I headed over to San Juan Island for the day to bid farewell to some friends who had spent the summer interning with Bob Otis at Lime Kiln. It seems the whales had the same idea. We had barely settled in at the park before word came that whales were headed our way. I always love seeing whales, wherever I am, but there's something special about seeing them from land. Maybe especially from Lime Kiln.
The first whale we saw was Granny (J2). She was in the lead as usual. Just behind her was Slick (J16) and her two youngest, Echo (J42) and J50. It was a little odd to see them and not the J19s or J14s but the whales are constantly surprising me. Mike (J26) and Alki (J36) with her son, J52, followed. These whales were further in shore but there were a couple more further out, one being Onyx (L87) for certain. Traveling with them were the K13s. Scoter (K25) had me confused for a second, from an angle he looked like Blackberry (J27), but as he got closer I could see the old sat tag barb in his fin and figured out my mistake pretty quickly!
Right behind them were a few members of the J14s---matriarch Samish (J14), Se-Yi-Chn (J45), and T'ilem I'nges (J49). The kids were moving fast as Samish made her way steadily, but not quickly, north. As I was watching for them to pop up again to the north of the lighthouse a towering fin rose up closer in and right in front of me. It was someone I hadn't seen at all this year. I could barely contain my excitement! It was Crewser (L92)! I haven't seen this big guy since October 17, 2014 when the whales made their first foray into the south sound. I'm always happy to see him even if it wasn't until quite late in the summer. But the excitement wasn't over yet, not even close! Behind him and slightly offshore came a mother-son pair I hadn't seen since that day in October too. It was Racer (L72) and her son Fluke (L105). Racer's brother, Nigel (L95), has been traveling separately from them this summer and spending most of his time with the L4s and L47s who have been in the inland waters more frequently than the rest of Lpod.
Racer and Fluke caught up to Samish and after they had passed the lighthouse Racer belly flopped twice. What a beautiful whale! It was easy to see her unique saddles as she breached.
Racer (L72) breaching with Samish (J14) rising behind her.
As those whales passed another showed up from the south moving north without hurry. It was Princess Angeline (J17) and she did a couple lazy tail lobs as she went. Those tail lobs were distracting us from four whales that were sneaking in close to shore. The four were playing with each other and the kelp and made circuits in front of the light house. It was Suttles (J40), Tahlequah (J35), Deadhead (K27), and Yoda (K36)! What a funny mix up of whales! The two J-pod females were paired off, same with the two K-pod females but all four were in close proximity to each other. At one point Tahlequah surfaced near where we were sitting and I could see a small piece of kelp in her mouth. Were they playing with that? I don't know, but they certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Suttles stalled on several occasions to spyhop. She also swam by close to shore right behind Tahlequah and rolled on her side so we could see her eye, and she was looking right back. At least she seemed to be!
Suttles (J40) spyhops.
Suttles (J40) rolled over and seemed to be watching us on shore.
They played in front of the lighthouse for several minutes before continuing north. A larger group of whales was moving up from the south close to shore and it was a mix of all three pods. We had Doublestuf (J34), Cali (K34), Polaris (J28), Star (J46), Ripple (K44), Oreo (J22), Marina (L47), Mystic (L115), Moby (J44), Surprise! (L86), Pooka (L106), and more! Polaris spyhopped south of us. As Surprise! swam past she tail lobbed and her son, Pooka, followed suit. It was pretty cute!
Polaris (J28) spyhopping.
Surprise! (L86) tail lob.
Pooka (L106) tail lob.
This group milled about north of us, moving into the cove and still socializing. A big male breached and there were several more spyhops as well. As they rounded the point to the north there were more tail lobs, kelping, and pec slaps.
But the whales weren't quite done swimming by. From the north some of the K12s (Sequim (K12), Rainshadow (K37), and Saturna (K43)) swam south to meet up with the trailing group moving north. Off shore the L4s were kelping---Kasatka (L82) and Finn (L116) were trailing long ropes of it over their dorsals. With them were Nigel (L95) and the rest of the K12s (Sekiu (K22) and Tika (K33)). The two groups met up and continued north together.
If you'd like to see some video from the encounter check out this video here.