Friday, July 29, 2011

August 3 Lecture: The Bowhead Whale in the Age of Natural Resource Extraction

The Whale Museum continues its Research Lecture Series on Wednesday, August 3rd at 7:00pm with PhD candidate Frances Robertson from the Marine Mammal Research Unit at the University of British Columbia. Robertson will discuss her work with the bowhead whale and the impacts of oil and gas industry activities on its behavior and distribution.

Frances Robertson has carried out studies involving marine mammals and human disturbance issues in Canada, Scotland and the US; other research activities have included study of minke whales foraging ecology and photo-id in the Salish Sea, WA. Frances has also spent 5 years working as a free lance marine mammal observer for the seismic survey industry.

The August 3rd lecture is free and open to the public, although donations are encouraged.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

August 6 Talk on Natural History of Feathers, San Juan Library

On Saturday, August 6th at 7:00pm at the San Juan Island Library, there will be a talk by Dr. Thor Hanson, Author of Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle. Dr. Hanson is a conservation biologist, Switzer Environmental Fellow, and member of the Human Ecosystems Study Group. His first book, The Impenetrable Forest: My Gorilla Years in Uganda, won the 2008 USA Book News Award for nature writing. In Feathers, Hanson details a sweeping natural history, as feathers have been used to fly, protect, attract, and adorn through time and place. Applying the research of paleontologists, ornithologists, biologists, engineers, and even art historians, Hanson asks: What are feathers? How did they evolve? What do they mean to us? This event is co-sponsored by Wolf Hollow, Islands' Oil Spill Association and Griffin Bay Bookstore.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Baby Seal Rescued in Olga

A call was made to the Marine Mammal Stranding Network about a baby seal nursing from a dingy line at the Olga dock. Volunteers went out periodically to see if they could spot the pup. Yesterday, Greg Bishop, an intern with the Stranding Network, was able to locate the pup and administer fluids. The pup was relocated near Shag Rock which is further from people and closer to adult seals. The hope is that by moving pups closer to adult seals they may get fostered by a lactating female. This practice has been reported quite a lot in scientific literature.

New Indian Island Schedule for July 29-31

Changes in times for invertebrate surveys (far rocks and meter-squares)and fishing are as follows: Invert surveys to begin Friday at 9:30, July 29th continuing, if necessary, on Saturday; fishing to begin Sunday, July 31st from 11:00 am to 1 pm. Saturday, July 30th outreach at both the Farmers Market and at Indian Island. Indian Island from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm and the Farmers Market beginning at 10:30 am. This is our last big weekend. Hope to see you there.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Indian Island Outreach

The rainy weather didn't prevent Saturday's Indian Island outreach from being successful. At Indian Island over 200 people were provided information and given insights into the work going on there. The booth at the Orcas farmers market was equally busy throughout the day. A fish tank containing sea stars, crabs and bi-valves was a big hit with the public. Many people stopped by to ask questions, looked at and held some of the beach inhabitants and also enjoyed some very colorful cookie sea stars provided by one of the volunteers. The next outreach will be Friday, July 29 th.

Friday, July 15, 2011

J1 Ruffles & His Son L41 Mega's Legacy

On July 6 at the Whale Museum, Dr. Astrid Van Ginniken, who works with the Center for Whale Research, discussed the DNA findings of the Southern Residents. Ruffles was identified as the father of K21, Capaccino; K25, Scoter; L41, Mega; L57, Faith; L73, Flash; L74, Sanich; L78, Gaia and L85, Mystery.

Mega was identified as the father of J40, Suttles; J42, Echo; J35, Tahlequah; and K33, Keet. In addition one male, who has been identified as M2, is the father of J11, Blossom and J19, Shachi(making these two full siblings); K12, Sequim; K13, Skagit; and L60, Rascal. Another male identified as M4 is the father of J37, Hy'Shqa; J39, Mako; J41, Eclipse; J28 Polaris; J32, Rhapsody; K14, Lea; and K27, Deadhead. She also noted that there is no direct relationship between K7, Lummi and K11, Georgia, whom were thought to be mother and daughter. Dr. Van Giniken plans to continue the DNA testing on the SRKWs. She also noted that there does not appear to be any mating between first order relatives or full siblings.

