Posts Tagged ‘Humpback Whale’

Transients, Birds, Humpback and Seals

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

Today Captain Mike, Brendan and I spent a bright and warm day out on the water. We left the dock with no reports of orcas, but some Transients were reported just as we pulled out of Friday Harbor. There are two ecotypes of killer whales that swim in the waters of the Salish Sea: Residents and Transients. The Residents are the famous three pods of salmon-eaters, while the Transients are marine mammal eaters focusing most of their attention on harbor seals. We met up with the group of Transients right off of Sidney Island, BC, and it turned out to be my absolutely favorite family of Ts….. The T65As!!!! T65A is a female who has a very pronounced nick out of the trailing tip of her dorsal fin. Sh travels with her four kiddos, T65A2, A3, A4, & A5. We spent some quality time with the family as they leisurely made a kill and started to get a bit surface-active, splashing around and generally celebrating having full bellies. We left them as they started to settle down so that we could check out some nearby seabird colonies. We were treated to views of cormorants and various gull species as well as a VERY nice look at a bald eagle. As we finished looking at the birds yet another report came over the radio, this time of a humpback whale near Spieden Island. We got some very nice looks at the young humpback whale, and continued on our way to check out some harbor seals hauled out on a rock. These little critters can be 4-5 feet long and weigh right around 200-250 pounds. On land they flop around and are no so graceful, but in the water they can be described as acrobatic. We motored back to Friday Harbor with the sun shining on our backs and smiles on our faces. Yet another great day on the water.

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

Day with two HBs and a some Js!

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Today the M/V Sea Lion set out with some very excited passengers who had spotted orcas from the ferry! A sighting from the ferry definitely does not happen everyday, but it is so exciting when it does……. it’s always a good idea to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife no matter where you are! We headed east towards Rosario Strait in the far side of Orcas Island from San Juan. We were treated to a bald eagle fly-over and some beautiful views of the islands and mountains as we cruised by. While underway, captain Mike got a report of two humpback whales in close proximity to the orcas, so of course we needed to check them out! The whales were on the move and we got to spend some quality time with them, and as out last look the whales rose, exhaled, took a breath, and dove together. After spending some time with the humpbacks we motored over to Cypress Island where J pod had been reported. We got to spend some blissful time with all 27 members of J pod as they lazily made their way up the coast. The highlight of the day was a TRIPLE spyhop, when three whales simultaneously vertically raised their heads above the water. It as a behavior I have never seen before, and it was amazing! After some quality time with the Js, we started to meander our way back to Friday Harbor, while taking some time to see some harbor seals and a bald eagle. The weather was amazing and the wildlife was even better. Another day for the books!

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

Humpback in Canada

Friday, May 29th, 2015

Today we left Friday Harbor with a report of a humpback near East Point.  On our way to the humpback whale we spotted a Stellar sea lion feeding in San Juan Channel.  We then headed through President channel towards the humpback which was slowly heading North towards Vancouver.  We got a little North of East Point, located in the Strait of Georgia, when we came across the humpback whale.  The whale we were watching was the female known as “Big Mama”, a whale that frequents these waters during the early summer season.  We watched her sporadically surfacing to breath while traveling slowly North.  Humpback whales can hold their breath for up to 45 minutes but generally surface every 5-17 minutes.  We were also lucky enough to see some surface behavior including a cartwheel and a few lunges!  We then started to head back towards Friday Harbor.  On our way we saw some harbor seals hauled out on the rocks soaking up the wonderful sunshine we had today.  We also saw a bald eagle on one of the rock islands and got to see it take off in flight.  We had a wonderful day out on the water today enjoying the wildlife of the San Juan Islands.

Naturalist Rachel

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Humpys in the Strait of Georgia

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

The Sea Lion left the dock today crewed by Captain Pete and Naturalists Mike and Alex.  We had clear skies, a fantastic group of passengers and reports of a humpback whale to the North. We began to see wildlife right outside the harbor with a bald eagle regally perched in a tree and a pod of harbor porpoise close behind the boat. As we motored north we passed several more groups of the little porpoises, which are the most common and smallest cetacean found in the Salish Sea. Unlike their active and exuberant cousins the Dall’s porpoise, harbor porpoise are shy, reserved and most active at night when they feed on small fish that make a nightly migration to surface waters.

Once we were in view of Patos island, we began to look out for the spout of our humpback. This spout, or blow, is actually the result of several gallons of seawater that gets trapped above their blowholes. The whales clear this water by exhaling at 300 miles per hour! this massive sneeze vaporizes the trapped water to form the ten to twenty foot “spout” that we typically see.

Despite our knowledge and expertise on what to look for, none of us were expecting what we saw next. I looked out to see a massive tail flailing in the air, coming down with a huge splash! Captain Pete took us toward this spectacle and we realized that there were actually two humpbacks lobbing their tails, or flukes, around in the middle of Georgia Strait. These animals are so massive (up to 45 feet) that barnacles regularly grow on them, especially on the edges of their flukes. Tail lobbing behavior might be a way to try and knock some of those hitchhikers off.

We caught the “tail” end of that show, as after the excitement things settled down. We got to watch and listen to them take some deep breaths and then raise their enormous flukes as they both dove to feed. Humpbacks regularly feed on herring and sandlance (same as the harbor porpoise) and will take several hundred pounds of fish in a single mouthful during a feeding dive!

After a while of watching, we decided to say goodbye to the Humpbacks and make our way back home. We stopped to look at some harbor seals hauled out near East Point, and they looked right back at us!

All in all a great day, had a Whale of a time! (the jokes just get worse from there)

 

Naturalist Mike J

M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Dall’s Porpoise at Play in Boundary Pass

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

When a Captain decides to take the Sea Lion up North into Boundary Pass and beyond, I’m always hopeful. We left with reports of a Humpback near East Point on Saturna Island, which is what we aimed for leaving the dock. We got to see a lot more.

