Leaving the harbor with a full boat, Captain Mike took us North into San Juan Channel on a beautiful sunny day. We’d had no reports yet, but Naturalist Kevin and I were optimistic for a great day on the water. We weren’t disappointed.
We’d cruised around Yellow Island for some looks at the wildflowers and Harbor Seals lazing about and headed up to Flattop Island, when we stopped to check out a Bald Eagle. Seconds after, the bird stooped and crashed hard into the water after a fish. The next 15 minutes were spent watching the eagle swim to shore, battling a strong current, and the fact it’s not exactly a species we expect to see swimming. With a cheer of relief, our guests watched as it finally struggled up on shore and immediately began eating a hard won fish.
A Minke Whale, one of two baleen whales we see in the San Juans, had been reported further North off Sandy Point on Waldron Island. We got on scene for a few good views of it surfacing with Mt. Baker glowing in the background. Waiting around for more views (they can stay under for 20 minutes at a time), we had great views of Harbor Porpoise, many grebes, ducks, and Rhinocerous Auklets, all obvious finding good fare below us.
Leaving Sandy Point, we hooked around Turn Point on Stuart Island, getting ready to cruise around Spieden Island for more wildlife. Just then a report of Transient Killer Whales came in. They were deep in the waters around Hein Bank, where the Strait of Juan De Fuca and the Haro Strait come together. We had just enough time to zip down and starting off immediately. As a bonus, en route Captain Mike and I spotted a male Elephant Seal floating in the middle of the Haro! We only got a few moments view before it went below the surface, but this was a rare find and a great treat.
We found the Transients, which we presumed to be the T65As, T075Bs, and T075Cs because they’ve been traveling together for a little while now. This was further confirmed when we got great looks at their new baby, dubbed T75B2. Such a name doesn’t do the cuteness and excitement of seeing a slightly less coordinated little one keeping close to its mother. The group traveled around the open water while we took in this special sight.
We finished out our already fine day with a look at Steller Sea Lions on Whale rocks, before heading back to Friday Harbor. It was a spectacular day, time spent with our largest bird of prey, our largest sea lion, our largest seal species, and of course, the impressive apex predators that Killer Whales are. Not bad for a day starting out with no reports!
M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris