Posts Tagged ‘Harbor Porpoise’

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

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

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

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


Transient Orcas and Rainbows

Monday, September 30th, 2013

When the M/V Sea Lion departed from the docks today it was down-pouring rain. We all stayed inside the cabin, where the heat was on to keep us warm while we weathered the storm. That however, didn’t last long as we soon came upon a group of playful harbor porpoise to look at! They were all around our boat and were foraging in the San Juan Channel. And, as we continued on, we were able to see about forty steller sea lions! It was great, these guys are about 2,000 pounds of sheer fat! Quite impressive…

As we circumnavigated San Juan Island, braving the wind and rain in search of Orcasin Harro Strait, spirits never lowered. Everyone was very positive throughout an otherwise very black trip! And, when we all thought we finally weren’t going to see any whales today, guess what showed up!? Yep, we had a group of five trasient (mammal hunting) killer whales spotted about a mile away from where we were! Captain Brian quickly turned the boat around and we were off! When I saw the first blow, I lit up, telling everyone the good news. It always makes me happy to see their excited faces when I break the news that we’ll get to see killer whales after all!

As if seeing the killer whales after a trip of rain, wind and more rain wasn’t good enough, the remainder of the trip gave way to numerous rainbows. It ended up being a beautiful trip. You can’t go wrong with Orcas and rainbows!!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

Visits with KPod

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

We left Friday Harbor today and motored out towards Salmon Bank. The rain had quit for most of the duration of our trip and the sun was starting to shine through. As we went through Cattle Pass and by Whale Rocks we got some great looks at steller sea lions and harbor seals. They were foraging in the water as well as hauled out on the rocks giving us some great looks.

As we got out to Salmon Bank we soon came upon members of KPod. The whales were spread out for miles foraging for salmon. They prefer to eat King or Chinook Salmon, the need to eat about 300-400 lbs per day! These guys were all making sporadic movements and trying to round up the salmon. All in all it was a great day, I never complain when we have whales everywhere!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Saffaris

Minke Mayhem!

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Today we headed south out the San Juan Channel, into Cattle Pass and out to Salmon Bank. It was sunny and beautiful for fall! Along the way we had some great looks at harbor porpoise, harbor seals and even some steller sea lions. The marine mammals were all foraging in the strong tidal currants that stirred the fish making it easier for them to catch them! When we got out to Salmon Bank we came across a mike whale. We spent a while with this guy who was taking us in every which direction! Mine whales forage sporadically, often times they are hard to spot and even harder to keep track of. This guy however, surfaced numerous times right next to our boat giving our guests amazing views! On our way back we even saw the steller sea lions hauled out. In this way, we can really get a great appreciation for all two thousand pounds of them!


Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris


Bits n’ Pieces II

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

When we left Friday Harbor, today we didn’t have an Orca report and were planning on heading south to look at Minke Whales for our 1:30 whale watch. However, we soon got word of some mammal hunting Orcas up north near Portland and Salt Spring Island in Canada! We were all very excited at the news, and even though it would be a long trip to get there, it was well worth it. Guest settled in on the bow and in the cabin and enjoyed the incredibly scenic ride up north into the Canadian Golf Islands.

When we got on scene with the Orcas we soon saw something fling through the air! We noticed that they were in a tight circular formation which is indicative of foraging behavior as Caitlin talks about in her “Bits n’ Pieces” blog. It wasn’t long before our suspicions were confirmed as we saw a Harbor Porpoise being flung through the air! They had made a kill. The “T20/21″ group along with the other 4 Transients were passing the Porpoise around and playing with it; they were probably teaching the small calf in the group how to hunt. It was incredible. We got to see it all, and watched in awe as they swam with the Porpoise close to the boat! It wasn’t long before little bits and pieces of the unfortunate Harbor Porpoise that had been killed were floating at the surface. It was incredible to watch the apex predator of the ocean (who have been known to take down Great Whites) successfully make a kill.  Even though you can’t help but feel bad for the little Porpoise, it sure was fascinating to watch.

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Transients on the Move!

Friday, August 30th, 2013

It’s been that kind of summer… Transient Orcas have been everywhere-surfacing in the distance, hunting for seals and porpoise, and giving us close encounters. It’s been a little while since we saw Transients out on Middle Bank off the West side of San Juan Island. The M/V Kittiwake and guests went out to find them!

Transient Orcas have been seen much more than any other and we are certainly getting to know their habits and cultures more. The transients we saw today surprised us all by surfacing just next to our floating boat! Their exhalation sound actually startled me! From that close, we could clearly see the nicks in their dorsal fins that makes them easily distinguishable from one-another. Transients are always fun to watch. Just the other day, we all watched as another pod fished a Harbor Seal out of a kelp mat, tracked, killed and fed on it. They are just incredible mammals! Everyday is a good day when we have Orcas around.

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Kittiwake and Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

L-Pod Orcas and Minke Whale!

Friday, August 9th, 2013

The M/V Kittywake left Friday Harbor this afternoon in search of an elusive Minke out in Griffin Bay! We soon caught up with the small whale feeding on sand lance, krill, and small schools of herring right off of San Juan Island. The Minke gave us lots of great views surfacing many times, giving our guests some great photography moments. It’s always a great day when we start off seeing whales ten minuets into our trip!

After we left the Minke Whale to continue foraging, we saw some Harbor Porpoise surfacing in the distance as well as Harbor Seals forging in the tidal up-welling zones.  The Harbor Seals quickly surrounded our boat, peering up at us with their large eyes (which makes them look so endearing)!  While we moved away from them, one Seal emerged with a large salmon in his mouth!

Of course, the best part of the trip on M/V Kittywake was when we got on seen with our Southern Resident Orcas. L-Pod was still off the West side of the Island foraging on the Chinook Salmon. We got some great views of Mystery and Wave Walker (L-85 & L-88), or large male Orcas.  All in all, it was a great day out on the water with everything from Sea Lions to Orca whales seen by all of our guests! I can’t wait to get out there tomorrow!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Kittywake

San Juan Safaris