Archive for the ‘orca whale watching by seattle’ Category

Time Well Spent with our Resident Transients- the T065A’s!

Monday, June 16th, 2014

After being in the rain for the past two trips Captain Mike, Sarah and I left the dock today with sunny skies over head. But, what was even better then the sunshine were the orcas that were reported to be right in our “back yard”. After motoring for about ten minutes  we saw blows in the distance in-between Lopez and Shaw island, a sight that was welcomed by our guests. I quickly identified the small group as our five transient orcas known as the T065A group. The T065A’s just happen to be my favorite group of transients! They have the cutest little calf, T065A-5, who always seems to propel itself out of the water in order to keep up with mom and it’s three-year-old sibling. In doing so we’re all able to see it’s pink/orange baby skin. This pink/orange coloring is a result of an extremely thin blubber layer that it’s born with. As soon as the calf  fattens up on it’s mothers milk it’s blubber layer will grow, and the pigment will turn white. We watched as T065A (AKA-Mom) traveled very closely with her two youngest calves, while the other two older siblings (T065A-2 and T065A-3) trailed about 40 yards behind them. Naturalist around the Salish Sea, including myself, are starting to call these guys our “Resident Transients” since we’ve see them almost every every week since April! I love spending time with them and getting to know their individual personalities! What a great day!


Naturalist, Heather, M/V Sea Lion

San  Juan Safaris

Breaching Orcas!

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Rained on and off throughout the day, but opened up to clear skies for our 2pm charter today. All passengers aboard the M/V Kittiwake were in full support of some sunshine and whales! Captain Jim is not one to disappoint, and with reports of resident orcas along the west side of San Juan Island, the whales were also in on making it a great day on the water! We made great time on our original San Juan Safaris vessel, the M/V Kittiwake, and made it just in time to see some of J pod members propelling their full bodies into the air for 2 spectacular breaches! Two seconds later and we would have missed the best part of the show. After a few breaches and a spy hop in the distance, the residents changed directions a bit and headed further northwest. The residents seemed to disperse more at this time, which is not unusual for them. Orcas rely heavily on sound- it is their main way to interact and navigate in their marine environment. They  can even hear each other over 10 miles away! Pretty incredible. We decided to stick with the residents for the remainder of our trip before we headed back to Friday Harbor with smiles on everyones face. All in all, it was a superb day for whale watching.


Caitlin, Naturalist, M/V Kittiwake

San Juan Safaris

Humpback in San Juan Channel

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

With our first departure at noon, Captain Mike, Naturalist Rachel, and myself left the dock with no reports of any whales. With rainy and foggy weather we headed north toward Flat Top Island. Our guests were able to see Harbor Seals and Pigeon Guillemots.  Pigeon Guillemots are part of the Puffin family and are diving sea birds. They can dive over 100 feet deep. We motored to the Cactus Islands and Spieden Island seeing Bald Eagles and juvenile Bald Eagles. Guest were also able to see two different groups of Mouflon sheep on Spieden Island! It is common to see the females and males separated at this time. They only come together when they are mating.

During that time, Captain Mike got a report of a Humpback whale that was swimming north in San Juan Channel.  We altered our course and headed towards Lopez Island, where the Humpback was last seen! Once on seen guests were impressed to hear there was a Humpback in these waters.  During this time of year, Humpbacks are migrating North to Alaska.  Every so often, we are lucky enough to be able to spend a day or two with them. This Humpback had a traveling pattern of surfacing three or four times then staying under for about eight minutes. Our last viewing was the close enough for our guests to hear the blow!

We arrived back to Friday Harbor with the clouds breaking apart and the sun coming out! Captain Mike and myself also had a sunset trip tonight. I was excited because the weather improved and we still had them Humpback in San Juan Channel.  We motored out of Friday Harbor and were able to give it right off Turn Island. Our guests were lucky enough to get  a great view of this Humpback, surfacing about 100 yards off our port side! Right before that surfacing, I was telling guests to listen for the blow of the whale, needless to say everyone heard it. The Humpback was swimming in the current lines being caused by the tidal exchange. This was the perfect place for small fish and krill to be, and that happens to be what the Humpbacks eat!

