Posts Tagged ‘Haro Strait’

Residents up and down the West side

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Today we embarked from Friday Harbor without having decided which report we were going to pursue, having heard that there were whales North of East Point, as well as on the west side. We turned south in San Juan Channel to try our luck on the West side. On our way out there, we passed Goose Island. Unfortunately, Goose Island caught on the fire the other day, and a large portion of the nests (of 4 bird species) burned up in the flames. The smell of smoke is evident if you are downwind.

Just as we passed South Beach, we came across our first pod of Southern resident killer whales. There, we were able to get some good looks at a few females and an adult male. They were surfacing very infrequently, which led us to believe that they may have been pursuing some salmon.

We then shot off a mile or so North, to observe a second pod of residents, which appeared to be a number of different family groups. They were much mores surface active, with a few tails slaps and pectoral fin slaps on the water. We also saw two adult males in very close contact, which is not typical. We were able to identify them as male, because of the size and shape of their dorsal fin. Males, with a straight triangular shaped dorsal fin, up to 6 feet tall. The dorsal fin of a female is more of a crescent shape and won’t get more than 2-3 feet in height. However, it is easy to mistake a young male for a female, because they don’t begin to really lengthen that dorsal fin until about 15 years of age.

After getting in a good dose of resident orca sightings, we headed back down the island and around Cattle Point to get back to Friday Harbor.

Naturalist Alex

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

A Great day for Js!

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

After shooting to the North last Saturday night, J Pod had disappeared. The whale watching fleet had gotten no reports and all of the hydrophones in the Salish Sea had been silent to the melodious calls of the Js…. UNTIL THIS MORNING! We got to the M/V Sea Lion and had a flurry of reports of all 28 members of J Pod traveling south down the West Side of San Juan Island. And were they ever! It was like watching whale popcorn out on the water today, everywhere you looked there was a whale breaching out of the water, pec slapping, tail lobbing, or cartwheeling. We got looks at all three of the new J Pod calves (J50, J51, J52), awesome views of the J22 matriline (J22 Oreo, J34 Doublestuf, J38 Cookie), as well as crowd favorites J27 Blackberry, J31 Tsuchi and J39 Mako. After leaving the whales we headed to Whale Rocks right off the Southern Tip of San Juan to view some Steller’s sea lions. These guys can grow to be about 12 feet long and right around 2000 pounds! We rounded off the day with a great view of a bald eagle! It was an absolutely amazing day that none of us will soon forget!

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

Southern Residents in the Haro

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Leaving Friday Harbor with reports of whales is always a great feeling and Captain Mike took us off the docks with good vibes for J Pod. We made a few stops along to the way, taking in Spieden’s open slopes, Steller Sea Lions, and Harbor Seal lounging on the rocks, but we had a destination in mind. Before too long we caught up with Orca on Open Bay on the West side of San Juan Island.

 

Being early in the year, the Southern Resident Killer whales, which are largely hunting King Salmon aren’t as predictable in their presence. The salmon that run up the Fraser River in British Columbia aren’t present in larger numbers until at least June, so seeing J Pod foraging on the West Side was a real treat. We spent the most time with the J16s, which includes the newest member of the pod, J52 who stayed close to mother J36 as they moved South.

 

The next hour was spent surrounded by the animals as they traveled South toward Cattle Point. At a certain point it became apparent that most of J Pod was around and Captain Mike took us on a tour of the Matrilines in the Haro Strait. It was a spectacularly beautiful day on the water, with the Olympics beaming in the background as we sped around through Cattle Pass, bound for Port.

 

Naturalist Brendan

 

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

J Pod Time in the Haro Strait

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

The day was sunny, the guests were excited, and we had whales to see! Captain Mike and myself whisked our guests off for a day on the water that felt more June than April. With reports of J Pod on the Westside, we zipped North to catch up with them.

Knowing we had time to see these Residents Killer Whales, we worked our way there, stopping for a few Harbor Seals, Bald Eagles, and Steller Sea Lions around Spieden Island. As the largest privately owned island in the San Juans with no permanent residents, there’s always a lot of wildlife on land and around its shores. After some nice looks, we left a group of sleeping Harbor Seals at Sentinel Rock, set off to see J Pod.

What followed was an early season show to match them all. We followed many members of J Pod, seeing big males like J27, J34, and L84, as well as the newest member of the group, J51 following mother J19 along Kellet Bluff. The rest of the afternoon was spent at a relaxed pace, letting the many whales in the Haro Strait move around us. We were lucky witnesses to spy hops, a few full breaches, and some exciting hunting behaviors. It seemed like everywhere you looked there were dorsal fins slicing through the calm water.

