J pod will be tracked by satellite again this year

A 24-year-old male orca named Blackberry, designated J-27, has been carrying a satellite transmitter since Monday, allowing experts to track the movements of J pod.

Map of J-27 shows 38 hours of travel, ending travels from 9:43 a.m. today. Downloaded by Robin Baird
Map of J-27 shows 38 hours of travel, ending at 9:43 a.m. today. // Downloaded by Robin Baird

The research project, started in 2011 and led by Brad Hanson of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, is designed to figure out where J pod goes in winter and early spring. J pod does not seem to travel far down the West Coast, as K and L pods do.

As luck would have it, the satellite tag was in place Wednesday when a portion of J pod headed into East Sound on the south side of Orcas Island. A day later, they were seen by observers with a new calf, J-50, which I reported in Water Ways yesterday and updated today. Nobody seems to recall the whales ever going into that waterway, as suggested by comments to a post on Orca Network’s Facebook page yesterday at 5:19 p.m. It’s long been speculated that orcas seek out calm waters, when possible, to give birth.

The mother of J-50 is still a mystery, though it could be solved as observers notice which adult female is spending the most time with the young animal.

After J-27 was tagged about equidistant from Sequim, Whidbey Island, San Juan Island and Victoria, the whales worked their way through the islands near the Canadian border, then moved north to Texada Island in the Strait of Georgia, east of Comox, B.C. As of this morning, they were still traveling around that general vicinity, as you can see from the map on this page and previous maps on the project’s webpage. The page called “2015 Southern Resident Killer Whale Satellite Tagging” also contains information about the project’s goals.

I have written about these tagging efforts and the controversy surrounding them since permits were first proposed under the Endangered Species Act. You’ll find last year’s stories and links to previous stories in Water Ways on Jan. 3, 2014, and later on Jan. 14, 2014. You can also search the blog for “satellite and orcas” to find just about everything I’ve blogged about on the topic.

J-27 and other members of J pod moved into East Sound near Orcas Island on Monday. The cluster of points represent travels between 4 and 5 a.m. the next morning. A newborn orca was spotted Wednesday.
J-27 and other members of J pod moved into Orcas Island’s East Sound on Monday. The cluster of points represents travels between 4 and 5 a.m. the next morning. A newborn orca was observed on Wednesday. // Downloaded by Robin Baird

One thought on “J pod will be tracked by satellite again this year


    Here I am, a humble resident along Hales Passage, yet, truly disappointed thinking that I, “may’ve missed” a Pod of Orcas in 2014. Although, last year, I came out on my deck at 4:00 A.M. due to the fact that I COULD’NT sleep.

    The marine air was SO thick, visibility was a joke, not able to see for many miles ahead,, So, I went ahead and decided to start grooming my 2 German Shepherds out on our upper deck!

    ALL OF A SUDDEN, I heard something VERY strange, my FIRST THOUGHT, that it was a bunch of our seals, but, next, here came this “particular” SPLASH, then, ANOTHER HUGE SPLASH, THEN AGAIN, Then SILENCE, thats when we heard the back fins splashing on the surface of the water!!

    During that silent period, my 2 German Shepherds walked about 6′ away from me, and EVER SO SLOWLY, IN their all natural, “PREY DRIVE” and down the deck another 2′, both baby brother “Chance” and his BIG SISTER, “Abby” NEVER made one peep.
    They stood stiff as stiff could be, with their ears straight up, then FINALLY they “began” to sit down OH SO GOOLISHLY slow! It took them over 2 minutes to sit completely down…STILL,,,, not a peep from them. They sat, they watched, and watched towards the water with ONLY the thick marine air all around them OVER 4 hours long!

    Well, Chance sat and waited over 4 hours long. Abby sat and watched, and watched, BUT, she began to speak in her “girly voice,” but completely UNDER her breath! She made such a funny sound, a sound that Chance didn’t really care for, and his motions said so, as his right ear began to go back down in an “irked” and mostly “ANNOYED” fashion, at the same moment, he QUICKLY glanced over only to give his big sister a funny frown on his face, as if he was telling her to shut her pie hole, and QUICKLY turned his head back to continue to look and LISTEN out over the water for MORE ACTIVITY! Abby stopped, but spake two more times, only to IRK Chance and got up and moved..

    Chance was able to continue sitting, he finally laid down, BUT, he was STILL ON HIGH ALERT!

    Sadly, we haven’t spotted any yet for 2016. Which, in fact, I’m still wondering weather or not that our Pod had even arrived.

    Yes indeed, I’ve asked several residents, and nobody could answer my question about our Orcas for the past couple years.

    I had even posted my question pertaining to our Orcas up on the Message Board at our one and ONLY Deli on Fox Island, and nothing, absolutely no response! For it was most definitely saddening. I thought for sure, “somebody” alongside our waterfront “may” had spotted them, and I began to believe I was only in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    I have LOVED seeing our Pod of Orcas come through Hales Passage in the past, ONLY to stay, feed, play, and rest right here in our backyard for what seemed such a short period of time, then “OFF THEY GO” up to THEIR beautiful home, The San Juan Islands!

    How many people CAN say to their “friends and family” that THEIR “Pod of Orcas” are out back, playing, tapping their back tail fins on the surface of the water, and, of course, one of the things that they do best is jumping out of the water, GIVING “making a HUGE splash” a WHOLE new meaning!

    I believe it was 2009/2010 when a pod came upon us, RIGHT alongside our boat, which scared the hell out of my baby boy, he was 10-11 at the time out of our 4 boys, and he was CONVINCED, completely convinced, and, OH SO ADAMANT that the Pod of Orcas swimming right next to us were INDEED, “Killer Whales” and that the Pod was there to eat us ALL up! My baby boy NEVER showed ANY significant signs that he felt that way about our Orcas… For this WAS his very first time THIS CLOSE to a Pod of Whales!

    My poor baby had tears of fear rolling down his precious little face! During that time, I had him come lay down with me, WITH, his fav blanket in which he hid under as I promised him that I wouldn’t let the whales scare him anymore, that he’d be 100% safe in his “mama’s arms.” He soon fell asleep from being out in the beautiful sunshine all day long, out on the water, breathing in all that fresh air.

    The Pod that day gave my baby boy one heck of an experience in his little lifetime! Now that he’s 17, and stands 6’7″ I’m pretty sure he’d be ok, hopefully, NEXT TIME.

    Here I’ve been, waiting and watching for our Orcas this year, still, nothing…..

    We will see,,,,,

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