Posts Tagged ‘Harbor Porpoise’

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

Beautiful Day on the Water- And Whales!!!

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

As I drove down to our Friday Harbor location today to go into work, the weather didn’t look super. However, right before we went to un-dock the sun decided to make an appearance! It ended up being a gorgeous day on the water today- little to no wind, sunny, clear skies, and beautiful wildlife.

As we headed out the San Juan Channel and into Cattle Pass, we encountered a small Minke whale feeding on small schools of Sand Lance, Krill, and Herring. Minke whales aren’t normally found right of the Eastern side San Juan Island, so we were all pretty excited to see a whale so close to the Harbor! The whale looked to be about 20 feet long, which is relatively small for Minkes which can grow to be 35 feet long!

After spending some time with our Minke whale, Captain Jim decided to take us to Goose Island where we could see lot’s of fledgling Pelagic and Double-Crested Cormorants. These are diving birds and are very neat, they can dive up to 180 feet (roughly 60 meters)! There were also Harbor Seals swimming around Goose Island, forging and teaching their pups how to survive. These Harbor Seals have actually been known to give their pups “piggy-back” rides when they get tired!

As if the day wasn’t already great, we also encountered a pair of Seller Sea Lions; which, if you’ve been following my blog, you know I just love! These are the largest of the Sea Lion family, weighing in at almost a ton! They always impress me (and our guests) when they come particularity close to our boat and lift their head out of the water to check us out! We also say another Minke long feeding (awesome), and Harbor Porpoise! It was such a great day! I’m so happy to have sunny skies again!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Kittiwake
San Juan Safaris

Harbor Porpoise and Minke Whales

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Captain Brian, guests and myself departed Friday Harbor just after the rain stopped and headed south. We made it down to Griffin bay to check out a group of curious Harbor Porpoise. Usually Harbor Porpoise are shy and dive deep when hearing boat motors, but today they were friendly and stayed around. Afterwards we continued south and watched two large Steller Sea Lions swim in the water. After seeing the Stellers poke their heads up and looking at us we decided to head to Salmon bank to see a Minke whale. Our guests were able to see the whale for quite some time. Our guests were lucky because not only did they get to see this whale, they got to see more porpoise! It is always nice to see a big group of Harbor Porpoise is this area. Our family on board got to see the nice array of wildlife we have here in the San Juans.

Aimee-Naturalist, M/V Kittiwake
San Juan Safaris

Frisky Whales on the West Coast!

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Today was quite the day with lots of wildlife to be seen! Caitlin, Captain Mike, and I were paired up as a team once again and had a fabulous trip! It looked dark and ominous as we went though Cattle Pass out towards the Olympic Mountains, but it never rained a drop. We saw lots of Harbor Seals, Harbor Porpoise, and Bald Eagles as we motored out towards the whales. It’s always great to see such a variety of wildlife!

When we got to the L-22s (part of our Southern Resident Killer Whales) they were spread out feeding on Chinook Salmon. There are actually ten different ecotypes of Killer Whales around the world. We happen to have three ecotypes here in the Northern Pacific. Differences between these three whales include diet, morphology, vocal tradition, and genetics! Our Southern Resident Killer Whales feed primarily on Chinook Salmon (about 85% of their diet), whereas Transient Killer Whales feed on marine mammals!

Spirit, Skana and Solstice, our L-22 subgroup, ended up coming together and taking a break from foraging. With that change in behavior came a change in spirits! The whales started breaching, spy-hoping, tail slapping and cartwheeling through the water! It was a great show, I really believe these particular whales love the attention. They always seem to do something very cool! All in all, it was another great day one the water!

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

“Spirited” Whales and Wildlife of All Sorts!

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Today was a beautiful day to be on the water with plenty of action, and Caitlin, Captain Mike and I were out to experience it all! We left the dock and headed out to the south end of San Juan Island. As we went through Cattle Pass, there was a plethora of wildlife to be scene. A mated pair of Bald Eagles flew above the water in front of us and landed on Goose Island. Also on Goose Island were lots of hatchings! Fluff balls of down feathers and young, disoriented, hungry baby Galls covered the island! Now, normally I’m not particularity fond of Galls… but seeing all of the adorable hatchings bring a new side of “cuteness” to these terribly misunderstood creatures!

It’s also “pupping” season, and we saw many Harbor Seal pups with their mothers swimming and up on the rocks! Harbor Seal pups can swim within minuets of birth, but have been known to ride on Mom’s back holding on with their tiny flippers! This may seem well and good, but in 3-4 weeks that mother is going to abruptly wean and leave her pup, so he/she had better be paying attention and not catching too many free piggy-backs off Mom!

After we spent time with the Eagles and Seals, Mike slowed the boat down once more for something else; Harbor Porpoise surrounded our boat, and one even breached! There is nothing like seeing a 150lb Porpoise jump out of the water! That was a first for me! It’s actually unusual for Harbor Porpoise to spend that much time near a motor vessel, usually their very shy and disappear when large boasts are near; we were all very happy!

When we finally caught up with the L-22′s (Spirit, Skanna, and Solstice), and it was as if they were welcoming us. Right off, Solstice lept into the air in a full breach! From then on, lots of cartwheeling, breaching, spyhoping, rolling and tail slapping that occurred from all three of the L-Pod members! They just love the attention! Watching these three whales never gets old. They’ve been the only three killer whales in the Puget Sound for a while now, but they certainly know how to put on a show! I’ll visit these whales any day! They’ve really becoming quite partial to me.

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