After all of the great shore encounters from the past weekend I jumped on the boat Tuesday morning to head out to see if we could find out who ended up where. As we left the dock rumor was there were Js and Ks at Hein Bank so we headed out that way. As we crested the southern end of San Juan Island two Minke whales popped up near Salmon Bank and moved in circles as they foraged. They were clearly looking for food (as most things are) and after a short encounter we continued up island because the whales that had been reported at Hein Bank were actually coming south along the west side.
The first whale we found was pushed offshore by himself and it was Nigel (L95). This guy has been hanging out with the L4s and L47s as they've been in and out over the past several weeks. Usually he's found with his sister, Racer (L72) and nephew Fluke (L105), but they haven't been in. They were last seen and photographed off of Tofino with the rest of L-pod on June 1st. It will be interesting to see when they come in and if Nigel returns to swimming with his sister, or remains with the L4s and L47s.
Nigel (L95) comes in for his close-up.
He continued south offshore and a quick glance inshore showed some whales that were almost parallel to him. It was Nugget (L55), Lapis (L103), and Takoda (L109). The three were moving south at a quick pace, taking long dives as they booked it down towards False Bay. There were other whales to the north heading south but these whales were in the lead. As they reached False Bay they stalled, milling around. Perhaps they were foraging or waiting for the others to catch up.
We left them to their whale business and continued back the way we came because we had reports of transient killer whales in Rosario Strait. It was a long run as they had continued south in the meantime but we finally saw more whales ahead as we approached the Whidbey Naval Air Station.
But these were no transients!
It was members of J-pod, at least some members of two matrilines, and they were foraging with great vigor in front of the NAS. Suttles (J40) was actively chasing a salmon off in the distance and once she was done she surfaced near us as she headed off, hopefully in pursuit of more salmon!
Suttles (J40) passing off the starboard side of the boat.
Off in the distance was a little flash of orange and looking through my lens I spotted Alki (J36) with J52 near shore. In front of the base Se-Yi-Chn (J45), Hy'shqa (J37), and T'ilem I'nges (J49) were foraging in about 17 feet of water. It was a pretty cool sight to see the whales in front of the NAS with the fighter jets parked outside.
Alki (J36) and J52 swimming closer to shore.
Se-Yi-Chn (J45) swims in front of the base.
Our time was running short and the whales were still heading south, but there was one whale still heading our way. It was Mike (J26)! His dorsal fin is getting so rippled when you see it from behind, reminding me of Ruffles. It's sweet to think of one iconic whale when looking at another who will surely be just as remembered.
Mike (J26) surfacing.
The whales would continue to mosey south but we were due back at the dock and headed off, leaving them to their foraging. Hopefully it was very successful!