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2022 Encounters

UAV Encounter #17 - Oct 3, 2022
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Photos taken under Federal Permits




ObservBegin:10:57 AM

ObservEnd:01:58 PM


UAV ID:Columbia

Pilot:Michael Weiss

Operators:Michael Weiss

Other Observers:Darren Croft, Rachel John, Federica Spina


LocationDescr:Haro Strait

Start Latitude:48 37.22

Start Longitude:123 12.30

End Latitude:48 34.09

End Longitude:123 11.29



J pod was heard on the hydrophone at East Point early in the morning, coming down Boundary Pass after their time up at the mouth of the Fraser River. The team left Snug at 10:10, and after fueling up the boat met the whales as they headed south past Battleship at 10:57. The water was glass calm and the lighting was perfect for aerial observations. Whales were spread out and foraging.

The first whale the team flew over was J42, who almost immediately chased a fish to the surface and caught it. After observing her process this fish, the team moved over to J31 and J56, and then J26, all of whom were headed south slowly while searching for fish. J31 and J56 soon joined up with J36 and J22, who was processing a salmon when they met up.

The teamed moved off this group and found J38, who was in the middle of some hunting. Our study hadn't been able to get much footage of adult males foraging, so we were very excited when we saw J38 chasing a fish in the gloom, which he eventually chased to the surface and caught. This footage (and the footage we later got of J39) will be extremely useful in analyzing how size of the whales and salmon interact to determine foraging efficiency.

The team next found J35, also chasing and successfully catching a fish. After finding a fish, she met up with her two sons, J47 and J57, who had been travelling south nearby. Inshore of this group, J40, J49, and calf J59 socialized as travelled.

The next set of whales the team flew over was an interesting mix of females, including J41 and her calf J58, J53, J42, and J40. J40 initially accompanied J58, but handed the calf off when they met up with J41. Once this group came together, they picked up a lot of speed and porpoised south.

Inshore of these whales, subadult male J39 was foraging on his own. The team got great footage of him maneuvering to catch the fish, and then processing the fish by biting it into two halves that he swallowed separately.

Offshore of J39, J40 was also finding and chasing fish. After she found one fish near the surface, J53 came rushing over to investigate. As J53 kept the fish moving and at the surface, J40 disappeared to the north. A couple minutes later, she re-appeared, lunging at great speed to catch the fish while J53 distracted it. J40 then broke the fish in half, sharing the catch with J53.

The team kept up with the whales as they rounded Kellet Bluff. J39, J40, and J53 all continued to chase fish near the bluffs, catching a couple but also losing some as they escaped into the shallows inside of the kelp beds. Offshore, J46 accompanied the J37s as they travelled north. J39 stuck back near the bluffs, while J40 and J53 continued north together, catching and sharing a couple more fish.

The team left the whales just outside of Snug Harbor at 13:58, as the whales continued to make their way down the west side of San Juan Island.

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