Penn Cove is full of Orca today.  We can see whales in the cove as this is being typed.  Several watchers even saw them breach and/or spy-glass.

Are they a transient pod?  Our local J and L pods?  Well, between the local news and Whidbey Chat’s regular guest Howard Garrett, from orcanetwork.org we’ll find out over the next few days and weeks.  Tune in to KWPA – http://www.kwpa.wordpress.com – Monday, April 26th at 11am and Howard will enlighten us. As always Howard and Susan Berta (founders of orcanetwork.org) are being sought out by news outlets all over the world to help people understand the recent events of, and between, whales around the Pacific Northwest.  See links below. 

To recap the last two days – yesterday a whale watching boat was close enough to a ruckus between a single Grey and a pod of Orcas (assumed to be the same transient pod spotted all week around the area), to get the sight recorded and photographed by tourists.  Right now, according Candi Emmons of NOAA Fisheries  – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who called the orcanetwork, the Orca involved are a transient pod, ID’d as T-pod, who reside during season in British Columbia, Canada.  Candi’s NOAA introduction page is – http://www.nwfsc.noaa.gov/research/staff/display_staffprofile.cfm?staffid=1942

Here is a link is a local TV broadcast about the Orca Attack story – http://www.ktvb.com/news/regional/Orcas-attack-gray-whale-off-Wash-coast-90620824.html

And below is an Associated Press Report on the attack from the Washington Post from the link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2010/04/12/AR2010041203076.html

Orcas seen in rare Puget Sound gray whale attack

By PHUONG LE
The Associated Press
Monday, April 12, 2010; 6:41 PM 

SEATTLE — Whale watchers in Puget Sound caught a rare and dramatic sight from their tourist boat: a pod of orcas speeding by in attack mode and then ramming a gray whale under water.

After the gray whale dove beneath the water Sunday, the pod of attacking transient killer whales followed suit.

“Everything was quiet for a minute,” said Monte Hughes, captain of the Anacortes-based Mystic Sea Charters. “Then the water went into a frenzy. … You could see the movements of the gray whale being hit underneath the water.”

A short time later the gray whale surfaced, belly up, and jerked upward two or three times as it was being hit from below, he said. The killer whales then took off, and the gray whale floundered for a time, but eventually swam toward shallow waters.

Howard Garrett, director of the Orca Network, said there have been three other reports of transient orcas attacking gray whales in Puget Sound. The first sighting was March 22.

Transient orcas are different from the three pods of Puget Sound orcas that feed on salmon. These whales typically eat marine mammals such as sea lions, porpoises, dolphins and gray whales.

Robin Baird, a marine biologist with the Olympia, Wash.-based Cascadia Research Collective, said it’s not unusual for transients to attack gray whales but most of the attacks have occurred in California or Alaska, in areas where the grays are particularly vulnerable.

“I have not heard of them attacking grays in Puget Sound before,” Baird said in an e-mail from Hawaii, where he was doing field work.

Whale observers said they’re not sure why the attacks happened.

“It doesn’t fit the usual textbook wildlife behavior,” Garrett said. “They usally pass by each other and pay no mind.”

Hughes said he hasn’t seen anything like the attack during his 20 years operating whale-watching tours.

Noela Graham, a Whidbey Island resident, watched the attack with about 30 other passengers aboard the Mystic Sea and recalled it being “extraordinary to witness something that you see on a National Geographic Channel.

After the first group of seven orcas attacked the gray whale and left, another pair of orcas approached the gray whale.

Hughes said he positioned the boat near the gray whale to deter another attack.

“I think we were able to deter that hopefully,” he said, noting that the whale got its breath, got up right, and very slowly started heading for the beach.

Erick Peirson, a captain with Puget Sound Express, witnessed another encounter while hosting 30 passengers on a whale-watching tour March 30. He said four transient orcas circled three gray whales not far from the boat. One male transient rubbed up against a gray whale, and there was a lot of splashing before the orcas took off.

“It happened real fast,” he said. “It was a real brief touch-and-go.”