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UAV Encounter #6 - July 03, 2023
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ObservBegin:04:25 PM

ObservEnd:06:27 PM


UAV ID:Columbia

Pilot:Michael Weiss

Operators:Michael Weiss

Other Staff:Dave Ellifrit

Other Observers:Alyssa Kelley, Federica Spina


LocationDescr:South side of San Juan Island

Start Latitude:48 25.23

Start Longitude:123 03.80

End Latitude:48 27.85

End Longitude:123 03.86



The L12s had spent the day foraging off the south side of San Juan Island, moving between Pile Point and South Beach. With the weather holding nicely and the water staying calm, the team left the dock at 1548 to go down to the whales and conduct behavioral observations of the L12s.

The team arrived on scene southwest of Salmon Bank at 1625. The team found a small group of whales socializing well offshore. While a couple individual whales were visible in the distance, the team decided to focus their observations on this group and launched the drone.

The group turned out to be all of the L94s (L94, L113, L121, and new calf L127). The whales milled non-directionally for a while, with the calf spending a lot of time rolling at the surface. This allowed the team to get drone footage and vessel-based photographs confirming that L127 is female. L127 seemed to be the center of attention, with both her mom and siblings spending time pushing her around at the surface. L94 would occasionally take a long dive, presumably searching for prey, leaving the siblings to socialize at the surface.

After about half an hour, L121 and L113 moved off from L94 and L127, presumably foraging, as the whales moved north towards Eagle Point. As the whales moved up the San Juan shoreline from Eagle Point they once again grouped up.

At 1808, the team decided to leave the group and head up island. As they headed towards home, they found another small group of whales heading down island towards Eagle Point, which they identified as L119, L22, and new calf L126. The team launched the drone for one more flight with this new group. These whales were a bit less social than the previous group, moving directional in a loose formation; L126 did not roll over so we couldn't determine L126's sex at that time.

After one flight with this group, the team ended the encounter at 1827 and headed home.


Photos taken under Federal Permits


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