“Sounders”, the local gray whales that feed in northern Puget Sound each spring, staying longer than usual and update on boat-struck gray whale


The regular gray whales that feed each spring around Whidbey and Camano Island (called the Sounders) have stayed longer this year than other recent years. A survey conducted by Cascadia Research (with assistance from SR3) on 12 May identified five different known individuals (IDs 21, 22, 49, 383, and 723) still present in the area. Two of these (21 and 22) were whales first identified in 1990 when Cascadia began research on this group. All five of the whales have been seen over the last 17-years (and three have been sighted over at least 26 years). The whales generally arrive in March and typically leave in early May, though they do occasionally stay longer. Based on sightings of at least one other known individual west of Victoria apparently leaving the area, some whales have already left.

Most significantly, on 12 May we encountered one of the best known whales that was the same individual caught on video being hit by a boat on 23 April 2017 (see https://www.cascadiaresearch.org/north-puget-sound-gray-whale-study/whale-vessel-collision). She is a known female we have named Earhart (ID 22) since she was one of the first whales to discover and pioneer the high-risk strategy of intertidal feeding in this area. It was encouraging that she was actively feeding on ghost shrimp in shallow water less than 10-feed deep at high tide, in a manner very typical to past years.

Photos below of Earhart on 12 May 2017 while feeding in shallow water (Photo credit: John Calambokidis, Cascadia Research).