc Start Time: 15:55

Enc End Time: 18:26

Vessel: Orcinus

Observers: Dave Ellifrit

Pods or ecotype: J pod and L87

Location: San Juan Channel

Begin Lat/Long: 48 35.25/123 12.28

End Lat/Long: 48 40.56/123 05.57

 

Encounter Summary:

Jane Cogan called Dave at home around 1445 to relay a report that residents had been found off Point Caution in San Juan Channel. Dave headed down to Snug Harbor and left aboard “Orcinus” at 1530. “Orcinus” arrived on scene in the Wasp Islands area at 1555. Although a second report had the whales milling off Pt. Caution, the initial report was of the whales heading south down SJ Channel so it was a pleasant surprise to find the whales moving back northwest again.

The whales were traveling slowly and spread out in small groups with some singles across San Juan Channel. The first whales “Orcinus” encountered were the J16s minus the J36s and they were in a loose group about mid-channel. There were small groups and individuals both to north and the south of the J16s. The J16s briefly pointed southwest as the whales south of them converged a little. As the J16s moved slowly on, J27 and J31 (who were the southernmost whales) and another pair, J40 and J45, passed by on either side the boat. The J16s had actually dropped back some and, after another brief look at them, “Orcinus” moved on to a pair of whales several hundred yards to the northeast. This was J39 and J46 and they may have been chasing a fish together as there were several tight turns and J46 did a bunch of tail lobs. These two moved toward and joined several other whales several hundred more yards to the northeast. The whales they joined were L87, J35, J47, and J44 and this group seemed to be socializing.

Other whales could be seen to the northwest near Jones Island so “Orcinus” moved on toward them. J38 was traveling west on his own off the south side of Jones Island and a small group of females was seen way up ahead rounding the corner of Jones and heading northwest. A small group of juveniles were either playing or chasing a fish behind J38. This was J49, J51, and J52 and they romped along together and made themselves difficult to photograph. Around 1645, a single female approached out of the west and slowly approached the rambunctious juveniles. This was J36 coming back and J38 turned around and followed her back to the young whales. J36 quickly collected J52 although J49 and J51 continued to goof around. Several spread out females could be seen along a tide rip about a half mile to the northwest so “Orcinus” headed there next. These females conveniently came together into a nice group that included J19, J22, J37, and J41. These were the northernmost whales and they were pointed northwest toward the area between Flattop and Waldron Islands.

After getting photos of the group of four females, “Orcinus” headed back south in an attempt to find J17 and J53 who were the last two J pod whales Dave had not seen yet. The L87 group was about three quarters of a mile or more to the southeast. This was same group L87 was in before and, luckily, J17 and J53 had joined them since they had last been left. This group still seemed quite social and they moved slowly northwest, eventually heading north on the east side of Flattop Island. To the southwest of this group were the J16s minus the J36s again but with J40 and J45. The J16s plus J40 and J45 traveled slowly west together along the south side of Flattop and Gull Islands. When they were just west of Gull Island, the group turned north and began to split up as J26 moved off to the west and J40 and J42 dropped back a little. J31 approached from the southwest and traveled loosely with the now spread out group. J27 finally reappeared about halfway between Gull Island and Green Point. However, he was taking five minute dives and only coming up for one, sometimes two, breaths so he was soon left alone as he turned northeast toward Mouatt Bay on the west side of Waldron Island. The whales that had been northeast of Flattop Island looked like they were mostly in Mouatt Bay too. “Orcinus” ended the encounter after giving up on J27 at 1826 about a mile and a half south of Sandy Point on Waldron Island. There were approximately 25 Steller sea lions hauled out at Green Point on the east tip of Spieden Island.

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Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 15569/ DFO SARA 388

2017 Encounters