Naturalist Gear-Up 2014 – April 26

L119 and Her Mother Matia

L119 and Her Mother MatiaSummer is upon us and we hope, a return of our southern resident orcas for the high season. Please join us for The Whale Museum’s annual Naturalist Gear Up Workshop at the San Juan Grange. Registration begins at 9:30.

Speakers include Jim Lichatowich, author of Salmon, People, and Place – A Biologist’s Search for Salmon Recovery; and Barbara Rosenkotter, San Juan County Lead Entity for salmon recovery. We will also include a panel to discuss the changes in Southern Resident orca sightings and behaviors over recent years.

Go here to purchase tickets and learn more.

Admission: $25

Date/Time: Saturday, April 26 from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Location: San Juan Island Grange, 152 N. First St

Spring Gardening Workshop – April 26


gardeningThe San Juan County WSU Master Gardeners present the 2014 Spring Gardening Workshop: Sustainable Gardening in Your Own Backyard. Keynote speaker, Erin Bezakein (founder of Floret Flower Farm in Mount Vernon, organic farmer, floral designer, writer and popular blogger) will talk about her adventures in the organic flower growing industry. Plus, experience 15 workshops on sustainable practices for your garden, from cottage gardens to bees to preserving your garden’s bounty and many more.

Register here online. For more information and a registration form, call WSU Extension at 360-378-4414 or send an email to 

Admission: $35 beforehand, $40 at the door

Date/Time: Saturday, April 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Location: Friday Harbor Middle School, 85 Blair Ave.

Tragedy of the Commons – Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars – April 19


unmanned2To continue the Tragedy of the Commons documentary series on San Juan Island, Host Ken Crawbuck will be screening Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars, a recent project from documentarian Robert Greenwald.

“In Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars, director Robert Greenwald investigates the impact of U.S. drone strikes at home and abroad through more than 70 separate interviews, including a former American drone operator who shares what he has witnessed in his own words, Pakistani families mourning loved ones and seeking legal redress, investigative journalists pursuing the truth, and top military officials warning against blowback from the loss of innocent life.”

Light refreshments are served courtesy of the Friends of the Library.

Contact Bethery von Dassow at or 378-2798 for more information.

Admission: Free

Date/Time: Saturday, April 19 at 7 p.m.

Location: San Juan Island Library, 1010 Guard St.

Sunshine Alley Design Workshop Results – Open House – April 15

imgresThe results of the Sunshine Alley design workshops will be exhibited for public review and comment during an open house.
Please come between those hours and provide us your feedback on the possible ideas and improvements.
For more information contact Beckwith Consulting Group at or at 466-3536.

Admission: Free
Date/Time: Tuesday, April 15 from 6-8 p.m.
Location: San Juan Island Brickworks, 150 Nichols St.

K-Pod Returns to the San Juans

K-Pod orcas seen from the shore; photo by Libby Baldwin
K-Pod orcas seen from the shore; photo by Libby Baldwin

K-Pod orcas seen from the shore; photo by Libby Baldwin

Over the weekend, orca enthusiasts on the island were thrilled when several members of K-Pod were reported as inbound from an area to the north called Race Rocks. Sure enough, a couple of hours later they were seen making their way down the southern end of San Juan Island. Several whale-watching operators trailed them as they headed past South Beach and down the Cattle Point area, and land-based watchers (yours truly included!) were lucky enough to spot them from the shore.

We experienced one of the warmest days of 2014 this weekend, with temperatures in the mid-60s and the sun blazing in a cloudless sky. I drove (a bit too fast) down to South Beach, stayed there long enough to realize the orcas were moving south at a good clip, and got back in the car to head to the Cattle Point lookout, where I ran as fast as my flimsy Ugg-alike boots could carry me to get as close to the shore as possible, a good 15 pounds of Nikon slamming into my side as I did so. I was rewarded with a good half hour of classic southern resident play behavior, including breaches that could be seen from hundreds of yards away and lots of tail-lobbing. Seeing the orcas from the shore is a rare treat, and it never ceases to stop my heart with excitement. I felt tears prickling at the corners of my eyes; this was the first time I had seen them since last summer, and to me there truly are no more magnificent animals to behold in their natural environment.

Completely content after watching them for a bit, I took a seat in the soft grass, curling my legs underneath me and,

South Beach stretches into the glorious spring sunshine; photo by Libby Baldwin

South Beach stretches into the glorious spring sunshine; photo by Libby Baldwin

daringly, shedding my ever-present hoodie to enjoy a bit of the sunshine. (Being Floridian, going outside here for even a few moments without outerwear seems like a dare to the universe.) I glanced over across the water to an area called Whale Rocks that is famous for hosting a bevy of bachelor steller sea lions; sure enough, there they were, sprawled gloriously in fat brown heaps on the rocks, warming themselves and bellowing periodically, loudly enough for me to hear them even hundreds of yards away. As I gazed at the stunning beauty of my surroundings, I had one of those moments where I was struck by my good fortune to live in such an amazing place.

We are all happy to see the southern residents returning, especially given that K-Pod is usually the last to show up for the season. It is said that Chinook salmon, the SRKWs’ primary diet staple, are on a four-year cycle, meaning that every fourth year is traditionally an excellent one, numbers-wise. 2010 was a banner year with almost daily orca sightings in the peak months of June, July and August. Researchers are hopeful that 2014 will bring similar results. We won’t know for sure until it happens or doesn’t happen, but fingers are crossed for an improvement over last year’s dismal sightings data.

Shore-based whale watching is just one of the unique things you can do here, and I encourage you to book a trip soon. In our wired, driven, relentlessly screen-filled modern world, the opportunity to sit on a grassy hillside and gaze out over cold, blue water while birds sing and orcas breach is truly priceless. Here’s to many more days this summer!


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