Apply to Join
Mar 25, 2019

Gray whales abound; New Southern Resident calf!

L124 & L25, youngest & oldest SRKWs, D. Ellifrit
L124 & L25, youngest & oldest SRKWs, D. Ellifrit

Welcome to new Southern Resident Orca calf L124!

Since we are in the throes of gray whales feeding in North Puget Sound this update is primarily about the gray whales, but one wonderful and hopeful piece of news for the Southern Resident orcas since our last report is the welcoming of a new calf! L124 was first seen on January 10th swimming alongside L77 Matia and was confirmed by the Center for Whale Research on January 11th.

See CWR’s encounter report with many beautiful photos of new calf L124 and her/his mom L77 and other SRKWs at Center for Whale Research Encounter 2

Gray Whales

2018 was an unusual year for the North Puget Sound Grays (NPS grays) with the addition of three new gray whales (PCFG CRC185, CRC2246 or Unknown #1), CRC2234 or Unknown #2) who found their way to the feeding areas in the north end last spring and fed with the other known NPS grays. As reported in previous reports, these three newcomers stayed over; 2234 stayed into late fall, 185 and 2246 throughout the winter and are still present.

2019 started out unusual as well. Typically we expect the first arrivals of the known North Puget Sound (NPS) grays mid/late February to early March. In 2019 the first old-timer NPS gray was confirmed in Possession Sound on January 11th, 4-6 weeks early! It would be another 7 weeks before the next old-timer was confirmed when on March 2nd #49 Patch was ID’d as the whale feeding off the Snohomish Delta. The others have been arriving in fairly quick succession; 383, 56, 531,44, and 22. It has been interesting getting reports of newbies 185 and 2246 being seen regularly feeding and socializing with the others. We have not had a confirmed sighting of the 3rd newbie, 2234, since late November, but we hope s/he finds her way back.

We appreciate your support and contributions greatly. Whale sightings through our Whale Sighting Network (WSN) provide critical information about the travels of the whales, and timely reports enable Orca Network to alert researchers who can then obtain photo identification and prey and fecal samples from the whales during their visits into Puget Sound. When researchers are not on the water Orca Network WSN staff, volunteers, contributors, and collaborators are able to at least obtain IDs, travel patterns, and behaviors, which all contribute important information on this small population of grays who have been coming inland Puget Sound to feed since the early 1990’s. As of this update nine whales have been accounted for in 2019: 22, 44, 49, 53, 56, 185, 383, 531, 2246.

Included below are a few words regarding the North Puget Sound Grays from John Calambokids, Cascadia Research, and here is a link to an article which includes other quotes by John on the situation with the grays along the migration:

This is certainly an interesting new development this year. I suspect this may say something about prey resources elsewhere (or difficulties there). There have been some big changes in PCFG (Pacific Coast Feeding Group) distribution and numbers in some of their regular areas the last two years as well. It continues to be of great value where anyone gets good ID shots of the NPS gray whales especially in these unusual times since may be key to interpreting what happens going forward.

John Calambokidis, Cascadia Research

Also see this KING 5 TV Story about the North Puget Sound Grays. 

Thanks to your support, and the thousands of people who submite whale sightings to Orca Network, we are able to continue providing this important data for researchers for all cetacean species in the Salish Sea and Pacific Coast. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, and would like to learn more about the whales of the Salish Sea, stop in and visit our Langley Whale Center on Whidbey Island, and join us for our annual Welcome the Whales Parade and Festival April 13th - 14th in Langley, to learn about and celebrate our local gray whales!

Gray whale #185 spyhopping, by Jill Hein
Gray whale #185 spyhopping, by Jill Hein
Newbie Gray whale #2246's head, by David Haeckel
Newbie Gray whale #2246's head, by David Haeckel
"Patch"/Gray whale #49 flukes, by Sandra Pollard
"Patch"/Gray whale #49 flukes, by Sandra Pollard
Alisa watching Dubknuk, #44, by Marilyn Armbruster
Alisa watching Dubknuk, #44, by Marilyn Armbruster
Heart shaped blows, Grays #44 & 56, Rachel Haight
Heart shaped blows, Grays #44 & 56, Rachel Haight

Links:

