After nearly a month-long absence, residents were finally spotted in the Salish Sea on Sunday. Today, with reports of Ks and Ls on the west side, we motored out of Friday Harbor to catch up with our long lost friends (the resident orcas, I mean). This was the moment I’ve been waiting for. As a naturalist, I pride myself on being able to recognize individual killer whales on sight. Transients are little more tough to ID, in my opinion. Their groups are always changing, and some groups are more frequent visitors than others. With residents though, it’s like a puzzle! Because they have such a tight-knit social structure, if you can identify one individual, you know that their entire matriline is (most likely) present.
Today, I was looking for K-pod and J-pod, because that was what the reports said. But the first whale I was able to identify was J34 Doublestuf, which means that his mother and brother, J22 Oreo and J38 Cookie had to also be somewhere near–some of J-pod was here too! I later recognized J27 Blackberry, J26 Mike, which means the J16 and J19 matrilines should also have been there. We also got great looks at K26 Lobo and K35 Sonata, cousins traveling with the K14 clan.
Although they were fairly spread out, these whales can communicate miles away from each other, so long as there is no acoustic barrier. In large groups of residents like this one, it is common to see a lot of social and play behavior. We were lucky enough to see tail slapping, cartwheels, spyhops galore, and even some kelping!
A fun a day was had by guests, whales, and naturalist alike.
M/V Sea Lion