Posts Tagged ‘Haro Strait’

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

Synchronized Orcas!

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Today was another one of those magical days, sunny skies, flat water, and family groups of Resident Orcas everywhere. When the M/V Sea Lion got on scene with the whales we saw numerous dorsal fins and spouts in the distance, and they were all coming our way! As it turned out, all of LPod was there traveling together in the Haro Strait. I quickly calculated the number of dorsal fins and surmised that it had to be LPod since they have the largest pod size and most male Orcas. Male Orca dorsal fins are each to recognize morphologically speaking; their dorsals are, on average, 5-6 feet tall!

It was truly amazing seeing all 36 whales surfacing and breathing together. They Orcas were “resting” a term given to the behavior of Orcas when they come close together, surface more often, and move at a slow pace. In fact, the degree of biological kinship between individual Orcas is thought to be correlated with the degree of respiratory synchronicity. In other words, the rhythm of breaths serves as a behavioral display of family unity; and even possibly social familiarity and affection among Orcas.  It was very peaceful to see while listening to their vocalizations over the hydrophone.

I managed to narrow down who we were watching: L25-Ocean Sun (matriarch of L-Pod est. born 1928), L85- Mystery, L22- Spirit and L89- Solstice (Spirits son), L41- Mega, L77- Matia and her calf L119, L78- Gaia, and L92- Cruiser were among the many we saw! I can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow!!!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lino

San Juan Safaris

Playful K-pod in Haro Strait

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Captain Mike, Naturalist Kevin and myself were lucky enough to show our 1:30 guests and our 5:30 guests a playful K-pod! We departed from Friday Harbor and headed south for both trips to meet with the orcas on the west side of San Juan Island.
Our 1:30 guests were able to see our K-pod members just off of Lime Kiln State Park. We saw several of them breaching and porpoising throughout the water. We had one large male, Lobo, follow us and guests got a great view of the 20 year old male.
On our 5:30 trip, guests got to see the same group but a more playful group. It looked as though every member of K-pod was playing with one another. We had a lot of orcas breaching, spy hopping, and barrel rolls on the surface!
To end our trips we decided to circumnavigate San Juan Island. By going north this lets our guests get a view of the whole island and the beautiful scenery here!

Aimee-Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

Whale Trifecta!!!!

Friday, July 5th, 2013

With summer in full swing and full boats, Captain Jim and myself departed on M/V Kittiwake. We had reports of the L12 family group on the west side of San Juan Island just near False Bay. We arrived on scene and got an excellent viewing of Spirit and her two sons, Skana and Solstice. Spirit then continued to breach for us at least five times. Most people asked if there is a reason to why these whales breach. My answer is usually no, they are just playing or showing off for us! Everyone on board was very excited and that energy just kept up the whole trip.
After spending quite some time with this group we had a report of a Humpback whale on our way home. We moved south and spotted the humpback right away. It surfaced three times and showed us its tail flukes. So with two out of the three whales to be seen we continued to try and view the Humpback, but then we saw a Minke whale! We got to see all three whales that are reside in this area. Humpbacks and Minke whales both feed in similar styles and Haro Strait provides a great locations for them to do so.
This is my first seeing all three types of whales in one trip. My guests and I were all very excited about all the wildlife we encountered today. I love days like these because it just reinforces how special these islands are!

Aimee, Naturalist-M/V Kittiwake
San Juan Safaris

A Minke for this Sunny Summer Day

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

With not a cloud in the sky today, Captain Mike, Naturalist Heather and myself departed Friday Harbor with our guests and headed south, to where Haro Strait and the Strait of Juan De Fuca meet, to check out a Minke whale. This Minke whale was very interesting to watch. I say interesting because usually Minke whales are very scattered and don’t surface in the same area. This Minke looked as though it was traveling in the same direction and kept going that one way. Most guests got some spectacular pictures of this Minke and what made it spectacular was having Mount Baker in the background. I love clear days like this because of the mountains in the area. We were south of San Juan Island and our guests were seeing the Olympic Mountains, Mount Baker, and even Mount Rainier. Usually being down south we can encounter some pretty rough water, but the water was like glass. It was an absolutely beautiful day out on the water!

Aimee, Naturalist- M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Humback off of Hein Bank!

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

We left our Friday Harbor location today and headed south out the San Juan Channel, though Cattle Pass, and into the Haro Strait where we came across a Humpback Whale! This was the same Humpback that we saw last night right off the south end of San Juan Island. When we reached Hein Bank, the whale was heading toward Vancouver, BC. At first it was diving deep and staying down for about eight minutes at a time. Then, the whale seemed to have a change of pace and started swimming slowly toward the surface coming up for air many times in a five minute period. We call this “resting” behavior! We also got to see the large whale (about the size of our boat) roll through the water and tail slap! It was very fun to watch…!

We followed the Humpback to Middle Bank in the Canadian waters, at which point we had to turn around and head home. On our way home we saw lot’s of Harbor Porpoise, some Harbor Seals, and even a Bald Eagle and its nest! Even though the trip started off a little rainy and cold, it ended up being a great day on the water yet again!

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

A Sunset of Whales

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

Sunset trips happen to be Captain Mike and I’s favorite trips to go out on with our guests. Tonight was great! We left Friday Harbor and went to the south end of San Juan Island, through Cattle Pass and into the Haro Strait. The whales were right off of Eagle Point and were spread out feeding. Mega (L-41) was there, as well as Ocean Sun (L-25) who happens to be the oldest female in L-Pod. These guys seemed to be on a course of their own hunting for the Chinook Salmon they prefer to eat. They were surfacing many times without a consistent path of travel. That however, worked in our favor because we were able to get some great views of the whales!

We also saw three Minke Whales which happen to be one of the smallest baleen whales! The Minkes came awfully close to our boat and were feeding on the large quantity of Krill and Sand Lance in the area. Minkes are pretty small whales at only 25-30 feet long but definitely look very cool up close!

As we headed back to Friday Harbor, the sun was beginning to set. We left the towering dorsal fins in the background to hunt and continue on without us. It was a beautiful scene…very peaceful and calm. I love our evening trips!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

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 and L-Pod together?!

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Today Captain Mike, naturalist Caitlin and myself headed out of the San Juan Channel, through Cattle Pass and to the south end of the Haro Strait. We had heard rumors about the whale activity on the south end of the island and hoped to encounter L-Pod and even some transient killer whales! This trip we had a particularly great, enthusiastic group of guests on board and our hopes were high when we saw our first spout from our resident L-Pod.

This is the second day that L-Pod has been in the Salish Sea and we’re very happy to welcome them back after being away for about a week. We encountered L-25, Ocean Sun and four others. They were in a particularly good mood today, breaching, logging, and tail slapping! Of course, researchers haven’t really figured out why these whales “breach”, “log” or “tail slap” but I’d like to think that when we witnessed the behavior, it was because they were having fun!

We also encountered something very rare today- we saw transient killer whales in the same general location! These two groups of whales are rarely seen in such close proximity to one another, and often times can be quite adversarial. These two types of orca are very different as they differ in their social structures, habitat preference, diet, morphology, pigmentation, and even genetically! Our resident orcas consume mostly Chinook salmon and do so at 400 pounds a day! Our transient orcas prey predominantly on marine mammals such as harbor seals, harbor porpoise, and Dall’s porpoise. It was certainly a treat to see these two very different forms of Killer whales in the same day! Our guests definitely learned more about identifying certain whales today, since they could clearly see the difference in their dorsal fins and saddle patches! What a phenomenal day! “Work” seems to get better and better!

Heather, Naturalist, 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