We motored south to see some other wildlife, hitting some rougher water down in Cattle Pass. With the massive flood and strong winds, guests were impressed how rough this inland body of water can get. Down along Long Island we were able to see two Bald Eagles and their nest. We headed back toward the Humpback to see one last time. Guest were able to enjoy a cruise back to Friday Harbor and watch the sunset!

Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

Playful J Pod!

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Today started off dark and rainy; however, as we left our Friday Harbor location in search of killer whales, the sun started to peak through the clouds. The day was starting to look beautiful, and as we rounded the corner of Cattle Pass, you could clearly see the snow-capped Olympic mountains. The only thing that could make this scenery better was a tall black dorsal fun slicing through the water.

It wasn’t too long before what we were all hoping for became a reality when members of J Pod surfaced off out port side. Naturalist Sarah and I quickly identified some of the members and family groups. Among them were L87, J34, J22, J32 and J36. The whales were foraging and being extremely playful! We saw L87 tail slapping repetitively, J34 breaching high, and many of the youngsters having a great time as well!! Nothing really gets better than watching killer whales off the beautiful San Juan Island and seeing all of the wildlife in the surrounding area. As well as killer whales, we saw a variety of birds, seals, and porpoises!
Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

J Pod Westside!

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Well you can probably guess it, but it was another beautiful day on the water! Today, Captain Pete and myself, were accompanied by a small group of passengers who were eagerly awaiting to get out on the water and find some wildlife! Captain Pete isn’t one to disappoint, and with a few sightings of Residents on the westside, M/V Sea Lion was ready to find them. Our intention was to meet up with J Pod  along the north end of San Juan Island, but the orcas had other plans for us when they decided to turn south. We had to play a bit of catch up, but once we were on scene with members of J Pod , it was well worth the effort! The resident pod was spread out along the shoreline, but all seemed to be chasing their own meals under the surface. These whales are continuously chasing down their favorite prey, chinook salmon. Chinook is the fattiest of the salmon, and makes up the majority of our resident orcas diet. Fully grown these orcas can ingest a whooping 200 to 400 lbs of salmon a day! Makes sense that these orcas are constantly on the look out for food, which is awesome for us to see the residence on the prowl! Orcas feeding makes for an awesome day whale watching!

Caitlin, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Transients on the hunt!

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Today started out a little bit iffy with some rain showers in the morning and not much in whale reports. As we were leaving Friday Harbor on MV Sea lion Captain Pete heard some great news from a fishing vessel. There were transients in Canadian waters near Saturna and  we caught up with the T065As just in time.

T065A and her four offspring were on the hunt! We watched as they did rapid dives, exhalations, tail slaps, and body rolls at the surface, then an awesome thing happened… a seal went flying through the air! The killer whales tossed a harbor seal into the air before they finished off their lunch. This is a rare occasion for whale watchers to see, most of the action happens below the surface and naturalists and guests can only guess what is happening down there. It was exciting to get a front row seat on the action this time, and that harbor seal was definitely outnumbered by these 5 killer whales. Harbor seals are a main food source for the transients here in the Salish Sea and we are expecting whales to be in this area quite a bit in the next few weeks because its almost pupping season for the harbor seals.

This whale watch is one for the books, I’m not sure there is much that can top that but I am looking forward to what the whales have in store for us this summer.

