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It Takes a Pod

The Dorsal Spin
Female Kasatka (L82) with male cousin Nigel (L95) and other relatives. Photo © Mark Sears, 11/22/14
Female Kasatka (L82) with male cousin Nigel (L95) and other relatives. Photo © Mark Sears, 11/22/14

Raven was building a PowerPoint slide show when all hell broke loose. It seems that Raven offended the little helpers who keep the lights on and the email sending smoothly. At the last minute, Raven invited Rabbit and Coyote, his Trickster compadres, to the shindig. Those two chased each other around the lodge, running through the slides and shuffling the order.

Despite the glitches, Raven made everything work somehow. Dear audience, you were good sports and you asked great questions. The guests of honor -- the sacred whales -- even appeared on Kéet time. This week’s sublime Mark Sears photo shows a few stars of “The Sacred Whale.”

Numerous thank-yous are in order. Without the indispensable graphics and technical support of these individuals, our program would have been less compelling and less pretty: Richard Rogers, Randy Smith, Bruce Haulman, and Michael Monteleone. Others who were quite helpful include Julie at the Vashon Land Trust, the Vashon Audubon chapter, and the Vashon Bookshop staff. We would be remiss if we did not extend a heartfelt shout-out to the esteemed Loop editor for tolerating the vagaries of our erratic internet connection. It takes a pod.

About 36 hours after our “Requiem for Ruffles,” Mark Sears documented a gorgeous superpod of Southern Residents in East Passage. On November 22, at least 60 J, K and L Pod members traveled south to Point Robinson and then abruptly shifted direction, just off the point. Speculating aloud, I said to Odin on the ride over, “I wonder if they’ll turn north because the tide is coming in.” Doh!

The 22nd was fabulous for photo-identification, but the orcas did not provide any prey or poop samples. Perhaps the whales were foraging, but they did not leave any scraps. We observed traveling, milling, and lively socializing. Late in the afternoon, the orcas eased into touchy-feely group grope. We had a rare sighting of “pink floyd” – may we please have more orca babies?!

Southern Residents visited Vashon-Maury waters again during daylight, such as it was, on November 24 and 28. On alternate days, Transients crept through our area into the real South Sound – south of the Tacoma Narrows. J Pod and K Pod members were here, flirting with the Narrows, on the 24th. Incessant squalls of misty rain and poor visibility made ID work a challenge on the 28th; however, I spotted at least two L Pod whales.

Ed gets the award for most valuable VHP spotter on the 22nd. His calls were tremendously beneficial to our research effort. Mark Sears does not rely on texts or social media when he is working from his boat. He is too busy. Dear readers, you are of greatest assistance to the VHP’s local, boots-on –the-ground endeavor when you call in your sightings to Orca Annie.

Please support the work of the Vashon Hydrophone Project (VHP): REPORT LOCAL WHALE SIGHTINGS ASAP TO 206-463-9041, as well as seal pups and sick, injured, or dead marine mammals on Island beaches. Prompt reports to the VHP expedite vital data collection efforts and sustain an accurate record of whale sightings for Vashon-Maury initiated three decades ago by Mark Sears. Send photos to Orca Annie at and check for updates at