Posts Tagged ‘Harbor Seal’

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.

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

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

The Salish Sea was once again teeming with marine mammals and seabirds.  September is definitely proving to be my favorite month of the season; the scenery is breathtaking, the weather is gorgeous, and there seems to be a superabundance of wildlife taking advantage of these very productive waters. 

As we cruised through the San Juan Channel and Cattle Pass we saw a number of Harbor Seals and Steller Sea Lions.  The Steller Sea Lions seemed especially curious, pausing to take long looks at us before they continued their foraging efforts. 

Roughly 1.5 miles offshore of San Juan Island near Salmon Bank we found a Minke Whale (48°25.39N, 122°59.35W).  The Minke Whale was busy foraging, zigzagging over the bank in search for its next gulp of small schooling fish.  The whale even surprised us by surfacing 100 yards from the stern of the vessel!

Having heard reports of Dall’s Porpoise in the area we next motored towards Middle Bank where we saw over a dozen Dall’s Porpoise working the rip tides.  As we cruised by the Dall’s Porpoise, several of them decided to take a short break from foraging to surf the bow wave.  We were all mesmerized as their black and white bodies darted and zipped back and forth across our bow only surfacing for a split second to catch a breath of air. 

As we began our return to Friday Harbor, Captain Mike spotted 3 Humpback Whales near Eagle Point (48°27.40N, 123°02.59W).  We initially only saw what we thought was 1 Humpback Whale then we saw 2 surface at the same time; a mother and a calf.  Then, the next thing we knew a third individual was at the surface!  We turned off our engines to watch these majestic beasties and listen to their powerful exhales.  The whales were initially traveling east before they dove and changed direction turning south and heading right for us.  With our engines already off and the animals within 100 yards we waited for the Humpback Whales to travel by.  I later apologized to all of our guests who were videotaping the whales because my squeals and giggles of delight could be heard echoing throughout the vessel.   :D

One final stop at Whale Rocks concluded our trip.  Here we saw over 30 Steller Sea Lions sprawled out over the island.  Most of these bachelors seemed to be enjoying their afternoon siestas but several others were causing a raucous that resulted in very vocal, verbal disagreements. 

Naturalist Amy, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching and Wildlife Tours

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Although the beautiful, sunny skies were replaced by clouds and grey skies today, our spirits were not dampened; we were all equipped with a sense of adventure and eager to spend the afternoon exploring the Salish Sea.  And, we were not disappointed. 

Within minutes of departing Friday Harbor and entering the San Juan Channel we were rewarded with a large, male Steller Sea Lion enjoying his lunch.  The Sea Lion would emerge with a fish in his mouth, aggressively thrash the fish about at the surface, tearing bits of meat off the carcass, and send the fish remains flying.  He would then retrieve the fish and repeat his foraging routine. 

As we cruised along Spieden Island, we saw dozens of the exotic Mouflon Sheep and Fallow Deer.  And as we turned the corner of Sentinel Island, over 30 Harbor Seals were crammed on a small rocky outcrop, enjoying a relaxing afternoon. 

Our journey continued along Stuart Island where we had our first sightings of Killer Whales!  Over 20 Southern Resident Killer Whales were spread out between Haro Strait, Spieden Channel, and Stuart Island.  The whales were initially headed north before they changed direction and began to travel east through New Channel. 

We were surrounded by whales; they were seen in all directions.  Among the whales we identified Scoter (K25) and Cali (K34), Scoter’s younger brother.  Also, we identified Onyx (L87) another large male born in 1992.  Although the whales seemed to be spending most of their time foraging or traveling, a few individuals were performing aerial displays: breaching, lobtailing, and pec-slapping.  With so many whales in the area and the flat calm waters we decided to drop the hydrophone, an underwater microphone, to see if we could hear the whales vocalizing.  While sitting with our engines off listening to the whales exhale at the surface and vocalize and echolocate from below, a group of four whales changed direction and came in for a closer look.  We were mesmerized as the whales traveled along the port side of the vessel, while their vocalizations echoed throughout our boat.

Boy, my job sure is amazing!

Naturalist Amy, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching and Wildlife Tours


Sea Lions and Whales and Harbor Seal Tails…

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Another gorgeous afternoon spent in the San Juan Islands…

Upon departing Friday Harbor we motored south and within 15 minutes spotted a group of Pacific Harbor Seals.  The seals were taking advantage of the beautiful weather and were hauled out on the rocks enjoying their midday siestas.   Within minutes we spotted our next species, a mature bald eagle perched at the top of a tree.  Amazing.  I never get enough of seeing these majestic birds.

As our journey continued south we saw 15 Steller Sea Lions sprawled out across the rocky shores of Whale Rocks.  The Sea lions always look so comfortable lounging on the rocky shores; it must help to have a thick blubber layer as a barrier.  Another 3 Sea Lions were swimming in the water, perhaps taking a dip to cool off.

Next we cruised out to Salmon Bank where we spent time viewing a mysterious Minke Whale.  We definitely participated in whale aerobics, crossing from one side of the boat to the other for viewing, as the Minke Whale kept us guessing on where it would surface next.  The Minke Whale did surprise us by surfacing and swimming towards our boat.  We were all excited to see where the whale would surface next and a collective “Ahhhhh” echoed from the boat as the whale crossed 100 yards directly behind us!

What a Fan-Tastic day!

Naturalist Amy, San Juan Safaris