Our trip today took us down around the south end of Lopez, past Cattle Pass and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. There was a ton of bird action, mainly gulls, common murres, and rhinoceros auklets. In the afternoon light it was cool to the see the glint of forage fish hanging from the beaks of the auklets. But the birds weren't the only one interested in the bounty. Pretty soon we heard the blow of a larger critter, and it was indeed much, much larger. In all directions it seemed there were Minke Whales. At least three were feeding in the immediate area with several further off.
A Rhinocersos Auklet with a beak-full.
Just a bit further north we found members of J-pod doing the same thing the birds and minke whales were----finding food! The first whale we saw was Blackberry (J27) as he headed south while foraging. He was up for a few minutes but then dove deep. Knowing we had to come back this way we pushed further ahead to some more whales. Next up, to no surprise, was Blackberry's little brother Mako (J39). These two brothers are usually found travelling close by, though as Mako has grown up he's ventured a bit further from his brother's side. Their mother, Blossom (J11), passed away in 2008 when Mako was only five and older brother Blackberry seemed to step up to the plate in looking after his younger siblings. Even today the three---Blackberry, Mako, and sister Tsuchi (J31)---are often seen in close proximity to each other.
Mako was busy foraging in shore making quick direction changes and dives of varying lengths. At one point when he surfaced he did a big caudal-peduncle throw, also known as a cartwheel.
Mako (J39) chasing a salmon.
Mako (J39) does a big caudal-peduncle throw.
Just to the north of Mako we found the J22s, affectionately known as The Cookies. Doublestuf (J34) and his mother, Oreo (J22), were foraging in the current lines together while Cookie (J38) foraged further south closer to Mako. Doublestuf was sporting some new rake marks on his fin, running bottom to top on both sides. Rake marks are seen on wild whales as these animals do rough house with one another. It's normal but not to be at all compared to the extensive raking seen on captive whales.
After watching them hunt for fish we moved back to the south where Mako and Cookie were foraging. Of course that foraging was soon to be interrupted by an oblivious fisherman. Apparently the big boat with the words "WHALE WATCHING" on the side parked with all the people on one side don't provide enough hints for some people. This guy blasted through right over where Mako had been and it wasn't even a minute later that Mako rocketed to the surface in his wake, as if to say (and I'm projecting here) "Hey jerk! Can't you see I'm trying to catch my dinner here?!".
It is so important to be aware of your surroundings when you're out on the water, especially in areas where the whales frequent. Boaters should familiarize themselves with the Be Whale Wise guidelines and do their best to help protect the whales that they share the waters with.
After a couple of punctuated tail slaps the foraging resumed, and Cookie, who had been offshore, moved in to join Mako.
Mako (J39) breaches in the boat wake.
Mako (J39) and Cookie (J38) together.
As we made our way back south again we caught up with Blackberry one more time. He was still foraging (and hopefully finding some fat salmon to munch on) but the lighting was so beautiful when he surfaced that we had to spend a little time just watching him.
Blackberry (J27) surfacing in the evening light.
On our way home we slowed down and crept through Castle Rock where a mature bald eagle was perched on the rocks, keeping a sharp eye out for a late evening snack. What a beauty!