Encounter #40 (Sequence 2 & 3) - Sept 5, 2020
Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388
Enc Date: 05/09/20
Enc Seq: 02
Observ Begin: 03:35 PM
Observ End: 09:45 PM
Other Vessel: Chimo
Staff: Ken Balcomb, Dave Ellifrit
Other Observers: Katie Jones and Sarah Bahan in Orcinus, Lodie Budwill with Ken in Shachi,
Pods: J, K, L
Location Descr: Strait of Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait
Start Latitude: 48 17.32
Start Longitude: 123 12.56
End Latitude: 48 29.38
End Longitude: 123 09.53
Encounter Summary (Sequence 2 & 3):
Most of us on the American side of the border had been trying to be patient as the reports of the K’s and L’s progress coming in the Strait of Juan de Fuca flooded in throughout the morning and early afternoon. When the inbound whales were inside of Race Rocks, we gathered our stuff up and Dave, Katie, and Sarah Bahan met down at Snug Harbor and left in “Orcinus” a little after 1400. Ken and Lodie left in “Chimo” about a half hour later. Mark was already out in “Mike 1” getting shots of the whales while they were in Canadian waters. The whales were all the way down near Coyote Bank and we had to take the long way around the border to get there. We finally arrived on scene around 1530 right near the border on Coyote Bank. The whales were spread out in groups and singles and most whales seemed to be milling. The trailing group of inbound whales were still on the Canadian side of the border and had not yet joined the leaders and J pod whales. We first made our way toward a socializing group that included the J19s, J39, K27, L22, and L94. J27 and K34 were about a hundred yards to the side of them. K20 and K38 were also in the area. While we were working this group, we got a call over the radio from “Kestrel” saying that it looked like J35 had had her calf. We left the group and headed about a quarter mile northeast of the other whales to where the J35s were. J35 had indeed had her calf! It had not been there on the morning of September 3rd. Its’ dorsal fin was not flopped over so the calf was probably born somewhere between the evenings of the 3rd and 4th. J35, the new calf J57, and J47 were non-directional and made a big circle before slipping back over the Canadian border. We decided to give them some peace and quiet and went to find other whales. The nice group we had earlier had added L121 but they were also straddling the border and were being non-directional. We had a couple other whales porpoise past us from the south but they quickly headed into Canada. Most of the whales had moved to the Canadian side of the border at this point as they finally began heading slowly northeast again. We also had a pass by from a tight and extremely slow moving group that included K22, K27, K20, and K38 but they also headed toward the border. “Chimo” had arrived a while ago so, in an effort to spread things out a bit, “Orcinus” headed a little over a mile or so to the south of the fleet where we could see a few individuals firmly on the American side.
The first of these was K37 and he was steaming along about a half mile behind a recently separated K12 and L89. K12 slowed down and may have been waiting for K37 but we moved on up ahead to L89. L89 was also cruising at a steady pace as he headed north in a straight line toward San Juan Island. He breached once for us nicely. By this time, most of the incoming whales were back on the American side of the border as they crossed Haro Strait. We left L89 to see who else we could find to the north of him. We passed up K20 and K38 again before finding a threesome of J44, J46, and J53 as they traveled fast toward False Bay in a tight group. K34 was also in the area and we caught a glimpse of L90 to the north of us. We moved over to K34 as he cruised toward SJI while K20 and K38 slowly angled toward him and soon joined up. “Chimo” was on a large, socializing group of Js, a few Ks, and the L47s so we moved around them at a distance to try to get to L90 on the other side of them. There was lots of rolling and splashing going on in the large social group as we passed. There were also lots of spyhops along with other body parts in the air and we saw one quadruple spyhop! But we stayed spread out and went on to L90 who continues to have a very stiff swimming motion at the moment.
There were whales already on the SJI shoreline by this point and we heard that the K14s were among them so we headed north toward Hannah Heights. There we did find some whales we had not seen yet. We got a brief look at the L82s, L103s, and K26 as well as J27 and J39 again. After that we also had the J31s and L86s pass us heading up island. Behind them was a group socializing just south of Hannah Heights. This was K21, K44, L109, L113, and L118 and they doing a lot of rolling and splashing while not really going anywhere. K33 and K16 also showed up near this group. We then moved offshore to some singles and groups out there. We passed up J26 on our way to another pair of males rolling around together but this ended up being J27 and K26 again. We got a few pictures of them as they moved back south down Haro Strait before finding another small group offshore. J16, J36, L77, and L124 looked like they were chasing a salmon together. L72, L105, L108, L119, and J39 were also in the area. We ended the evening with a social threesome of J36, L108, and L119 who would log at the surface together before getting all wiggly and splashy. They took off porpoising once to the southeast before stopping, logging at the surface, and then getting all wiggly again. We ended the encounter at about 1945 due to failing light in the fire smoke haze offshore of Land Bank.