Archive for the ‘orca whale watching by seattle’ Category

Transients At Our Front Door!

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Another magical day on the water, and this was even closer to home than usual! M/V Sea Lion motored out of Friday Harbor for a mere 10 minutes before we were greeted with the sight of blows in the distance. The blows belonged to non-other than the T-65A’s, a mom and her offspring, that were combing the east side of the island for some tasty treats. It appeared that this was no problem for our marine-mammal eating orcas, since we saw a Harbor porpoise propel itself out of the water to escape it’s underwater predators. We never did see the Harbor Porpoise surface again, but we did see some tight circling behavior with loads of tail slaps, and even an adorable head stand from the youngest of the T-65A’s. The youngest was first seen March 27th, 2014! It looked like quite the feast for these transient orcas, and also a great show for guests aboard the M/V Sea Lion! Absolute success! Hope tomorrow will be just as eventful.



Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Whales in Haro Strait

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Perfect, warm, and sunny day today in Friday Harbor barely even a breeze in the air. The lack of wind makes it quite warm in Friday Harbor but we knew that it meant good things for our trip. Captain Jim took us north on the Kittiwake to catch up with some whales that were also heading north in Haro Strait. We caught up with them at Kellet Bluff on Henry Island. We got reports from some of the other boats that we were viewing the entire K pod, which is 19 whales. They were very spread out and foraging, the whales were literally spread out the entire Haro Strait from San Juan Island to the Canadian Gulf Islands. We got to spend some quality time with the K13s, which is one of my favorite matriarchal lines because they have unique saddle patches that are fairly easy to identify. The saddle patch is a whitish, grey marking that is just below the dorsal fin on the whales back that is used like the whales “finger print.”

We left the whales and headed home through the Cactus Islands and got to spot a few harbor seals, harbor porpoise and even a mating pair of bald eagles. Beautiful day for a boat cruise in the San Juan Islands.


Naturalist Chelsea

M/V Kittiwake

San Juan Safaris

Orca Chess Match!

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Today Captain Jim and I set out on the M/V Kittiwake with two reports of orcas: one of transients to the north, and one of residents to the south. Oftentimes we joke that deciding where to go is a like a chess match…. the whales will make one move and then we have to respond. We are a member of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, so we are in constant communication with other captains on the water getting the most current information about the whale’s movement, which aids in decision making. Today we opted for the southern route to meet up with the resident whales. On the way out to meet up with the whales we encountered some Steller’s sea lions. These pinnipeds can weigh over 2,000 pounds, and are just returning from their breeding grounds in Alaska. After observing the sea lions for a few minutes, we traveled across Haro Strait to meet up with J-pod just outside of Victoria. It was great to see the “ressies” again after a few days of watching transients! The whales were being very playful… spyhopping, breaching out of the water, and breathing all together! J2 “Granny” (She’s estimated to be 103 years old, cool, right!!!???!!!) was right in the middle of the pod having a grand old time. We spent about 45 wonderful minutes with the joyful whales, and everyone on board was absolutely enthralled! We left to head back to Friday Harbor and ended up finding a minke whale! They are the second smallest species of baleen whale, and we got to see it feeding! Overall, it was an amazing day on the water and everyone agreed that we had definitely played a good chess game!

Sarah, M/V Kittiwake, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching

K pod intact

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

The fog cleared around 1pm, which was perfect for our 1:30pm departure on M/V Sea lion leaving Friday Harbor. We headed south because we had reports of whales near False Bay.  By the time we caught up with the whales they were passed Lime Kiln on the west side of San Juan Island. We had a great afternoon watching K pod fully intact, and traveling close together. It was awesome to see 19 whales so close together and they even gave us a close swim by and checked out the guests onboard. We headed home through Mosquito Pass and passed Roche Harbor and spotted a few bald eagles and harbor seals.


All in all a great day!

Naturalist Chelsea

M/V Sealion

Granny and her family!

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Yesterday afternoon we left Friday harbor and headed south towards reports of whales on the South side of San Juan Island.  On our way down to that area we stopped to look at some huge stellar sea lions.  Did you know that male stellar sea lions get up to 2,000 pounds?  Once we got a good look at those sea lions we headed around the south side of San Juan Island and came across the J2′s.  The J2′s are Granny’s family and all of her living descendants.  The group includes J2 (Granny), her granddaughter J14 (Samish), her great-granddaughters J37 (Hy’Shqa), J45 (Se-Yi’-Chn), and her great-great-grandson J49 (T’ilem I’nges).  We also were surprised by some pacific white sided dolphins as well!  The dolphins were seen riding in our boats wake and leaping out of the water frequently!  We enjoyed watching J2 and her family interact and forage for the day.  When the day started out we had quite a bit of fog in the area but thankfully in burned up and gave us a great afternoon out on the water.

