UAV Encounter #10 - Aug 18, 2023
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Other Observers:Katie Jones, Molly Henling, Alyssa Kelley
LocationDescr:West Side of San Juan Island
Start Latitude:48 26.58
Start Longitude:123 00.72
End Latitude:48 30.63
End Longitude:123 09.97
While the majority of the southern residents had kept heading north on the evening of 17-Aug-2023 after encounter 44, the team had watched from shore as the L12 subgroup made their way back down island as the sun set. Sure enough, they were sighted from shore on the morning of 18-Aug-2023 off of Eagle Point, spread out and foraging.
The team got off the dock at 13:38 and headed down island. They found the whales about a mile offshore of American Camp at 14:13. When the team got there, the whales had grouped up, lazily socializing in flat calm water. The team quickly got the drone in the air and began aerial observations.
Most of the youngsters, L121, L124, and L126, along with L126's mom L119, were socializing in a big, swirling group, while the older whales, L25, L22, L85, and L77, rested nearby and L94 and L127 socialized nearby. L119 pushed L126 around on her rostrum while L124 and L121 chased each other. After a few minutes, the whales formed up and went on a deep dive.
When the whales surfaced again, they were formed into a single group, moving slowly in an arc towards the northwest before diving again. They continued this pattern, with the younger whales socializing on the periphery, for a few sequences. During this period, L124 rolled over, letting us finally confirm that she's female. The two youngest whales, L126 and L127, also took some time to chase each other around while the adults rested.
On one surfacing, L121 and L124 found a fish at the surface. The two young whales proceeded to half-heartedly pursue the fish at the surface, clearly playing and practicing. At several points, the fish swam into one of their open mouths only for the whales to let the fish go. Eventually the fish was so disoriented and exhausted that the whales resorted to just pushing it back and forth between each other. After several minutes, L124 clamped down on the fish, carrying it with her as she swam to catch up with the rest of the group.
The whales spread out and headed up island. L124 continued to practice dropping and recatching her fish, while L121 socialized with L22 and L25. This group eventually caught up with the L94s, who had been in the lead as they whales moved north. The whales grouped up again as they passed Hannah Heights. The team stayed with them until the passed Deadman's Bay and approached Lime Kiln, ending the encounter at 16:15.
Photos taken under Federal Permits
NMFS PERMIT: 21238/ DFO SARA 388