Dec 31, 2018

Fall and Winter Whale Sightings in the Salish Sea

J pod spyhop, Pt. Robinson by Alisa Lemire Brooks
J pod spyhop, Pt. Robinson by Alisa Lemire Brooks

SOUTHERN RESIDENT ORCAS

As noted in our previous update, this past summer was brutally heartbreaking for the Southern Residents. Losing any of these precious members is heartbreaking but the losses this past summer, and watching the decline of this majestic clan is disturbing and hard on our beings.  Each fall those of us living further inland wait in hopeful anticipation knowing they follow the fall chum salmon runs in Puget Sound. After their first visits in September we did not see them again for six weeks. Without the rains to fill the streams there can be no chum.

2018 was the first October since we have been keeping track for 18+years without any inland forays by members of J, K, or L pods. With November came heavy rains and the Southern Residents! The morning of November 4th J pod and L87 showed up off Kingston/Edmonds and stayed in Puget Sound for two weeks! K pod joined them for four of those days. Since that initial visit both Js/L87 and Ks have been inland several times foraging and feeding on fall chum salmon. To date (December 16th) none of L pod has come in to Puget Sound, but some of L pod spent time inland around the San Juans for a few days. 

NEW WHIDBEY ISLAND HYDROPHONE

We are so pleased to include the news that our new BUSH POINT HYDROPHONE  went online this fall, affording us the opportunity to listen for whales, especially the Southern Residents, coming and going in Admiralty Inlet. December 7th we had the privilege of listening to J pod/L87 while on their way out Admiralty, their sweet vocals streaming over the airwaves. This marks the first time Southern Residents have been heard on the new hydrophone. Thanks to Scott Veirs for putting together THIS SYNOPSIS with audio clips.

The Bush Point hydrophone was sponsored by Orca Network as part of the OrcaSound Salish Sea hydrophone project. Many thanks to Scott Veirs of OrcaSound/Beam Reach; Lon Brocklehurst of LAB-core System/ RoboTEK/Lab-Vu and OilTrap Environmental Products, Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research, WhidbeyTelecom, and the Bush Point Bed and Breakfast for partnering with Orca Nework to make the Bush Point hydrophone possible. 

BIGG’S/TRANSIENT ORCAS

A few families of Bigg's Transients, including some of our beloved more "resident" Transients, have been traveling the Salish Sea and inland Puget Sound, including the sweet addition of several new calves born to the population of the mammal eating orca ecotype. The T46Cs welcomed a new calf who was first documented by our staff and volunteers in late October/early November in southern Puget Sound. DFO in Canada who tracks Transients determined the calf was in fact the 4th offspring of T46c and gave the calf her/his official designation of T46C4.

HUMPBACKS

In October Puget Sound was lively with Humpbacks and grays! At least five humpbacks (several knowns) foraged in a few hot spots throughout the Sound. One of those knowns stayed for over five weeks, much to the delight of those lucky enough to watch from Puget Sound shorelines and ferries.

Humpback CRC-15936 aka MMX0128 aka Vivaldi primarily kept to southern Puget Sound favoring Dalco Passage (between south Vashon and Point Defiance) and the Tacoma Narrows. Vivaldi became a part of peoples' daily lives, attracting much attention, and just by being present enlightened and educated many residents and visitors on the whales of Puget Sound. Vivaldi like so many others has now become a much beloved part of people's whale stories. Along with the meaningful personal connections shared, we received daily reports, images, and videos important in helping researchers keep track of the humpbacks in Puget Sound.

GRAYS

Thanks to the many reports to our Sighting Network we know the two newbie grays (CRC-2234 and PCFG CRC 185), who stayed over summer when the other North Puget Sound grays left in Spring, have kept a presence into fall. Late November/early December a third new gray (last spring’s Unknown #1) was confirmed again feeding off the Snohomish Delta where s/he was photographed one day in March! This is the first year we’ve any record of grays staying over to feed through summer and fall (and now possibly overwintering) since researchers began their studies on the North Puget Sound grays in the early 1990’s.

In addition to our staff and volunteers, many who follow and participate in the Whale Sighting Network continue to contribute  information, images, and videos that go into our Whale Reports. All contributions provide valuable information adding to the stories of the whales like J pod/L87, Vivaldi the humpback, and the grays who have stayed over, as well as providing information on travel, foraging and feeding habits, socializing and other behaviors for research on these magnificent marine mammals with whom we share these waters.  And with the addition of the new hydrophone we can listen for whales and gather more information on their travels in the dark or during low visibility days especially during the winter.

