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