 

Meandering up North our guests were treated to Steller Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, and a lot of Harbor Porpoise en-route to where other companies are currently watching the Humpback. When we arrived on scene, we quickly determined this individual whale was Big Mamma, otherwise known as BCY0324. This ID code is in reference to where the individual was identified, BC for British Columbia. X,Y, or Z for the amount of white on the flukes. And, the number for the individual.

 

While watching the Humpback heading West across the coast of Saturna, we heard reports of a group of Dall’s Porpoise nearby. Leaving the Humpback we met up with a large group of Dall’s Porpoise who were incredibly friendly and rambunctious. They played in the wake of the boats in the area and even went out to rush through the huge waves a tanker made as it passed by to the West.

 

After getting our heart rates going, watching the Dall’s zipping around, we eased into some wildlife viewing before heading back into Port. Between the Cactus Islands and Speiden we saw lots of Harbor Seals lounging and Bald Eagles posted up on Douglas Firs. But I’ll be honest, all we could think about were the Dall’s we’d seen out on Boundary Pass all the way home.

Naturalist Brendan
M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Breaching Whales and Bonuses

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

I saw the first splash from a quarter mile away; a great backwards leap that sent water twenty feet in the air. Hoping for some repetition I crossed my fingers as we motored closer to the scene, deep in the middle of the Strait of Georgia. We’d finally made it to J Pod.

 

Many people don’t realize why whales breach. Be they Killer Whales or Humpbacks, breach we may not know the meaning of every individual action, but we do know these are social displays meant to send a message. J Pod was clearly saying something, because as we got closer and strafed the animals we saw multiple breaches, pectoral slaps, and flukes. As these Southern Resident Killer whales cooled down and started to travel we were able to stretch out alongside them and see all the pod, traveling close in their respective matrilines, but moving as a cohesive group.

As if this wasn’t enough on a gorgeous day, as we headed back after a great show on the water, we stumbled upon a Humpback Whale off of Saturna Island. You know it’s a good day when you leave Killer Whales to head home and find yourself watching a Humpback diving for food. With a last wave of it’s tail, the whale took a deep dive, and we left it to continue feeding and headed home, happy with a great day of sights on the Salish Sea.

Naturalist Brendan
M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Humpback and Orcas! 2 Whale Delight!

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

Captain Mike, Owner/Naturalist Brian, guests, and I left Friday Harbor headed north in the hopes of finding whales.  Even though we started the morning with no reports, we remained hopeful as we motored along Orcas Island.  And then puff it’s a humpback and her calf!  Guests aboard the M/V Sea Lion were lucky enough to be the ones to spot the pair of humpback whales!  Over the past few years, we have been encountering more and more humpbacks, and we hope this marks the start of their return to the area.

After spending some quality time with the humpbacks,  we got a call about transient orcas in Canadian waters!  The T37s were traveling south from Saturna Island and we even got to see some foraging behavior!  With a youngster of only 2 years in the group, these transient orcas are always a treat to see.

After our fill of whales, we headed towards Friday Harbor with smiles and great photos.  These days can always brighten a rainy day!

Emily

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

 

Fun (and whale) filled day!

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Today Captain Mike, Caitlin and I had a very eventful day on the water. Though we left with no reports of orcas, we felt hopeful that some might turn up around the islands. We first stopped to see some Northern sea lions just south of San Juan, before catching up with a pod of right around 100 Pacific white-sided dolphins! We enjoyed their antics as they surfed in the M/V Sea Lion’s wake and bow rode at the front of the vessel. It is always fun to see these very athletic visitors to the San Juan Islands. We left the dolphins and headed north in Haro Strait….. AND WE FOUND J AND K PODS! We enjoyed watching the whales breach, travel and fish. We left the orcas just near Lime Kiln State Park, and continued north to find some humpback whales! Overall, it was an amazing day on the water!

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

Fantastic Day Filled With Orcas and Humpacks….And A Tufted Puffin!

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

We had fantastic weather and wildlife viewing today aboard our afternoon M/V Sea Lion trip.  We found our resident orcas, humpbacks, minkes, stellar sea lions, and even a tufted puffin! We headed to Salmon Bank and found J pod cruising the waters looking for food and were even lucky enough to witness some mating behaviors, and followed them along the west side of San Juan Island.  After an incredible show from J pod we came across a mom and calf humpback whale, and the calf was extremely playful.  We had repeated spyhops from the little calf as it played with the kelp patties!!! Quite a treat.  On our way in we spotted several stellar sea lions sunning themselves in the warm mid afternoon sun.  While watching the sea lions we even had a surprise minke visit.  Then we started cruising back, and just when we didn’t think we could possibly spot anything more exciting we spotted a tufted puffin, perched beside in the San Juan channel.  What a trip!!

 

Caitlin, Naturalist

San Juan Safaris, M/V Sea Lion

Humpbacks on Kelp Reef

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

We left Friday Harbor yesterday, like many fall day, with no whale reports! However, as we headed out through Cattle Pass we heard of a humpback whale on Kelp Reef! The one humpback soon became two and the M/V Sea Lion headed straight there! Along the way we came across some great dall porpoise activity! They are so much fun, you can tell where they will be because they swim so fast that they leave a trail on the surface of the water! They spent probably ten minuets playing alongside the bow of the Lion!

When we got to the humpbacks they were traveling at a slow speed, surfacing many times. They were resting. It seemed very tranquil to see these large, gentle giants close up and not in a hurry to get anywhere. When they surface so close to our boat, you really get an appreciate for their size! They are actually bigger (longer) than our boat! Super cool!

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