July 27, 2015 - Transients near Lummi Island

August 03, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Our wildlife viewing started today before we'd even boarded the boat with a bald eagle soaring overhead and a harbor seal floating in the marina not far from the boat. As we pushed off the dock Captain Michael steered us up the east side of Guemes Island on our way north. Along the way we spotted another bald eagle perched in the trees on Jack Island. 

 

But we had bigger things ahead and they weren't too far away. It was a group of the marine mammal-hunting killer whales and right away they were showing us that that's who they were. Our first views were of them heading right towards a huge bait ball. There were tons of gulls and at least half a dozen harbor seals feeding on the forage fish. In an instant the gulls took off and it seemed like not a moment too soon---there was a huge splash and some quick movements from the whales. The hunt was on! In true apex predator fashion they finished off their prey, likely a harbor seal, in moments and milled in the area presumably sharing the meal with each other. It was at this time I was able to confirm the IDs of these whales. It was the T37s and T34s.

The T37s and T34s near Lummi Island.

Matriarchs --- T37 and T34.

T37A, T34, and T34A.

T37B and T37B1.

Matriarch T37 was with her two daughters, T37A and T37B and her many grandchildren. The group of whales milled in the same general area for quite a while with a few splitting off in pairs. The gulls were picking up little scraps, also signifying that a kill had been made. Once they were done the whales began swimming west towards the Lummi Island shoreline with the adults ahead and a couple of the youngsters lagging behind. But they wouldn't be left behind for long and eventually began porpoising after the adults until they met up closer to shore.

A youngster hurries to catch up.

One group swam very close to shore, delighting some residents and beach goers as they headed north. The rest grouped up closer to us moving north as well. In the late afternoon light their blows turned into what we like to call "rainblows", shimmering like a rainbow each time they rose to the surface to breathe. 

 

We left them heading north in Georgia Strait, still split but heading in the same direction.

 

Once I got home and was getting through the photos I took I realized that the calf I had assumed was T37A3 was actually NOT T37A3. While no confirmations have been made from multiple observations by several naturalists in the area it is believed that T37A has had a fourth calf---T37A4. This baby comes very quickly after T37A3, who was believed to be born in late 2012 or early 2013. More encounters by official researchers will be needed to confirm this, but at this point that's what it looks like. It is also important to note that T37A1, her oldest calf, was not seen in this encounter and has not been seen recently.

**EDIT: Jared Towers, a leading transient researcher, has stated it does indeed look like a new calf for T37A. So does indeed appear to be T37A4. He also noted that T99 and T146 have had calves with short calving intervals lately too. Thank you Jared!

T37A, T37A2 (behind), and the "mystery calf"---T37A4?

T37A and the "mystery calf"---T37A4?

 


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