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Animal Updates | Mammals | Conservation | Whale Watching

Friday, January 13, 2012


This has truly been an amazing whale watch season, and there are still so many months to go! Our interns for the spring arrived this week and on Tuesday we went out on the boats for a training. When I was walking down to the boat, Captain Chris asked me if I had my camera (which of course I always do), and he said “Good! It’s your lucky day!”

As soon as he said that, I knew what he was talking about… orcas. It always takes me a few minutes to find out if they are teasing me or not because they know how much I love orcas. Once I realized that he wasn’t joking, I couldn’t believe my luck! Orcas for the second time in two weeks? My bad “orca juju” had turned and I was in luck! Just getting to see them was a great surprise but they continued to surprise with their incredible activity level.

Some of the behaviors we saw included breaching calves, lobtailing (throwing their tale out of the water), spyhopping, and even feeding! One of the baby orcas went into the kelp and seemed to be playing with it! The mama orca was resting but that didn’t last long when the baby got really playful and jumped and rolled on her back! With so much activity, we were also able to get a picture of the calf’s underside, which might give us a hint if it’s a male or female. It looks like there’s a possibility it’s a female, but we can’t say for sure just yet.

There were a total of 10 whales moving together. One of the most exciting parts about seeing orcas is finding out who they are. Which family to do they belong to? Are there any new calves? What’s the history? Once we can get a look at their dorsal fins and eye patches we can find out who is who. It turns out the pods that we saw were the same two pods we’ve seen in previous months. The two families we saw were from the Ca51 and Ca140 group. We still have many unanswered questions. How often are these two pods seen together? Have they just come together in the last few weeks? I can’t wait to look into it more and find out!

We haven’t seen the orcas in the last few days, but who knows, they could be back at any time. While we’re waiting for the orcas to hopefully return, there’s definitely a ton of entertainment out there with the massive number of gray whales and fin whales. It’s already been a fantastic season. Stay tuned to find out what we see next!

Here is some rough footage of some of the behaviors we saw:

One of the baby orcas breach in front of the boat!  | Kera Mathes
This baby orca gets playful with its mom and rolls on her back!  | Kera Mathes
An orca spyhops near the boat. They're just as curious about us as we are them!  | Kera Mathes
The orcas seemed to have grabbed a sea lion and were feeding on what was left. All 10 whales shared it!  | Kera Mathes

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