Posts Tagged ‘friday harbor’

Transients North of the Border!

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Captain Jim and I got to the Kittiwake this morning with zero reports of whales. We were planning out an awesome wildlife tour where we would be looking for the orcas, other whales, and some of the other wildlife in the area, when we got a call that there were transient orcas north of Sucia Island and Alden Bank in Canadian waters! I was super stoked that the transients were back in, as I had not seen them in a while. We had beautiful smooth water as we traveled north from Friday Harbor, and the scenery was just as gorgeous. We got to see some great feeding behavior, as the transients munched down on what looked to be a harbor seal. Transients eat solely marine mammals, with harbor seals making up right around 60% of their diet. We also got to see the orcas travelling a bit! We enjoyed the scenery on the way back and I personally really enjoyed getting to know our guests on board today!

Naturalist Sarah, M/V Kittiwake, San Juan Safaris

Wonderful Day On the Water!

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Today we left Friday Harbor and headed South toward Cattle Point.  On the way to the area where the whale reports were we spotted some harbor seals with their pups and  a bald eagle.  We went through Cattle Pass and headed East to the southern side of Lopez Island.  Once we got to Iceberg Island we found the J17′s which include Princess Angeline and all of her offspring.  Traveling with the J17′s was K21 (Cappuccin).  We parked ourselves a respectful distance from the whale and allowed them to travel West past us as we watched them with our motor off.  We also got passed by the J22′s, better known as the cookie clan!  The whales were all headed West toward Salmon Bank.  We followed the whales to the South side of San Juan Island and then they began to relax and start milling around the area.  We saw some surface activity as well include tail slapping, cartwheels and breaching!  We then headed back to Friday Harbor and on the way we saw a juvenile bald eagle in flight.  Juvenile bald eagles commonly get confused with golden eagles due to their brown coloration.  It takes about 4-5 years for an eagle to get the adult plumage, consisting of the white head and tail feathers.  We had a perfect day for photography on the water.  There was a slight overcast and calm waters allowing for great quality pictures.  Our guests enjoyed their time on the water almost as much as we enjoyed having them!

Naturalist Rachel

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Whales, wonderful whales!

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Today Captain Mike and I had a beautiful cruise all the way around San Juan Island. We left Friday Harbor heading north with a report of orcas in Boundary Pass. We met up with a group of J Pod whales just north of Roche Harbor… AND they turned out to be my favorite family, the J16s! Slick, Mike, Alki and Echo are inseparable, a perfect example of the social structure of these amazing mammals! We spent some time with them and then left that group to follow a report of another group of orcas farther south along the west side of the island. We arrived on scene with a group of about four individuals from K Pod, and had the whales to ourselves! We even got to see some mating behavior! The water was beautifully smooth and everyone aboard had a wonderful time!

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

Trifecta!

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

July 6th was an epic day here in the San Juan Islands! The afternoon trip was glorious as we headed to the reports of the southern residents and we spotted a humpback whale! We got a few awesome looks and got to see some sweet fluke up dives. We caught up with Jpod near Stuart Island. We got to see J2 Granny our 103 year old whale and L 87 Onyx who spends most of his time with Jpod. This was a great start to the day!

The evening trip was rocking too! We headed west this time and ran into a mixture of J, K, and L pod and they were excited. The water was mirror like and we saw a bunch of breaches and spy hops! The whales were pretty spread out so we got to spend some quality time with many different whales. As we headed home to Friday harbor we spotted that humpback again! With  a few surfacings and a couple of dives we continued on and we spotted a minke!!! We hit the trifecta of whales! Orcas, humpback and a minke whale! Wow, that doesn’t happen everyday and our guests and Naturalist were so excited! Let’s hope the month of July continues with action!

 

San Juan Safaris

M/V Sea lion

Naturalist Chelsea

Whale Search!

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Today we arrived at the M/V Sea Lion with a report of Resident orcas traveling quickly to the southwest. Naturalist Aimee, Captain Pete and I consulted and decided that we would try to catch up with them! Orcas can swim over 100 miles in a single day and can reach speeds in excess of 35 miles per hour. We had a great group on board today who were very excited to be out on the water. We all were hoping that the orcas stayed close enough so that we could catch up with them!

