Posts Tagged ‘Harbor Seal’

Humpbacks and Orcas?!?!

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

On  this unusually sunny afternoon (for fall at least), M/V Sea Lion left San Juan Island and prepared to go the distance. We were on our way to Victoria, BC where there were reports of some whales! On our way out we came across some dalls porpoise in the San Juan Channel. The dalls were playing in our wake then, as quickly as they surfaced, disappeared. It was a nice surprise, and we also got to spend some time with steller sea lions!

When we got on seen in the Straight of Juan de Fuca with two humpback whales with Port Angelas in the distance they were surfacing quite a bit. We got to see their large bodies roll though the water and guests were very impressed when I told them the whales were about the same size of our boat! However, it wasn’t long before we were on to Trial Island off of Victoria, BC to check out three transient (mammal hunting) orcas. The T10 group were hunting for harbor seals. At one point, I saw a seal head right above the orcas and healed my breath! I figured the whales would have a tasty snack right in front of our eyes! But, they let the little harbor seal live to tell the tail! It was a great day, flat water, somewhat sunny skys, and two kinds of whales!!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

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

 

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

Minke Whale Goes Off the Beaten Path

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

The fog bank to the west and north of San Juan Island has been challenging the whale watching fleet recently. Shortly after departing the Friday Harbor dock, Captain Craig learned of a minke whale sighting north of Waldron Island. When we caught up with the cetacean it was executing long dives, 5-6 minutes in duration, followed by 3-5 short dives. We finished the trip off by cruising by a national wildlife refuge and the Cactus Islands, where we observed bald eagles and harbor seals at close range.

Andrew
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

Summer is Here in the San Juans!

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

It was a beautiful day today as Captain Chris, Captain Brian, the guests, and I headed out on of Friday Harbor on the Kittiwake. With not a breath of wind, and a robins egg blue sky, summer is finally here! We found a Minke Hein Bank and had some great views as it surfaced. After spending time with the Minke, we headed closer to shore to find some Bald Eagles and Harbor Seals, and we were not disappointed! We had a great look at the eagle nest on Long Island, near the south end of Lopez Island, and the nesting pair of Bald Eagles that the nest belongs to! Bald Eagles mate for life and will return the the same next every year! Eagles will also build a back up nest in case anything should happen to their main nest. The largest nest on record was 9ft wide, 20ft deep, and weighed in at over 1 ton! That’s a lot of sticks! As always, it was another beautiful day on the water, and now that summer is here, get your marshmallow sticks ready, because it is sure to be a great one!

Emily, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris, MV Kittiwake

Minke + Humpback + Sunset = A Wonderful Evening

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

As Captain Craig, the guests, and I left Friday Harbor and headed south through San Juan Channel it was grey and the water was swirling with whirlpools from the tidal currents. However, as soon as we rounded Cattle Point on San Juan Island the clouds parted and the water was like glass! With the sun on our backs, we encountered a Minke near Salmon Bank. We had marvelous views of the solo Minke all the way up to Eagle Point.

Captain Craig heard that there might be a Humpback on the west side of San Juan Island, so we started to motor up the west side. We first encountered the Humpback at Kellet Bluff on Henry Island. The Humpback was being very docile tonight as it chugged north.

As we parted ways with the Humpback, the sunset really got going! With tons of yellows and golds it was one of the best sunsets I have seen on the water! We got to see two members the Rorqual Family (Humpback and Minke whales), Harbor Seals, Bald Eagles, and a spectacular sunset. I call that a success!

Emily, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris, MV Sea Lion

A Plethora of Whales!

Friday, June 21st, 2013

It was a beautiful day to be on the water! We left Friday Harbor and headed south through Cattle Pass and into the Haro Strait where we hoped to encounter some whales. On our way out, we came across numerous Harbor Seals that were utilizing the the upwellings created by the tidal current. These upwellings are a great place for the Harbor Seals to forage and we love seeing their little heads bobbing up and down in the water!

When we got on scene with the whales Keven and I quickly identified the whales as the “L-12″ group. My favorite, Mega (L-41), Mystery (L-85) and even Ocean Sun (L-25) who was estimated to be born in 1928! Ocean Sun is the oldest female in L pod; and, as we know, male killer whales will stay with their mother and family group their entire life- they’re big Mamma’s Boys!

Not only did we see our Resident L Pod today, but we also saw a Humpback Whale and Minke Whale foraging! It was great to see such a diversity of whales today, we were all lucky to be on such an amazing tour! All in all, it was a great day!

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

Transients on the South End

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

We headed South today from our Friday Harbor location and into the San Juan Channel where we promptly had to do a “man overboard” drill to retrieve one of our customers hats! The hat flew off and into the water, at which point Captain Mike swiftly turned the boat around and Caitlin and I retrieved the water-logged hat! Sometimes, we start out with a little excitement right in the very beginning! We’ll always go out of our way to make sure we still have smiling faces aboard!

After the excitement with the hat, we headed out through Cattle Pass and into the Haro Strait in hopes of finding our Transient friends. Transient killer whales are our mammal hunting killer whales as opposed to our Resident Orcas which only eat Salmon.

We found our Transient killer whales traveling together in a group of 6 swimming at about 10 knots! The whales we encountered were the same T-65 group that we have been seeing over the past week. These guy’s were heading south and doing so pretty fast; they seemed to have an agenda of their own! We got some great views of their grey saddle patch and sharp, pointed dorsal fins while they were porpoising out of the water.

After watching the whales for quite some time, we headed back for Friday Harbor. On our way back we were able to see a Bald Eagle pair and their nest as well ass some Harbor Seals. The harbor seals were hauled out on the rocks, which is probably the safest place for them while our Transients are in the water! Another great day of whale watching!

Heather, Naturalist, Seal Lion
San Juan Safaris

Transients on the Move!!!

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Today was a great day for watching our mammal hunting transient killer whales! We left our Friday Harbor location in hopes of encountering these majestic whales along the way and were pleased when we found them! The stakes were high, I had already seen this same small pod of transients kill a harbor seal days before and hoped this trip would be just as good; I wasn’t let down! These whales seemed to be on a course of their own as they surfaced about 3 feet from our boat and proceeded to go around our boat equally as close. It was an amazing experience, once which both myself and our guests will surely never forget. I’m pretty sure everyone got some whale breath on them too!!

During our viewing of T-65 and her Pod, we also saw Harbor Porpoise which were conventionality and speedily heading in the other direction as our mammal hunting whales. I think it’s safe to say they were “running for their life”!

On our way home we got a fantastic look at some Harbor Seals and pups hauled out on the rocks. Harbor Seal females will actually develop a strong bond with her pups but wean them rather abruptly after 3-5 weeks of birth. It’s a rough life for a Harbor Seal pup! I say this just about every time, but I love my job! Nothing beats seeing wildlife like that every day in their natural environment. I’m pretty sure Captain Mike and Naturist Caitlin feel the same way! I’m so glad we could share that experience with our guest!

Heather, Naturalist, Sea Lion