Naturalist Rachel

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Fog, Rain, Transient SUPERPOD, and more rain!

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

The Pacific Northwest lived up to its rainy name today, but if you thought this would deter whale watchers you would be wrong! Guests aboard the M/V Sea Lion were braving the cold air, and intermittent rain clouds to get a closer look at the amazing superpod of transient that consisted of well over 20 whales! The M/V Sea Lion motored east through Obstruction Pass, and even got to split through Frost Island and Spencer’s Spit to arrive in the Rosario Strait. Just North of Belle Rock was the group of marine-mammal eating orcas that were in celebration mode. There were tail slaps and whale hugs galore, but more importantly, there was even a fairly new calf to the group. This pint-size orca was keeping up with it’s elders and doing a great job of entertaining our guests. It was hard not too make the ooooo-ing and aaahhhh-ing when that youngster rocketed to the surface to copy mom’s porpoising behavior. Overall, I’d say the rain and fog enhanced our evening tour and made us feel that much closer to the whales! Great day on the water and looking to another one tomorrow.

Caitlin, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Rainy Day With Whales

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Today we left Friday harbor and headed North towards East Point.  On the way North we stopped at Flattop Island and found some harbor seals and two bald eagles.  One eagle was an adult another was a juvenile that was feeding on a fish.  We continued towards to whales.  We found the whales a little South of East Point.  The first whale we saw was J2 (Granny) and she gave us a great look!  Granny is estimated to be the oldest orca in the world at 103 years old! We then watched L87 (Onyx) go by.  Onyx was adopted by Granny in 2010 when his mother passed away and is now always seen traveling with her.  We were also passed by the rest of the J2′s (Granny’s family) include little J49 (T’ilem I’nges) who was born in 2012.  We were then passed by J16 (Slick) and her son J26 (Mike), and then shortly after the rest of the J16′s, J36 (Alki) and J42 (Echo).  Both passed by us while porpoising which was pretty awesome to see.  Thankfully the whales don’t care about rain so we managed to get some great looks at them!

Naturalist Rachel

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Whales out East

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Today we left Friday harbor and headed South through San Juan Channel and then East towards Anacortes.  When we got into San Juan Channel we came across a minke whale, which made for a nice surprise! We watched the minke whale and then continued heading South.  We went through cattle pass and stopped at the whale rocks to look at some large stellar sea lions.  We then headed East and found the J16′s.  The J16′s consist of J16 (Slick) and her three offspring J26 (Mike), J36 (Alki) and J42 (Echo).  We enjoyed watching the family hunting salmon and got to see some fun behaviors as well.  We watched Mike and Echo rolling on each other for a bit and saw Alki breach twice!  On the way home we stopped by iceberg point and saw three tufted puffins!  Tufted puffins are the largest species of puffin and area a rare surprise to see in this area.  We had a beautiful sunset this evening and had great lighting for photographs.  It was a great evening and we enjoyed every minute of our time on the water.

Naturalist Rachel

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Westside Whales

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

It was an eventful day today with our resident whales along the westside of San Juan Island. We were greeted by both members of K Pod and L Pod for our afternoon trip on the M/V Sea Lion. We first met up with these whales at Battleship Island and then followed them north towards Turn Point Lighthouse on Stuart Island. I always love being able to see them at Turn Point because Mt. Baker, the lighthouse, and the whales, will occasionally line up perfectly for the ultimate whale watching shot. A few of our lucky guests were able to capture that magical shot! Most of the resident whales continued their trajectory north, however a few stragglers stuck around for our evening trip. We were rewarded with Mega, Mystery, and even Solstice. Great day for whale watching and we got to top it off with a full moon in the sky!



Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Transients out in San Juan Channel

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

It was busy out in San Juan Channel today with the 44th annual Shaw Island Classic Yacht Races, but it was definitely a great day for a sail and even a whale watch! For many of the sailors out there and our lucky guests, we were afforded some incredible looks at our Transient Killer Whales. Only ten minutes out of the harbor and we were already watching the Transient Orcas making their way back towards Friday Harbor. At one point they took a quick turn towards the inside passage of Turn Island. This added a bit of confusion for boats watching, but was a perfect opportunity to possibly pick off some unsuspecting harbor seals relaxing in the kelp beds. Once through the passage they headed for the shallows of Shaw Island. At this point their behavior changed drastically to tight-knit circling behavior that is very indicative of holding their prey underwater. I’m sure if we were able to stick around longer we may have even witnessed the celebratory behavior that is commonly associated with a kill. All in all it was a great whale watch right out in our front door. Never a dull moment with our Transients.


Naturalist, San Juan Safaris, M/V Kittiwake