Posts Tagged ‘Humpback Whale’

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

Humpbacks and Orcas?!?!

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

On  this unusually sunny afternoon (for fall at least), M/V Sea Lion left San Juan Island and prepared to go the distance. We were on our way to Victoria, BC where there were reports of some whales! On our way out we came across some dalls porpoise in the San Juan Channel. The dalls were playing in our wake then, as quickly as they surfaced, disappeared. It was a nice surprise, and we also got to spend some time with steller sea lions!

When we got on seen in the Straight of Juan de Fuca with two humpback whales with Port Angelas in the distance they were surfacing quite a bit. We got to see their large bodies roll though the water and guests were very impressed when I told them the whales were about the same size of our boat! However, it wasn’t long before we were on to Trial Island off of Victoria, BC to check out three transient (mammal hunting) orcas. The T10 group were hunting for harbor seals. At one point, I saw a seal head right above the orcas and healed my breath! I figured the whales would have a tasty snack right in front of our eyes! But, they let the little harbor seal live to tell the tail! It was a great day, flat water, somewhat sunny skys, and two kinds of whales!!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Orcas, Humpback, and Minke Whales all in one Trip?!?

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

What a day, I don’t even know where to begin on this blog! Today was one of those days (we seem to have those quite frequently) where you just couldn’t look anywhere without seeing something cool! We had a whale “Trifecta” day where we saw a Minke Whale, Humpback Whale, and Orcas! It was incredible. We no sooner got done looking at our Humpback (which decided to surface literally three feet from our boat) and we had another whale to look at! I think our major problem today was deciding how long to spend with each whale!

These whales are all a very important part of the ecosystem dynamics and feed on different things. The baleen whales (Humpbacks and Minkes) feed on small schooling fish like Krill, San Lance and Herring while the Transient Orcas may feed on them. I was a little concerned for Mr.Minke when the Transient- mammal hunting- Orcas went right through the area that we were viewing the Minke whale from. It wasn’t too long ago when a Minke whale was attacked and killed by a small group of Transient Orcas… However, it looks like both the Minke and Humpback will live to see another day; something I must admit I’m pretty happy about!

We had sunny skys, little wind, calm water and happy guests. We also saw lots of Steller Sea Lions, Porpoise, and Harbor Seals. With the close encounters both of our whale watching boats received from all three whales today, this day is going to be hard to beat!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion and Kittiwake

San Juan Safaris

 

 

It Was One Awfully “Spirited” Trip!

Friday, July 5th, 2013

As we left for our tour on the M/V Sea Lion, the sun was shinning bright and the breeze was warm. As we picked up though, the air turned cool and the waters of Cattle Pass were whirling around as the tidal exchange was creating up-welling zones. We were all preparing to see some great wildlife with the reports of many different whales. Before we got on seen with the whales we got to see what I refer to as “Harbor Seal soup” were all of the seals are in the water foraging and we have tons of cute big-eyed mammals looking up at us!

As we rounded the corner of the south end of the San Juan Island we saw boats up ahead near False Bay. L-Pod was there, and as we arrived I quickly picked out our family of three: Spirit (L-22), Skanna (L-79), and Solstice (L-89). This small family group has been in the Salish Sea the most through June and now July, so we’ve really had time to get to know them. Spirit is no longer reproductive and her line has ended since Solstice and Skanna are both male. The Southern Resident Killer Whales have matrilineal societies; family lines are actually passed down through female succession and not male. Skanna was born in 1989 and Solstice in 1993.

Our guests always like to see the male Orcas better since their dorsal fins are so large and they simply radiate power. Today however, it was Spirits turn to shine. She lept out of the water six or seven times as if to say “hey, I’m cool too, watch what I can do”! It was amazing to see how effortlessly she sailed through the air and back into the water right off of our stern. You certainly get an appreciation for these seven to eight ton whales when their whole body is out of the water!

What a show it was today… we even saw a Minke and Humpback whale too! And, when we were waiting for the Minke to surface we had Harbor Porpoise surface feet from our bow! It was a great trip, I can’t wait to get back out on the water. No two trips are the same, and no two days are the same. You just never know what your going to see out here!

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