Researchers and whale watchers say recent orca whale sightings in Washington are encouraging.

Whale-watching boat tours Island Adventures took pictures of Southern resident orcas in the Salish Sea this week.

The group said the orcas were spending most of their time out in the open ocean in search of food, because Chinook salmon levels were low locally. But they've been popping up in the Puget Sound almost daily in the fall, which means they're finding enough food to keep them close.

“I’ve never seen so many chum! Salmon were jumping as far as the eye could see. These whales have proven that they are very intelligent and will follow the food," Shane Aggergaard of Island Adventures said in a released statement.

The best time to view orcas has typically been the warmer months, but while this summer set a record for transient orca sightings, say Orca Network, resident orcas have been spending very few days in the area.