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01 November 2009 @ 02:53 pm
LIKE PARTYGOERS SHOUTING to be heard over the din of a crowded room, orcas in Puget Sound are shouting their conversations, says Marla Holt, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration biologist.

Salmon fishing boats, container ships, pleasure craft—up to 46 vessels per 1,094—yard radius in the Sound—contribute to 123 underwater decibels. To cut through the racket, according to a study Holt released earlier this year, our finned neighbors must yell their distinct wails, which they use to chat while hunting and to zero in on food via echolocation. (Specifically, they raise their voices one decibel for every decibel of boat noise.)

But there’s more at stake than a more raucous whale pod. The orcas’ prey of choice, chinook salmon, is disappearing. “If the whales are already having a hard time finding food,” says Holt, “and they’re using sonar to find food, what effect does traffic noise have on their ability to do so?”

Seven members of the local orca population have disappeared within the past year and are likely dead. While it’s uncertain whether vessel clamor contributed to the whales’ fate, NOAA–responding to Holt’s findings and other studies—has proposed federal legislation that would restrict vessels from traveling within 200 yards of orcas.
 
 
31 October 2009 @ 03:51 pm
I was so taken with this footage, which aired last week, that I captured and uploaded it to share with those unable to access BBC iPlayer. It's the experience described in this article. Enjoy!

Autumnwatch homepage
 
 
24 October 2009 @ 10:01 pm
Animals in Their Environment - Highly Commended: Stefano Unterthiner (Italy) - Killer in the mist

The picture was taken in a torrential rainstorm on Possession Island in the sub-Antarctic Crozet Archipelago. A killer whale family was hunting king penguins and southern elephant seals just off a nearby beach. 'Over four months, this was the first time,' says Stefano, 'that I saw killer whales so close to shore or to the king penguin rookery.' The penguins were in a terrible panic, he says. 'The drama was intense, what with the enormous male, its dorsal fin slicing through the grey water, and the simply terrible weather.' Stefano spotted the killer whales from the cliff overlooking the beach and then spent more than three hours photographing them in whipping rain. 'It's one of the most unforgettable moments of my life.'

Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Stefano's website
 
 
17 October 2009 @ 02:49 pm

© Jami Nagel

A new baby orca has been born into L pod, the largest of the three groups of killer whales that frequent Puget Sound.

The calf’s arrival coincides with the time of year when the whales generally move south out of the San Juan Islands to hunt for chum salmon in Central and South Puget Sound.

Jami Nagel, a naturalist for Island Adventures, captured a picture of the new calf off Point Wilson near Port Townsend on Saturday, as the pod of whales headed into Puget Sound.

The Center for Whale Research has confirmed that the calf has never been seen before. Experts have assigned the calf the number L-113, the next available number in sequence. Having only two pictures, center biologists have not identified the mother.

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A massive pod of up to 50 killer whales has been filmed for the first time off the coast of Scotland by a BBC crew.

Gordon Buchanan, presenter of BBC Autumnwatch, filmed the group from a fishing boat in the North Sea.

The killer whales are filmed approaching the fishing boat and feeding on mackerel that escape the fishing nets.

The tenacious behaviour reveals an unlikely alliance between fishermen and predators of fish.

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• note: This episode of Autumnwatch can currently be watched on BBC iPlayer for those in the UK.
 
 
 
 
14 August 2009 @ 08:39 pm


Killer whales create and visit social clubs just like people do, scientists have discovered.

Up to 100 fish-eating killer whales come together in the Avacha Gulf, off the coast of Russia.

But no-one knew why these orcas form these huge superpods, when they normally live in smaller groups.

Now scientists report in the Journal of Ethology that these groups act as clubs in which the killer whales form and maintain social ties.

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22 July 2009 @ 02:43 pm
 
 
22 July 2009 @ 02:09 pm
 
 
22 July 2009 @ 06:26 am
Part One

Many years ago an orca was born in L pod. She swam to the surface to take a breath of air, and then swam next to her mother. She fed on her mother’s milk for the first year of her life. She was gradually weaned and introduced to eating fish. She was taught and learned to fish on her own. She learned the different sounds and songs of her pod and the other two resident pods. She swam in the sea and her mother taught her to breach, spy hop, and slap her tail against the water.

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21 July 2009 @ 05:44 pm
39 years after Lolita's capture off the coast of Washington State a "Walk for Lolita" will be held to urge Seaquarium owner Arthur Hertz to retire his lone orca back to her natural waters.

30-50 body painted activists will walk from the first beach on Key Biscayne to the Seaquarium's parking lot entrance in barely anything more than paint, while handing out flyers on the beaches and attracting a large amount of onlookers. The walk starts at the first beach on Key Biscayne at 12:00 PM and will end around 2:00 PM at a demonstration in front of the Miami Seaquarium.

Shelby Proie in collaboration with Orca Network invites fellow Miami residents and media to come out and support this cause. We hope to see Lolita retired into a sea pen in her native Pacific North West waters where she will be taken care of for the rest of her life unless she chooses to rejoin her pod that lives there as well.
 
 
09 July 2009 @ 06:33 pm

THE CREW of the Shetland coastguard helicopter search and rescue 102 was treated to a spectacle when they followed a group of around 100 killer whales while out on an exercise on Saturday morning.

Winch operator Kieran Murray said they saw the whales initially 20 miles north of Foula and then later on nearer the coast to Eshaness.

He said he had never seen anything like it: "It was a tremendous scene. I would guess the group was not short of a hundred animals."

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09 July 2009 @ 06:28 pm

A pod of killer whales made a splash with boaties in the Hauraki Gulf yesterday.

The orcas were first spotted off Rangitoto about 10am, and 20 minutes later seen near the Bean Rock lighthouse, 1km off Mission Bay.

"One came up so close we could have touched it," said Grant Campbell, from Coastguard Northern Region. "It blew water over the back of the boat."

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A plan to restore salmon runs on California's Sacramento River also could help revive killer whale populations 700 miles to the north in Puget Sound, as federal scientists struggle to protect endangered species in a complex ecosystem that stretches along the Pacific coast from California to Alaska.

Without wild salmon from the Sacramento and American rivers as part of their diet, the killer whales might face extinction, scientists concluded in a biological opinion that could result in even more severe water restrictions for farmers in the drought-stricken, 400-mile-long Central Valley of California. The valley is the nation's most productive farm region.

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