Naturalist Chelsea

MV Sea Lion

Transients in Rosario Strait

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Another lovely day out on the water here in the San Juan’s! Today we got to head a bit of a different direction from our normal jaunt along the westside of San Juan Island, and headed through Obstruction Pass, between Orcas Island and Blakely Island. Waiting just outside Obstruction pass, in the Rosario Strait, Captain Mike, Naturalist Chelsea, and passengers aboard the M/V Sea Lion, we’re rewarded with a few blows off in the distance. Upon closer inspection, it was none other than the T-65A’s with their little 3 month old calf in tow! These Transient Orcas have been spotted around the area in the past few weeks and are always on the prowl for some yummy treats in the form of marine mammals. Their favorites being harbor seals and harbor porpoises. It takes a lot of energy to survive in these cold waters, and these Transients are being awesome parents and supplying their young with lots of food to stay warm in these frigid waters.

With few boats on the water, we were able to enjoy these animals work their magic in complete silence. They definitely captured the attention of all our guests on board, and solidified their position as my favorite type of whale to watch! Can’t wait to get out on the water tomorrow and hopefully we’ll see ya out there!


-Caitlin, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris



Sunday, June 8th, 2014

What a great day on the water! We started the day with a group of transient orcas just outside of Friday Harbor. After spending some time with that group we sped off to check out a report of J-Pod in the area. Once we got outside of Spieden Channel near Henry Island we spotted the J-22′s, better known as the Cookie Clan! We then traveled around to the North side of Spieden and found a large bald eagle’s nest.  Did you know that the largest bald eagle’s nest ever recorded was over 2,000 pounds?  After getting a report of more transients in the area we left the bald eagles to see what we could find.  We found the T-137A’s with a calf in their midst! We watched them for a while, and on the way back to Friday Harbor we came across even more Transient whales!

We really enjoyed having everyone aboard today for this amazing day on the water.  Today we all really got to see the distinct differences between resident and transient orcas.

Sarah & Rachel, Naturalists, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris


Whales as big as a bus!

Saturday, June 7th, 2014

Today was a beautiful, sunny day as we left Friday Harbor with news of humpback whales! The Captain Mike and Naturalists Chelsea, Caitlin and Sarah were excited to see some large marine mammals that can be 45-50ft long. We heard that the whales were a mom and calf pair, which is expected this time of year as the whales migrate from their southern winter breeding grounds to the northern summer feeding grounds.

We spotted the whales near Sidney Island in Canadian waters and were able to spend over a half an hour with the pair as they were milling around, maybe feeding but not really traveling in one direction.  We got dozen or more blows and some beautiful fluke up dives from the pair before we decided to head on and check out what other wildlife we could spot.

Before we made it back to Friday Harbor we saw 5+ bald eagles, harbor porpoise, and harbor seals. It was a great day on the water.

Naturalist Chelsea MV sea lion

J-Pod Swimming with Minke Whales!

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

At the time Captain Pete and myself got to the boat, there were no reports of whales in the area.  However, by the time we got our guests on board there had been a confirmation that J-pod was still in the area! Naturalist Chelsea and I were pretty happy to share that with guests.  J-pod was spread out off the west side of San Juan Island, fishing.  There were small groups that were more off shore and a few closer to shore.  We made the decision to watch the few close to shore and got some really great looks at J-16 (Slick).

Slick started to move off shore to meet her son J-26 (Mike).  We were able to watch this family interact and start playing with one another, with some breaches and some spy hops. With more orcas moving to meet this group we soon were viewing a group of six orcas. They continued the playful behavior with tail lobes and pectoral fin slaps.  Soon guests were seeing larges splashes far away, we learned that the whales doing that activity weren’t orcas, they were Minke whales! While watching this group of orcas we were able to get a closer view of the two Minke whales having a bit of an identity crisis. They were porpoising like orcas and then breached two more times! I have never seen Minke whales act like this before.

Once we started for home, we ran into Granny’s family group and were able to see L-87 (Onyx). Onyx should be traveling with L-pod but since his mother passed away in 2005, he has been traveling with other pods. He spent four years with K-pod, then moved to J-pod in 2010.  Ever since then he has been traveling with Granny.  Every year people get excited to see Granny come back, but every year I know I am excited to see Onyx traveling with her!

Aimee Kaczmarek

Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion