Captain’s Blog

3 J-Pod Behaviours to Watch For This Whale Watching Season

August 16, 2016

It’s the middle of August and the whale watching season is in full swing! We’ve seen a dazzling array of behaviour, from quirky to common, deliberate to downright hilarious.

And that’s just from the whale watchers on the deck of the boat!

Seriously though, the summer whale watching season has been as wondrous and captivating as ever, and we’re excited to keep our eyes peeled for all the interesting ways the orca whales of JPod express themselves over the next few weeks.

If you’ve already visited JPod’s home turf nearby here in Victoria, then you’ve no doubt spotted a couple of these actions for yourself.

If you haven’t? Here’s what’s in store for you.

1. Freaking Out The Salmon

It’s never a bad time for an orca feeding frenzy! Now, we won’t force you to perch precariously on some rocks like the gentleman in the video linked to above, – you’re safer up on the deck of the boat. For southern resident orcas, which are divided into JPod, KPod and LPod, their food source of choice, salmon, are gearing up to return to the Fraser River in the fall, so that means the orcas will be in hot pursuit.

Before JPod starts spreading south to California in a couple months, they’ll be consuming as much of their favourite fishy dishes as possible before the salmon return to their spawning grounds upstream in freshwater lakes and rivers.

2. Talkin’ Shop

“When whale watching in Victoria, the population of whales we see the most throughout the season is the Southern Resident Killer Whale community.” That’s straight from Orca Spirit’s research section. Because the Southern Residents have a predictable travel schedule, they’re the most studied orca population in the world.

That means we get to hear a lot of familiar voices. The Southern Residents all share related dialects, even throughout the three distinct pods. What does that sound like? Clicks, whistles, moans, chattering – you name it, we can hear it!

3. Family Drama

Some of the most important behaviours we get to witness in the Southern Resident Orcas living in the waters of the Strait of Juan De Fuca, Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia and Haro Strait are those involving family time.

Now, as anyone who’s spent a week crammed into their in-laws’ house during summer vacation or Christmas holidays can attest, sometimes families in close quarters can experience … aggravation.
Orca whales are pretty similar to humans in this regard. JPod is filled with unique young beasts that like to swim to the beat of their own drum. There’s mischief, mayhem, and bombastic behaviour wherever an adolescent orca is involved.

And the elder orcas of JPod take great care to guide their families through their watery upbringing.

JPod is home to Granny, the oldest killer whale on the planet. When you were born before the Great Depression, you naturally command a great deal of respect. Granny uses that influence to guide the young and not-so-young orcas of JPod. Granny gets some help from another wise old soul named Spieden, who was born sometime in the early 1930’s. And of course there’s Mega, the oldest (and largest) male of the Southern Residents. Mega is always followed closely by his family; his grandmother Alexis, his sisters Matia and Calypso, and his young niece Cousteau.

Whether the orcas of JPod are out in the open water harassing the salmon, chatting up a storm, or arguing about which bed of kelp to watch, you can bet there’s rarely a dull moment in the lives of these fantastic animals!

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