Archive for October, 2011

Humpback Whale at Halibut Island, Canada for our last tour

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

No orca whale reports today, BUT as we pulled out of Friday Harbor the Captain received word of a humpback whale by Halibut Island, Canada. It took us nearly an hour to get to the location but there it was – a beautiful humpback whale. It looked as though it was feeding the entire time we were with it – almost ½ an hour. When it dove down, one could see many of the ‘knuckles’ on it’s back.  Two of the many dives it waved it tail gently before disappearing into the water. Speaking of water, the depth of the water in that location was about 150 feet deep.

This was the last tour of the season.



We will reopen for whale & wildlife  tours April 14, 2012. See you next year!

Naturalist, Colleen Johansen


An “A” Whale and Wildlife Charter Tour

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

  Today with beautiful weather the two Kenmore Air sea planes touched down at the dock and we were there waiting to take the guests for a wildlife tour.  The group included people from Denmark, Sweden and Japan.

We went down the east side of San Juan Island stopping a few times to view birds and harbor seals. We had a good look at a mature bald eagle, solo, at the top of a tree. As we neared the southern-most tip of the island, we stopped (turned off the engine) and sat to watch some big stellar sea lions.  10-15 sea lions sunning on a rock outcropping with 100’s of pelagic cormorants. The rocks were literally covered with animals.

We started up again heading north. There were a number of commercial vessels out fishing today with nets out. The guests and I saw several orca whales go right up to one of these boats. I wondered if they were going to try to get fish out of the net, but then they just moved along. There were also many markers bobbing about as crabbing season has RE-opened.

Further north up the west side we saw a male orca solo.  We were stopped and watched him for a bit.
We started up going slowly north were we encountered a few more orca whales. I remember a group of 3, either all females or females with a young male. The whales were not coming out of the water – just enough to breath. There were many small groups of whales and seemed to be spread out over a large area.

With the engines off and the hydrophone down (50’) we were treated to the whale calls/song/clicks. I can never grow tired of this.  There was a good deal of vocalization today too!

We moved a bit more north were different whales were seemingly on a northern journey. Again, with engines off, we sat just staring to the coast of San Juan Island where whales were popping up and sliding back down. We even saw 2 tail slaps that looked like a juvenile.

We came home stopping near Speiden as one of the guests spotted 4 Harlequin Ducks swimming by. The captain turned the boat around so that Peter, the birder, with a 400 mm lens, could get a really good photo. He was thrilled and so was I. (hope he sends us the photo).

How would I grade this trip? The fog from the morning lifted and the planes came on time, it did not rain, it was not cold, we saw Stella Sea Lion, Cormorants, Harbor Seals, Bald Eagle, Orca Whales, Harlequin Ducks, Heermann’s Gull, Loons, Common Murres, Pigeon Guilemots and more. It was an “A” Trip.

Naturalist, Colleen Johansen

Tail End of the Season

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Headed south down the east side of San Juan Island.A single mature bald eagle was spotted up in a tree. We paused to view it, then off it went. We went a bit further south, then stopped a rock outcrop with TONS of Stellars Sea Lions. Lounging, posturing, snoozing, swimming. They where piled up with scads of  cormorants and a variety of gulls. You could smell that these animals were all fish eaters. (Hey, watch it, I kinda like that fragrance!) The boat sat with the engine off and twirled in the current. Pretty cool right at that spot in the water.

50/50 chance of seeing whales is what I gave it. BUT . . . It was a WHALE day for sure.  We were on the west side of San Juan Island south of Lime Kiln, north of False Bay, about a mile from shore. A single male resident orca surfaced. Solo. We could not see any other whales for quite some time.  The boat moved further north, then we began to see what looked like two females.  While sitting with the engine off, after about 20 mintues, a female off our bow start slapping her pectoral fin. Over and over.she slapped.  Almost as if waving to us.  She kept this up for several minutes. I am not sure just how many orcas there were. They were all very s p r e a d out. None were breaching. None were surfacing. It seemed like heavy duty prey finding.

There was a report of Humpback whales 3 miles from us -  closer to Canada. Off we went.  There were a few other boats already on scene. Two humpbacks were swimming side by side in sync with each others movements. Another whale was solo. I kept expecting a fluke. Sure enough, when I was not looking, Shelly saw the tail. We stayed with these whales about 20 minutes. Then we turned and started homeward – southish. The orcas were still in the same area. Stilled looked like fishing and eating mode to me.

What a great “Tail End of the Season tour this was!

Naturalist, Colleen Johansen


Orca Whales, A Loon, A Brown Peligan, Dall’s Porpoise & Stellar Sealion on our Last Daily Tour

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Yes, we saw orca whales today on the 2nd of October – late in the whale watching season.  We took off from Friday Harbor, San Juan Island heading north toward Spieden Island.  As we neared Speiden, one of the guests spotted a large brown head which turned out to be a great big stellar sea lion fishing by himself.  We stayed on the south side of Speiden and Shelly spotted a mature bald eagle up in a tree. Down below the Mouflon Sheep and Sitka Deer were roaming about.

We pushed on to Haro Strait and started south down Henry Island to the west side of San Juan Island. We were a bit south of Kellet’s Buff and north of Lime Kiln Point when orca whales came into view. It was part of L pod that we were viewing.  We sat for about 40 minutes watching the orca pursuing fish. Surfacing for air, switching directions back and forth the whales this up the entire time we sat there. Capt. Mike put down the hydrophone and there was some whale calls that could be heard. Light calling – not a lot.

As we headed further south on the west side, some Dall’s porpoise started riding our bow. Brief, but what a treat.  As the water was gliding I by, I screamed out “loon!” and sure enough it was.  Then at the southern tip of the island I spotted a BROWN Pelican in a raft of sea birds. Brown pelican may be common where you are from, but they are a bit of a rarity here in the islands.  Near Lopez Island, we stopped at a large rock outcropping to view at least 30 stellar sea lion, what seemed like hundreds of cormorants and gulls.  One could definitely smell these animals prior to actually seeing them.

What made this trip so enjoyable for me was that every guest on the boat seemed interested in anything Shelly or I could tell them about the area, birds, trees and wildlife.
This is the last daily tour of the season for us and what a trip it was.

Almost the End…

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Well, things are definitely winding down.  In just a few days there will be no more trips and probably no more whales until next year.  We were super lucky today and found a small section of L pod down in Haro Strait off the west side.  The water was super calm even though it was a bit rainy.

On the way home we stopped at got some final looks at all the Steller’s at Whale Rocks and called it a day.  Until next year…


San Juan Safaris