Every donation from each of you enables us to collect, compile and disseminate this important data, and enable hundreds of people to watch whales from the shorelines of the Salish Sea, inspiring and motivating them to want to help and become advocates for our finned friends and their habitat. Thank you for your support ~

Playful J pod and sea lions! by Marilyn Armbruster
Playful J pod and sea lions! by Marilyn Armbruster
K20 porpoising off Pt Robinson, by Gayle Swigart
K20 porpoising off Pt Robinson, by Gayle Swigart
K pod double breach off Alki, Alisa Lemire Brooks
K pod double breach off Alki, Alisa Lemire Brooks
Humpback "Vivaldi" and fishermen, by Desiree Sauve
Humpback "Vivaldi" and fishermen, by Desiree Sauve
Humpback "Vivaldi" and ferry, by Desiree Sauve
Humpback "Vivaldi" and ferry, by Desiree Sauve

Links:

Dec 27, 2018

CPS Marine Mammal Stranding Network Year in Review

Male Elephant seal Ellison this summer - Baby Isl.
Male Elephant seal Ellison this summer - Baby Isl.

Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding 2018 Report

The Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network had a busy year despite reports of harbor seals being down by almost 27% from last year’s count of 209. However, the total number of reports this year was actually close to the average of the last five years. Seals are very mobile and come and go as they please, so this was no surprise - and since we have had an increase in the presence of Transient (mammal eating) orcas in our region in recent years, this likely is affecting the seal population as well.

From the chart accompanying this report you can see an increase in the number of calls of elephant seals and gray whales. Actually, many of these calls were duplicates about the same animal.  We had a gray whale wash up dead on West Beach, Whidbey Island in April. The necropsy showed that it died of malnutrition and heavy external and internal parasitism. Frequent follow up reports were made by our stranding network observers who were tracking the timing and stages of decomposition several times per week. Unfortunately the research was terminated before it was completed by the high tides that took the carcass out to sea.

There were few calls on molting elephant seals this year. The majority of calls received were from concerned residents and volunteers about our two elephant seal pups born on Whidbey. Elsie Mae, the female born in March of 2018, left her birthplace and swam about 70 miles to the San Juan Islands where she has been hanging out. She was tagged so her identification is absolute.

Ellison, the young male elephant seal born on Whidbey Island in March of 2015, has spent most of his time on a tiny nearby island where he is monitored by the local residents. He disappeared for several weeks and those “adoptive parents” became very concerned. There has been a rash of illegal shootings of California sea lions in Puget Sound this year, possibly because some folks think they eat too many salmon. Elephant seals do not eat salmon, but it would be quite difficult to tell the difference between an elephant seal and a California sea lion swimming in the water. Elephant seals eat deepwater invertebrates and fish, ratfish, rockfish, squid and octopus. Also they are capable of staying at sea anywhere in the temperate ocean for months at a time. Fortunately, after a few weeks Ellison returned to the island that he shares with a group of harbor seals. One resident monitor described Ellison, who will soon be a full-sized adult male, as “looking like a trident submarine that had been beached”. We hope to tag Ellison sometime early next year so he can be tracked when he leaves home.

Most of the reports of live whales go to our Orca Network Whale Sighting Network. However, we added a new category on the chart this year for 4 reports of sperm whales nearby. It is always exciting to have new species show up.

Included in the “other” category, not charted, were reports of several river otters, which are prevalent on our islands, but not marine mammals.  Also, an unknown container which turned out to be a portion of a floating dock, a 6-gilled shark, a mola mola, a walrus (no way), and an exciting find uncovered by an 8 month old yellow lab puppy. The artifact was identified by experts at the Burke Museum in Seattle as a mammoth tooth dating from the last ice age 13,000 years ago. Whidbey Island was formed by “glacial dump” as the ice receded, leaving many interesting finds as the ice melted. 

And we don’t even have to dig for them. 

Thanks for your support in keeping our Marine Mammal Stranding Network afloat!

Links:


Attachments:
 
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.