After almost two hours with the Js we needed to head back, but everyone was beaming from the experience. We stopped a couple times around Spieden for better looks at Steller Sea Lions, but I could tell everyone was still in a daze from our lucky encounter that afternoon. It was all smiles all the way home.

Naturalist Brendan

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Sunny Day with L-pod!

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Yet another beautiful late summer day with the Southern Residents! We had a spectacular afternoon full of breaching, tail lobbing and porpoising…. generally very happy orcas! Today we enjoyed the company of a couple of different L-pod families. We spent the most time with the L54s (L54 “Ino” and her calves L108 “Coho” & L117 “Keta”) who were joined by some of my favorite males: L92 “Crewser”, L88 “Wave Walker”, and L84 “Nyssa”. Wave Walker and Nyssa are the last remaining members of their matrilineal lines, so they are often seen travelling with other families. After yesterday’s news of the new L-pod baby we all were keeping our eyes out for the newest addition to the Southern Resident Community, but alas L86 “Surprise!” and her brand new calf L120 were not with the group we saw today. After spending some time with the killer whales we found Steller’s sea lions hauled out on some rocks and were also fortunate to find two bald eagles! The water was like glass all afternoon, and the light was absolutely beautiful. Overall, a great afternoon on the water!

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

Whale Bliss!

Friday, August 29th, 2014

We had a wonderful day on the water with some very goofy southern resident killer whales! We saw a mixture of J and K pods playing, rolling and breaching in Haro Strait. We saw a number of spyhops today as well. Killer whales have excellent eyesight, very much like our own, but they can only see about three feet above the water when they are under. In order to survey their surroundings they will spyhop, sticking their heads out of the water. We had a wonderful time enjoying the whales’ antics. Captain Mike, Chelsea, and I loved having such a wonderful group aboard today!

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

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

Orca Chess Match!

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Today Captain Jim and I set out on the M/V Kittiwake with two reports of orcas: one of transients to the north, and one of residents to the south. Oftentimes we joke that deciding where to go is a like a chess match…. the whales will make one move and then we have to respond. We are a member of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, so we are in constant communication with other captains on the water getting the most current information about the whale’s movement, which aids in decision making. Today we opted for the southern route to meet up with the resident whales. On the way out to meet up with the whales we encountered some Steller’s sea lions. These pinnipeds can weigh over 2,000 pounds, and are just returning from their breeding grounds in Alaska. After observing the sea lions for a few minutes, we traveled across Haro Strait to meet up with J-pod just outside of Victoria. It was great to see the “ressies” again after a few days of watching transients! The whales were being very playful… spyhopping, breaching out of the water, and breathing all together! J2 “Granny” (She’s estimated to be 103 years old, cool, right!!!???!!!) was right in the middle of the pod having a grand old time. We spent about 45 wonderful minutes with the joyful whales, and everyone on board was absolutely enthralled! We left to head back to Friday Harbor and ended up finding a minke whale! They are the second smallest species of baleen whale, and we got to see it feeding! Overall, it was an amazing day on the water and everyone agreed that we had definitely played a good chess game!

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

Resident Orcas traveling through Haro Strait-Thursday August 7th

Friday, August 8th, 2014

M/V Sea Lion departed Friday Harbor at 5:30pm and we traveled south through cattle pass. Guests were in for an adventure moving through four foot rolling waves! Once around the south end of the island, we encountered commercial fishing boats, so Captain Pete had to be on the lookout for nets in the water! Once we made it through all of that, we immediately spotted Orcas off False Bay. We encountered K-pod male, Cappuccino, searching for salmon. We also were able to see several other k-pod members playing with one another. Towards the end of our time with them, a younger orca started to breach! We ended our trip circumnavigating around San Juan Island!

 

Aimee
Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris Whale Watch & Wildlife Tours

Couldn’t ask for a better day!

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

As we left San Juan Island yesterday, everyone couldn’t help but comment on what a phenomenal day it was.  Sunny skies, no wind, and flat calm glassy waters- oh, and the 40 or so killer whales that were in the area helped a little too! As Captain Mike, Chelsea and I motored out into the San Juan Channel, we made our way up to the north end of the Island where we met up with J and L Pod. For those of you who are just tuning in, J and L Pod are made up of Southern Resident Orcas, a group or killer whales that feed primarily on salmon. These whales were spread out over a six mile spread throughout Haro Straight fishing for the biggest and fattiest of all the salmon: Chinook salmon! We spent some quality time with everyone’s favorite’s including J19 and 41 (mother and daughter combo), L87, J27, L54, and L92. It was an amazing and peaceful day, with many breathtaking encounters. I really couldn’t have asked for a better day!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris