Each Orca has a grayish-white area directly behind their dorsal fin that we call the saddlepatch. On each orca this patch is a little bit different and when we look at both the saddlepatch and the dorsal fin we can begin to pick out individuals in the pod. Today we had a great opportunity to begin to pick out individuals from the 81 members of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. Capt. Gabe, our excited guests, and I left Roche Harbor this morning with a lot of sunlight and reports that the killer whales had made a quick return from Canadian waters and were spread out a lot a long the coasts of both Lopez and San Juan Islands. So we headed south along the west side of San Juan. We passed Open Bay and the County Park and were almost to Lime Kiln State Park when we encountered the frontrunners of the group headed north! Since we met these ones so early all we had to do was turn the boat around, sit back, and watch as each few passed by. Orcas are very social animals and travel both in their family groups and in their larger pods, but today we were really lucky and could focus on just a few for a while as each mini-group passed us, milled about, and then continued north. We, and by we I mean I, were lucky to have a lot of folks on the boat today with some sweet cameras. So sweet that we quickly had a bunch of great photos that we could look at the saddlepatches and dorsals. We soon figured out that Granny (J-2) was one of the leaders. At 104 years old and still killin' it. Then came Doublestuff (J-34) and some of the females of Cookie Clan: Cookie (J-38) and Oreo (J-22). We soon saw Blackberry (J-27) on our port and and that point there were orcas on all sides! We safely and respectfully pulled to the side so we could continue viewing all of them on our starboard, but WHAMMO! Doublestuff did a huge side breach! From that angle we could see his saddlepatch perfectly as well as his disproportionately enlarged dorsal and pectoral fins that all adult males have. Not too soon after the splash washed away. Eclipse (J-41) and her new calf J-51!! I almost died from the cuteness! It's amazing seeing orcas in the wild and it gets even better when you can start to see all the individuals and their unique characteristics expressed. Well, we soon had to head back home, but we got to see a Bald Eagle family as we passed close to Battleship Island and arrived safely back home.

 

Whale folks, that's it from me

Naturalist Erick

M/V Seahawk, San Juan Outfitters