Today the M/V Kestrel spent some quality time with some of my very favorite whales. We found the black-and-whites on the west side of San Juan Island near Eagle Point and False Bay. Here in the Salish Sea we have two ecotypes of killer whales that are genetically and behaviorally distinct populations; they are known as Residents and Transients. Today we saw some of our Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) who are our fish-eating whales in the area.
90% of the SRKW diet is made up of salmon, 80% of their total diet is just one species: the Chinook, also known as king or spring, salmon. Because these whales are specialists on the Chinook their presence, the presence, absence, and abundance of the fish dictate the presence, absence, and abundance of the SRKWs. This relationship means that we usually see the Residents from about May to September when the salmon are running through this area up to the Fraser River to spawn. This year we have seen historically low salmon numbers, so we have had very few encounters with our SRKWs. (Don’t worry, Transients, the marine mammal eaters, have been here quite regularly! We are still seeing orcas!)
Today was quite a refreshing encounter with a number of the families in J Pod, including the J2s with L87 “Onyx” led by “Granny” who is 105 years old, J19 “Shachi” and her daughter J41 “Eclipse” and 18 month old J51 “Nova,” the J16s (J16 “Slick” and her kiddos J26 “Mike” J36 “Alki,” J42 “Echo,” & J50 “Scarlet,” and grandson J52 “Sonic”), and the both the J22s (The Cookie Clan: J22 “Oreo,” J34 “Doublestuf,” & J38 “Cookie”) and the J17s, “Princess Angeline’s” Family. The only whales missing from the Js today were the J11s: J27 “Blackberry” and his siblings J31 “Tsuchi” and J39 “Mako”.
Lead Naturalist Sarah, M/V Kestrel, San Juan Safaris