Posts Tagged ‘Harbor Seal’

Transient Fun!

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Today Captain Pete, Tyler and I headed out for a blustery day on Haro Strait. We headed North around San Juan Island and met up with a beautiful group of transient killer whales in the middle of the strait right on the US/Canadian border. Transients eat marine mammals (basically anything that we think is cute and cuddly) with harbor seals making up about 60% of their diet. Today we were fortunate enough to see the T37s and the T137As. We can identify individuals whales by looking at the markings and scars around their dorsal fins. Transients, because they eat animals that fight back, tend to be more scarred than the resident killer whales, who just eat salmon. We finished the trip with a good look at a bald eagle and some harbor seals around Spieden Island. It was another amazing day on the Salish Sea!

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

Travels to Canada for Transients

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Today we had a gorgeous day on the M/V Kittiwake travelling up into Canadian waters to find a pod of transient orcas. These whales eat marine mammals, with harbor seals making up the majority of their diet. A male killer whale can eat over 400 pounds of food a day! We enjoyed watching a group of five individuals meandering up near Active Pass. Not only a great day with no fog, but also a great group on the boat!

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

Orcas, Minkes, Seals, and Sea Lions!

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

This morning we had early reports of the K14s traveling along the west side of San Juan Island. We had a morning trip and were excited to get going. Captain Jim took myself and our guests south in order to encounter the orcas. Along the way our guests were able to enjoy Harbor Seals and Northern Sea Lions! Once we got to the Orcas, guests were able to see an adult male and a young male swimming side by side! It appeared as though this family group was just traveling and searching for food. Captain Jim then heard of a report of a Minke whale close by and we decided to go check it out! Guests were able to see some great lunge feeding behaviors from this Minke. This type of whale is a baleen whale so they are able to expand their throat and engulf a lot of water which has the food they are looking for. After getting some great views of the Minke we went to take once last look at the Orcas, Harbor Seals, and Northern Sea Lions! Once getting back to the dock, the guests were very happy about all the wildlife they were able to encounter!


Naturalist, M/V Kittiwake, San Juan Safaris Whale Watch & Wildlife Tours

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

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


The M/V Sea Lion goes to Canada!

Monday, April 28th, 2014

What a great start to the 2014 whale watching season! The M/V Sea Lion headed out again today and caught up with some Transients (mammal-hunting killer whales) once again. Today was however, a little different than most days given we went about seventy miles round trip! The whales were located about fifteen miles west of Victoria, BC and Captain Mike and I decided to go for it.

After about an hour and a half we caught up with the T065A group of whales. There were two females whales, one newborn calf, and a sprouting male (maturing). Guests, Captain Mike, and I were elated, after spending so long in wait, to finally see these magnificent mammals. They seemed to be traveling along at a swift pace, using the incoming tide to ease their travels, when suddenly they seemed to slow to almost a stop and come into a tight circle. When we saw red in the water shortly after, and the male transient cartwheel out of the water, we knew what had happened! The whales had made a kill!

Transients spend about 90% of their time foraging for food, since so much of their effort is used in traveling, they need to have payoffs in the way of food. Transients are very skilled hunters, they have even been known to use boats to aid in their discreteness, surfacing and traveling close or behind boats to mask the sound of heir exhalations and movements. Perhaps when the T065A group located the harbor seal they eventually ended up consuming, they used the M/V Sea Lion to their advantage! Either way, we were all very happy to see such behavior and to know they were well fed! Just a simply gorgeous day on the water … on our way home we even got to watch California and Steller Sea Lions! I can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow!


Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Transient Orcas at Henry Island

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Another fabulous day on San Juan Island! Our Owner and Captain Brian was out on the water today and spotted transient orcas near Henry Island late this morning.  T18 was out with the T19 group hunting in Open Bay and off Battleship Island.  We often see these transient orcas in the summer months as well.  Harbor seals were the main course this morning, a favorite of transient orcas.  Brian observed lots a vocalizations after the hunt was over.  Transients are often seen “celebrating” after a kill, the sign of a happy and full orca.

Battleship Island is a nature preserve and heavily populated with harbor seals.  The harbor seals enjoy the large kelp bed that surrounds the small rock island.  In the summer time harbor seal pups are often seen laying on top of the kelp.  It is not wonder that it is also a favorite diner for transient orcas!


Reservations Manager, San Juan Safaris

Transients Snack on Rock Sausage II

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Yesterdays trip turned out to be pretty great! Lots of whales, wildlife and rare findings! We left Friday Harbor and headed for the west side of San Juan Island to catch up with the T-120 group of mammal hunting transient orcas, stoping along the way to see harbor seals and steller sea lions.

When we got to the orcas they were traveling at a very fast speed, probably chasing their prey. Just as I was telling guests how orcas hunt cooperatively and come together in a tight group when they begin to initiate the kill, they began to do that. It happened very quickly and subtly, but when we all saw the pair of harbor seal lungs floating on the surface, almost surgically removed from the body, we all knew what had happened! Orca whales have very dexterous tongs and use their large cone shaped teeth with precision. It was incredible to see how carefully, yet speedily they disarticulated the lungs from the body of the seal. Transients are actually known to leave the lungs. I guess they are just not as good as the rest of the meat!

We also saw a mother and calf pair of humpback whales on Kelp Reef! It was a great day!

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

Once in a Lifetime Transient Orca Behavior!

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Today was one of those days that only happens once in a season- sunny September skies, flat calm ocean water, wildlife everywhere, great guests… oh, and did I mention orca whales that seemed to be breaching out of the water every thirty seconds?!

Let’s start at the beginning! Today the M/V Sea Lion left Friday Harbor and headed north into Canadian waters once again. Today however, we were in search of the mammal hunting orcas known as transients, or Biggs Killer Whales. We really couldn’t have had better timing! When we got on seen with the orcas, they surfaced once and stayed submerged for a very long time. I surmised that they were probably hunting something underwater. My suspicions were confirmed when they surfaced in a tight circle trying to kill the harbor seal that they had found. It was incredible to watch the hole thing unfold before our eyes!

Suddenly, the whales took off and were seen far in the distance porpoising out of the water, a behavior they do to conserve energy when they are traveling at high speeds. The chase was on. Next, they came right back to where they were. The large male in the group, T12a then displayed some very aggressive behavior, flipping though the water and cartwheeling repeatedly. After that, all was silent above water. Below water, there were probably many vocalizations going on and sharing of the food. It is likely that the large male finished off the seal and then shared with the two mothers and three calf’s in the group!

After that, then the fun began! It seemed like just when you thought the orcas would be done celebrating, another would jump out of the water, or do a head stand, or cartwheel, or spyhop! Even the babies were getting in on the action! At one point, many people, myself included, snapped a picture of two orcas breaching at the very same time- one going one way, and the other the opposite direction. That’s something everyone will remember their entire life. It really was an incredible display of orca behavior. I can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow!

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