Meet the Newest Member of J-pod, J57!!

    Meet the newest member of J-pod, J57!! Today we had a heart warming experience watching J35, Tahlequah, frolicking with her new calf J57, who was born just 14 days ago! In 2018 Tahlequah made news around the world when she carried her calf, that died shortly after birth, for 17 days straight. Her tour of mourning, that covered approximately 1,000 miles, brought the decline of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population to a global stage!
       Today there is a buzz of excitement and hope in the whale community, both for mom, who endured so much in 2018, and for the new calf. J57 brings the SRKW population up to 73. We don’t know if the calf is a boy or a girl yet, but we almost got the chance to answer that question today when mom lifted up little J57 out of the water with her rostrum a couple of times. This is a pretty common bonding behavior we see with moms and their calves. You can determine the sex of the calf if you see it’s underside in just the right spot. At times it almost looked as if mom was showing off her new calf! She must have known how excited everyone is for her.
     On Sept 6, 2020 shortly after J57 was born, all three SRKW pods (J, K, and L) joined together in a huge superpod party! They appeared to be celebrating the new birth in one of their favorite stomping grounds – Haro Strait off the west side of San Juan Island. The orcas were breaching, sphopping, tailslapping, rolling around each other, and vocalizing so loudly that you could hear them above the surface!!  Enjoy the pictures from today!  As always prints of these photos are available for purchase.

The new calf, J57, with mom, Tahlequah, J35.
J57 with J42, Echo, following behind
The new calf, J57, with mom, Tahlequah, J35.
Mom pushes J57 out of the water in a moment of play and for a brief moment you see the little one’s tail flukes.
The new calf, J57, with mom, Tahlequah, J35.
L87, Onyx

Lots of Whales and Wildlife Lately

We’ve been seeing 4 species of whales in recent days! The T65A pod and T137 pod orcas have been traveling together in and out of Puget Sound, There are still some gray whales around, and we’ve seen humpbacks and minkes too! There have also been lots of eagles, puffins, and seals out there. Here are some photos from recent trips. As always any of these images are available for sale, just make a comment with your contact info.

Gray whale 2356 shows its flukes
A minke whale lunge feeding at Hein Bank
Play time between two transient killer whales
There have been lots of puffins out there lately
A spyhop near Marrowstone Island

T46 Pod Wows during Porpoise Hunt

We sure had a fantastic experience with the T46 pod in Puget Sound yesterday!  We watched the pod swimming at a slow and steady pace for a while as they spread out across the water looking for prey.  Suddenly T46E, a huge 17 year old male, came flying out of the water in the opposite direction from his family!  That chase was on, and the rest of the family swam in quickly to help!  It only took half a minute before we could see their target, a harbor porpoise, trying desperately to get away from them.  During the hunt I took photos of T46E taking a big “swing and a miss” at the porpoise with his pectoral fin (see the 3 photo sequence at the end).  During all of this action T46D, who often lags behind and seems to go by his own agenda, didn’t even seem interested at first until he swam over towards us and started breaching, perhaps in anticipation of his next meal!  We saw 6-7 breaches in all by this 20 year old!  As always, these photos are available for purchase at any time (just let me know in the comment tab at the end).

T46D back flip breach
T46D belly flop breach

T46D never ate with the rest of the family, but once they moved on from the meal he circled around and probably got to eat some of what they left behind for him.  As the rest of the T46 pod slowly swam southward, T46E decided to breach a couple of times and swam right over to a fishing boat to give them a thrill and a few tailslaps! 

T46E gets in on the breach action after the meal!

These next three photos show the sequence of T46E taking a “Swing and a Miss” at the porpoise!

Here is the porpoise next to T46E’s dorsal fin
T46E takes a swipe at the porpoise with his pectoral fin
T46E misses his mark!

T37A Pod Killer Whales Attack a Porpoise

On July 11 we witnessed the T37A pod attack a pod of harbor porpoise just north of Greenbank on the eastern side of Whidbey Island. The hunt started out like many other killer whale hunts do with the black and white predators spreading out and swimming very stealthily along. We could see a pod of harbor porpoise surfacing about a quarter mile in front of them. The anticipation built with each minute of their next 2-3 minute dive. The silence was finally broken when the 6 killer whales started bursting out of the water, speed swimming, towards the porpoise! The Chase was on!

It only took a few minutes before the T37A pod had the porpoise surrounded (possibly 2 of them) and they were circling around it trying to injure the animal/s for the final kill. They did knock the porpoise airborne on a couple of occasions using their powerful tail flukes. T37A, the mom, seemed to linger off to the side while she let her offspring do much of the finishing work on their prospective meal. Even the youngest members of the pod tried to be an active part of the hunt.

Towards the end of the hunt, when it was all but obvious that the porpoise would become lunch, T37A3 came launching out of the water 3 times in a row revealing that he is a boy! Up to this point researchers didn’t know the sex of this 7 year old animal, but this encounter made it pretty obvious! I sent copies of the pictures to researchers in Washington and Canada so that they could update their ID catalogs with the sex of this growing boy for future reference. As always these photos are available for purchase in print form or digitally