She also discussed the viability of the SRKWs, and noted that three matriarchal lines in L pod will disappear as only males remain, while all current matriarchal lines in J and K pods have the ability to continue. Only one-third of the males reach age 25 or older and the average age at death is 35 years for males. Two-thirds of females reach age 40 or older. A group of 55 or 60 individuals is considered to be severly at risk of dying out. So while she has hope that the 87 whales of the Southern Residents will survive, their survival is dependent upon a sustainable supply of Chinook salmon and removing the toxins in the Salish Sea.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Indian Island

Wednesday, July 13th and Thursday, July 14th Beach Watchers met to assist with bi-valve digs. Beach Watcher volunteers worked hard to dig bi-valves, date them and record finds all with an eye on the incoming tide. Tomorrow, Friday, July 15th Beach Watchers will be fishing and recording data. Saturday outreach workers will be at Indian Island and at the Orcas Island Farmers Market. Displays, books and critters (we hope) will be available for the public to view. Next outreach is
Friday, July 29th.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

National Conservation Status for BLM Lands: Your Help Is Needed!

A grass-roots local steering committee has been hard at work for over a year to obtain “National Conservation Area” (NCA) status for the 1100 acres in the San Juan Islands owned by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM.) These lands include Patos Island, Turn Point, Iceberg Point and Watmough Bay, as well as many smaller islands, rocks and reefs. NCA status requires an act of Congress, but once obtained, would protect the lands in perpetuity. (Although the Lopez properties currently have some protection within the BLM, it could be eliminated by policy changes, and the majority of the lands have no protection at all.)

The NCA process requires a grass-roots initiative, (the work of the committee,) endorsement by the SJ County Council (obtained earlier this year,) and support of our local Congressman, Rick Larson, who is very enthusiastic about the project. However, there is still much work to be done before actual legislation can be put before Congress.

Currently the greatest need is for San Juan individuals and organizations to write letters of support to Congressman Larson, stating how they use and enjoy the BLM lands, and why they think the NCA status is important. The NCA website:, has much more information, as well as ideas for both written and email letters to Larson’s office. The need is immediate. Legislation has already been drafted, which Larson hopes to introduce this year, but a strong show of local support is critical to its success. Please take a few moments today to check the website and write a short letter!

Good News! "The Whale" Movie to Be Released Soon in U.S.

Suzanne Chisholm and Mike Parfit, creators of the beautiful documentary film, “The Whale,” have announced that it will be released later this summer in several big American cities – probably starting in New York, Washington D.C., and Seattle. The film, crafted from thousands of hours of footage Suzanne and Mike shot over a period of several years in Nootka Sound, BC, documents the moving story of Luna, a lonely young orca who turned to boaters for companionship and comfort after being separated from his family. Though the story doesn’t have a “happily ever after” ending, it is a beautiful film with an important message.

In May of this year, members of the 2011 Beach Watchers class met with Suzanne and Mike in Sidney, BC. It was an inspiring evening, including a viewing of the film and lots of details of how it was produced and is being marketed. It isn’t easy for an independent documentary to get into theatres in the US, so news of the releases later this summer is heartening. Theatre-showings need to happen before the film can be produced as a DVD.

Suzanne and Mike would greatly appreciate help from supporters in spreading awareness of the film. How? There are lots of suggestions on their website, They also have a facebook page:

New Calf in K Pod!

The newest member of the Southern Resident Orca community is K44, born to K27, (Deadhead,) and first sighted early in the morning of Wed. July 6, on the West side of San Juan Island. The proud Mom, eager to show off her first calf, lifted her offspring up to the surface to provide onlookers with a good view, (establishing in the process that this one is a boy!)

Lopez Beach Watcher Helps an Injured Eagle

2011 Beach Watcher Mysti McKeehan and her husband tended an injured eagle on Lopez at the end of June, and are hopeful that their efforts helped the bird to recover. The eagle was discovered by Mysti and other neighbors on a beach south of Otis Perkins Park around July 21. He was lying in the sand, scruffy-looking, and seemed unable to move freely. After further observation and consultation with Julie Knight and Wolf Hollow, it was determined that he could fly adequately, (and did not need to be captured for rehabilitation,) but that his left leg was injured, thus impeding his ability to capture prey and maneuver on land. Julie recommended that Mysti and her husband put out smelt or salmon for him, which they did, much of which the eagle appreciatively ate. (See bottom photo.) Other eagles seemed to be aware of him and perhaps in communication. Though still limping and having little use of the injured leg, the eagle (nicknamed Ollie by Mysti's husband Noel,) gradually gained strength and was flying more. Mysti said they have not seen him now for several days, but hope that is a sign that he has recovered sufficiently to take care of himself.

Check out the fascinating video of the eagle Mysti and her husband have posted on youtube:

Beach Watchers Interviewed in This Week’s San Juan Journal

The July 6 SJ Journal contains an article about Like Kiln volunteers – our well-known and active Beach Watchers Dennis Linden and Shirley Zyph! There is a nice photo of Dennis, along with thoughtful answers from both about the volunteer work they do and why they love it. Some well-deserved publicity!