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UAV Encounter #7 - July 27, 2023
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ObservBegin:01:09 PM

ObservEnd:02:46 PM


UAV ID:Columbia

Pilot:Michael Weiss

Operators:Michael Weiss

Other Observers:Katie Jones, Sam Ellis, Alyssa Kelley


IDsEncountered:T34, T34A, T34B, T37, T37B, T37B1, T37B3

LocationDescr:Haro Strait

Start Latitude:48 28.60

Start Longitude:123 06.12

End Latitude:48 34.58

End Longitude:123 12.59


The team received reports that the T34s, T37, and the T37Bs were on the south side of San Juan Island, heading up-island. With low wind, calm seas, and good lighting, the team decided it would be a good opportunity to conduct some drone-based behavioral observations. They headed to Snug, and got off the dock at 1242.

At 1309, they arrived on scene just south of Pile Point. While the whales had apparently been split in two groups, by the time the team caught up with them they had grouped back up as they headed north along the shoreline. The team slowly made their way parallel to the whales for a single photo-ID pass. The whales were moving very slowly and consistently, making it very easy to get shots of the whole group before moving offshore to begin drone observations.

On the first flight, the team got over the whales as they were still grouped up. T37 stayed on the offshore side next to T34A, while T34B stayed in echelon and infant position with T34. Further inshore, the T37Bs were being quite social, with a lot of tactile behavior between T37B and T37B1.

The whales dove, and when the surfaced they had split up. The team was able to catch up with T37 and T34A as they travelled up island. The two whales did belly-up deep dives, which often signal the start of a prey pursuit, but we didn't observed them hunting anything.

As the team got north of Lime Kiln, the water conditions began deteriorating and the whales spread out further. The team followed T37B1 for a bit as he travelled far away from any other individuals. The closest whales to him were his mom T37B and younger sibling T37B3, slowly moving up island and trending off shore. Eventually these two made a sudden turn to the left, heading further offshore and towards T37B1.

The team conducted one last flight over T37B1, but the conditions deteriorated and the wind began to pick up beyond what we consider good conditions for drone flying. We ended the encounter at 1446 as the whales continued north past Henry Island.


Photos taken under Federal Permits


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