Western Prince II: March 31, 2016: A special encounter with the J17s and J22s
March is generally not when we expect to see Killer whales on a regular basis around the San Juan Islands. Peak season for us here is roughly mid-May through mid-October. However, we have been so very fortunate to have had some groups in the area on and off! There are hardly words to describe our adventure today, but I’m going to try. The weather has been simply incredible! Sunshine, warmth, and flat calm seas. (Such a difference from some of the winter storms we get!) We made our way to Speiden island and viewed Steller sea lions, many Bald eagles, Mouflon sheep and Harbor seals. We then made our way south in Haro strait catch up to the two matriline groups, the J17’s and J22’s. This group of 11 whales has been around the islands on and off. We arrived in the area and made our slow approach to one of the groups. This first group turned out to be J28 (Polaris) with her 2 kids, 7 year old daughter J46 (Star) and J54 who is now almost 4 months old (the youngest in the Southern Resident Community!)
Then…. It was family time. The bonds between these animals are lifelong and very strong. We were treated to the sight of J54 rolling around on his mom’s back and his sister’s back. Playing around and rolling on his side and back. These tender moments between mom and her kids was incredibly touching and it went on for at least 10 minutes. We had our hydrophone in the water and we were able to hear some amazing vocals as well! J54 came to the surface and made some vocals above the surface too. The other groups of orcas eventually all drifted back together in one solid group and continued to socalize with the Olympic mountains in the background. As they continued that way, I heard a blow nearby in another direction that was not an orca! It was a Humpback whale! Unfortunately this whale was doing super long 12 min dives and only got a couple glimpses of it.
What a truly spectacular day in the Salish sea!
All images taken with a 600mm lens and cropped.
J46 (Star) and J28 (Polaris)
J54 squished in between mom (J28) and sister (J46)
J54 getting pushed around
J54J54 squished in between mom and sister! J54 J54 riding on mom or sister J54 riding on sister J46 (Star) with mom J28 (Polaris) in the background
J46 (Star) J28 (Polaris)
J28 (Polaris)Just a glimpse of the Humpback whale