On the way out to the reported orcas we took a slight detour to see a humpback whale! Humpbacks were once plentiful in this area, but were extirpated when the area was heavily whaled. It has only been within the last two decades that humpbacks have begun returning. We reached the orcas just in time to witness the most breaches I have seen on a trip yet this season. The whales definitely put on a show for the boat! Guests were certainly left extremely impressed with the whales’ acrobatics. On the way back to Friday Harbor we got to see some harbor seals and porpoises. Overall it was another amazing day on the Salish Sea!

Naturalist Sarah, M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching

Minke madness with a bonus of orcas!

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

Today was an outstanding day on the water! The weather was gorgeous and warm and the water was flat calm. Spent the afternoon trip with some transients near Battleship island and a small part of J pod the J17s hanging out near turn point on Stuart island. Had many opportunities to see the whales in all their glory, with a number of breaches and spy hops, but this was just the first trip of the day.

I don’t know if it was the summer solstice or what but we had an amazing evening and sunset with the whales. We were making our way out to salmon bank area on the west side of San Juan Island and out of no where a minke whale pops up right next to the boat and does a slow dramatic dive and we all got to see the entire body. Now for those of you who have not done a lot of Minke watching this is amazing, normally you just catch a glance of their dorsal fin. This close surprise encounter happened twice on our trip. Truly amazing! We also caught up with most of L pod out there as well and got to spend some quality time with some of our favorites Nigel and Fluke.

Hope to  get some more great action tomorrow.

 

Naturalist Chelsea

M/V sea lion

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

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

J Pod Returns!!!

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Well, the title says it all: J Pod returned home to the waters outside the San Juan Island through the night and surprised us all in the morning! Usually, J Pod would be back in these waters foraging for salmon at the beginning of May, but we’d only seen them once. So, you can imagine everyone’s sheer delight when we heard J Pod on the hydrophones early this morning- I couldn’t wait to get on the water and give guests the experience of a lifetime. And, as we boarded guests onto our three boats leaving Friday and Roche Harbor, I was smiling; I loved telling unsuspecting guests that we had a pod of twenty five killer whales in the area.

When we got on scene with the whales, I quickly summed up the situation. J Pod was spread out south of Turn Point on Stewart Island, and the leaders were headed north along Canadian Saturna Island. We decided to view the leaders in Canadian waters. Guests aboard the M/V Sea Lion and Kittiwake got a special treat today! Not only did they see J Pod, but they got to experience lot’s of playful behavior from two of the Southern Residents most famous members: J2 (Granny est. born in 1911) and L87 (Onyx born in 1992). Even though Granny is estimated to be about 103 years old, that didn’t stop her from tail slapping and celebrating their return into the Salish Sea. Onyx was seen faithfully swimming next to Granny as he always is, the two are virtually inseparable! We watched J2 and L87 travel with the rest of the group, including the J16’s, the J19’s, and the J37’s. It was yet another awesome day on the water!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Jumping ship

Monday, May 26th, 2014

It was yet another beautiful day in the San Juan’s as the M/V Sea Lion departed Friday Harbor and headed North. The killer whales we had heard rumor of up in Canada had begun to travel in our direction and were supposed to meet up with us within the hour! Excitement ran high from guests and crew alike, when we finally got on scene we all witnessed some awesome behavior!

I was just explaining to guests that we were watching Biggs killer whales, better known as transients. These are the mammal hunting orcas that exists in and around the waters of the Salish Sea. I was telling guests how transients usually have very sporadic movements and are very unpredictable. Everything about these whales is geared towards better exploiting their pretty resource … Soon after I got done talking about their unpredictable behavior, we watched as the T090 and T124A group broke into two separate groups and headed in a diagonal line right for shore. They were down for long dive periods, and traveling at fast speeds. They were hunting.

After about 30 minutes of persistently watching the water, we started to see some surface activity. T124A4 and the rest of their group were tail slapping, cartwheeling, and propelling out of the water. They were hunting a harbor seal and were trying to tire it out. They hunted the harbor seal for at least an hour and a half! It was incredible. In the end, the harbor seal actually ‘jumped ship’. The little seal (who was actually a full grown 250 lb adult) took refuge in a small fishing boat just after we’d left the scene! You never know what’ll happen out here!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris