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Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Gray whale spyhops in front of a group of admirers on Sandy Pt, Langley, Whidbey Island WA on April 13th. Photo by Jill Hein, Orca Network.
Every spring, a thrilling event occurs in the waters surrounding Whidbey and Camano Islands, in Washington State. People eagerly wait and watch for sightings of resident Gray whales as they return for their annual feeding visit to Saratoga Passage, between the two islands, and to Possession Sound. I've been in touch with Howard Garrett and Susan Berta, co-founders of Orca Network, and I'm excited to share some photos of whales they provided, along with news of an event coming up this next weekend.
Gray whale off Ft. Casey State Park, with two young admirerers - Howard Garrett, Orca Network

Orca Network, uses the motto “Connecting whales and people in the Pacific Northwest.” That is exactly what they hope to do on Saturday, April 20, at the tenth annual Welcome the Whales Festival and Parade in Langley, WA. Sponsored by Orca Network, Homeplace Special Care, and the Langley Chamber of Commerce, this event features a packed schedule of fun and family-friendly activities as well as outstanding educational opportunities for everyone. A Whale Watch cruise aboard the Mystic Sea, planned for Sunday, April 21, is already SOLD OUT.

Gray whale "Patch"'s Fluke - by Jill Hein, Orca Network
Beginning at 11 a.m., children can participate through hands-on displays, making costumes, and more, at the Methodist Church Fellowship Hall (3rd and Anthes St.) followed by a “Critter Parade” at 1:30. The parade ends at the Langley Waterfront Park, where Windwalker Taibi will offer a blessing for the whales and all can enjoy music and celebration.

Gary the Gray whale in the Whale Parade, Orca Network

The afternoon also brings two hours of educational presentations at the same church, between 3 p.m and 5 p.m. Orca Network will offer a program that includes, in addition to an update on North Puget Sound Gray whales, a slide show of whales in San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja, CA, the Gray whales’ southernmost migratory destination and the place where they mate and give birth. Here is some video of whale watchers in the lagoon.

Then Dr. Sue Moore, a biological oceanographer with NOAA/Fisheries Office of Science & Technology, will give a fascinating presentation called “Gray Whales as Sentinels of Climate Change.” For 35 years, she has researched the ecology, bioacoustics and natural history of whales and dolphins.

Aerial shot of Gray whale in Saratoga Passage - Veronica von Allworden, Sky and Sea Photography

These resident whales celebrated at the Welcome the Whales event number only about a dozen. But they are part of the larger number of whales migrating up and down the West Coast each year. Dr. Moore will be speaking about that larger population and how they have been impacted by climate change in the North Pacific and Arctic Seas.

Don’t miss the opportunity to Welcome the Whales as they come home to the Pacific Northwest. If we humans quit caring, that opportunity could one day be gone.  

For more information, contact Orca Network at 1-866-672-2638 or Learn how you can travel to Baja with Orca Network in 2014 here.

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