August 26, 2013

Summer of Transient Orcas

This has been the summer to see Transient Orcas, which for me has been an absolute blast! Transients, unlike Resident Orcas, are much stealthier and tend to be more elusive in their feeding patterns. Since the Southern Residents Orcas seem to be feeding elsewhere for their fill of Chinook Salmon, it has created a gap in the population. Unlike past years where Residents were the "go to" whale to watch, now the Transients have filled that void.
Overall, Residents and Transients have an adversarial relationship. Because of this rift, Transients and Residents are generally not found in the same area. It is usually the Transients that will skirt away from the incoming Resident pods. Rather than dealing with the large pod members of the resident community, they head towards the shoreline in hopes of feeding elsewhere.
However, with the Residents elsewhere the Transients have been out in full force! In the past two days both of our afternoon trips were able to be meet up with T-36's mixed with a few T-34's. There are two calves mixed within this grouping that stick closely to their mothers side. Today, we were able to meet up with them right in the inside region of Waldron Island. Being able to see them skirt along the sheer cliff sides of Waldron Island is always one of my favorites. This time of year, Waldron Island has an array of colorful trees and shrubbery that pepper the side of the island that adds some flair to photos of the orcas surfacing beneath them.
It was a great showing today, with over 10 whales continuously surfacing in synchronization to get that much needed breath of air. And I for one hope to see more of these Transients throughout the rest of summer!

Caitlin, Naturalist- M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris