Thanks to the coordinated efforts of community scientists participating in sighting and listening networks monitoring the west side of San Juan Island, on Monday (3/1/2022) afternoon we were privileged to hear J pod of the Southern Resident killer whales (SRKWs) vocalizing and echolocating as they moved north in Haro Strait past the Orcasound Lab hydrophone. The pod had been observed and heard earlier in the day as well, so the acoustic experience was contextualized by the local land-based sighting network hosted by the Orca Behavior Institute on Facebook. Furthermore, the census team from the Center for Whale Research was able to photo-identify J pod members, including J37 Hy’Shqa and her new calf which they designated as J59. They estimated her to be only a few days old!
Listen to the raw audio data
Consequently, we are able to share this recording of the nearly 3-hour long bioacoustic bout which had an unusually high rate of vocalizations, whistles, and echolocation clicks. The bout lasted from about 15:30-18:30 Pacific (PST) and we encourage analysis of the open archived Orcasound audio data. Here is a link to an mp3 version of the raw audio data (warning: 78 MB! Note: continuous mp3 file was transcoded from the raw HLS audio segments which you can access via AWS or Quilt):
In that same directory you will find a (very) preliminary label track which you can load, along with the audio file, into (free, open source!) Audacity. Try adding your own label track and seeing what calls you can identify (using the latest version of the SRKW call catalog) or patterns you can find in the SRKW signals!
Listen to a 6-minute highlight
There were scattered calls and clicks in the first hour of the bout, but things really picked up afterwards. Below we offer a 6-minute example of many matched and overlapping calls from about 1 hr 17 min into the recording. This high level of vocal activity suggests that many individuals were vocalizing, often at the same time.
Audacity spectrogram and label track highlighting 6 minutes in the recording of J pod at Orcasound Lab, about 5 km south of Roche Harbor (WA, USA). Listen to this clip (or download it) in either .mp3 or .ogg audio format:
Resources to ponder
Below are some gray and peer-reviewed references that may be worth considering as we analyze this recording. Based on the work done with Northern Resident killer whales (NRKWs), it may be worth comparing this bout with past recordings of the same matriline in J pod (before J59’s arrival) and with future recordings of the matriline as J59 matures and develops its vocal repertoire and other acoustic abilities in coming year or two.
- Paper on call usage changes in NRKW matrilines before vs after the birth of a calf
- Beam Reach student research project (10 week research project) by Courtney Kneipp on Killer Whale Calf Vocalization Development: Understanding Cultural Transmission Through Acoustics — http://www.beamreach.org/051/ (featuring L101 and L103 as juveniles)
- Bowles et al. (1988) — available from the old Icelandic journal!
- SRKW mother-calf communication case study — ASA presentation abstract | YouTube version of animation tracking calf and mother/brother as the exchanged calls
- Context for the Crance article (which is about juveniles, not acquisition in newborn calves)