Posts Tagged ‘j pod’

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

The best kind of whale watching!

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Today was one of those amazing days where we had warm summer sun, flat glassy water, and southern resident killer whales all around! Guests headed out on the M/V Sea Lion headed out of Friday Harbor today and went to the southwest side of San Juan Island. The whales were very spread out, constant with foraging behavior. Captain Brian decided that the best way to watch these whales would be to shut our motor off and drift. If we were patient, we should get some awesome encounters, and that’s just what happened!

We saw many matrilines of killer whales as they passed by our shut down boat in search of there favorite food, Chinook Salmon. They were doing what we call the “west side shuffle”, feeding up and down the south end of San Juan Island. We got several close encounters by the passerby’s.  I can’t tell you how good it felt to literally only motor up once while watching these whales for the duration that we were on seen with killer whales. This way, when they came close to us, it was there choice entirely. We got some awesome vies of the J Pod and K Pod members including J22 (mom), J34, J28, K 20 (mom), and K38 (who was trying his hardest to catch the fist he was chasing off our bow at one point)! Everyone was commenting on how nice it was to be able to hear the whales, and get grate views while not impacting them in the slightest! What a great trip!!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

So much wildlife!! Oh, and killer whales too!!

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Today the M/V Sea Lion had two great trips on the water- both located on the west side of San Juan Island. We left the docs with lots of questions and enthusiastic people just waiting to see some wildlife! Naturalist Chelsea and I feed on that kind of enthusiasm and love to answer all kind of questions. Among killer whales, we ended up seeing copious amounts of harbor seals, bald eagles, and even a pair of peregrine falcons!! It’s rare in the parts to see the peregrine falcon since they were listed on the endangered species list years ago, so we were all very excited to see them!

It’s pupping season for harbor seals here in the Salish Sea, and we ended up seeing plenty of mom and pup pairs- they are just so cute!! Those pups are what bring the transient orcas into these waters this time of year; however, today we ended up catching up with members of K and J Pod. K and J Pod are what’s known as our southern resident killer whales, and feed primarily on the Chinook Salmon that migrate through the area at predictable times of year to spawn. The resident killer whales that we saw were porpoising through the water, propelling their entire body out of the water so they can move easier at fast speeds! It was just incredible to watch! Towards the end, the whales seemed to fan out more, and entered into a foraging pattern. It was yet another great day on the water!!

 

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris Orca Whale Watching

Orcas on the West Side!

Monday, July 21st, 2014

What a day! We had two amazing trips with yet another beautiful San Juan Island day. The waters were calm and glassy, making it look like the orcas just glide through glass. Today was a particularly special day for me because I had a couple of my college professors out on our afternoon tour with us. If it’s one thing I know, it’s the orcas out here. It was amazing to be able to educate them, and the rest of the guests aboard, about the social structure, culture, anatomy, and family’s of the southern resident killer whales. What a treat!

We ended up going to the west side of San Juan Island and catching up with members of J and K Pod! We first saw the man himself- Mr. Cappuccino, K21, born in 1986. His two open saddle patches with the thick black streaks in them make him unmistakable! He cruised past us slowly, along with the matriline he usually travels with, the K16′s: Opus and Sonata. Sonata is a “sprouting male” who is just reaching sexual maturity. In the next 5-7 years, his dorsal fin will take off in growth, and will continue to grow until his early 20′s! We also saw members of the “Cookie Clan”: J36, Cookie, and J34, a local favorite named Doublestuf. Doublestuf was born in 1996, so he has not yet finished growing as well. The day was full of laughter, learning, and amazing sights of our salmon-eating resident killer whales. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris Orca Whale Watching

Residents back on the west side this evening!

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Woo! After a few days without our residents I was feeling a little separation anxiety from them. Not that our whale watches haven’t been awesome with the transients but I was missing the regular residents. As we headed out on our 5:30pm sunset whale watch we heard the reports that a mixture of J, K, and L pods were heading our way from Victoria! The whales booked it our way and we caught up with them around Eagle Point and traveled north with them all the way past Lime Kiln to Andrews Bay. Along the way we watched them porpoise and travel speeds close to 10 knots!! We got some nice close looks at the J14s, and many other whales that were moving too fast to get a confirmed ID. It was a beautiful trip and we got to circumnavigate San Juan Island.

Naturalist Chelsea

M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Whales, wonderful whales!

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Today Captain Mike and I had a beautiful cruise all the way around San Juan Island. We left Friday Harbor heading north with a report of orcas in Boundary Pass. We met up with a group of J Pod whales just north of Roche Harbor… AND they turned out to be my favorite family, the J16s! Slick, Mike, Alki and Echo are inseparable, a perfect example of the social structure of these amazing mammals! We spent some time with them and then left that group to follow a report of another group of orcas farther south along the west side of the island. We arrived on scene with a group of about four individuals from K Pod, and had the whales to ourselves! We even got to see some mating behavior! The water was beautifully smooth and everyone aboard had a wonderful time!

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

Breach!

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

I saw more whales breaching today than any other whale watch I have ever been on!  Just off the southern west side of San Juan Island we were able to witness the super pod greeting ceremony of the southern resident killer whales. This super pod is referring to J , K, and L pods being in one area where they come back together in a place with a high density of food ( chinook salmon) to potentially breed and share knowledge and customs. But what does this mean for a whale watching boat? Lots of surface activity!!!! We saw so many breaches, cartwheels, tail slaps, and just general splashing, our guests didn’t even know which way to look! This is definitely a day that naturalists live for and I am so happy I was on the water today! Hopefully the whales will still be around tomorrow!!!

 

San Juan Safaris

M/V Sea lion

Naturalit Chelsea

Hooray For K-Pod!

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Arriving at the boat today, Captain Pete informed Rachel and myself that there were reports of part of K-pod in the area! If this was true, this is the first time K-pod has been in this summer. M/V Sea Lion and guests left the docks at 1:30 and motored over to Battleship Island to encounter the orcas. In the lead was a small group of K-pod.

The orcas were very spaced out, but guests got to see several small groups of orcas! We continued to motor north with them and slowing down once we got to Turn Point on Stuart Island. The group we were lucky enough to see were the J-16′s and the J-22′s. The J-16′s are composed of Slick (J-16), Mike (J-26), Allki (J-36), and Echo (J-42). The J-22′s are the famous “cookie clan”, composed of Oreo (J-32), Doublestuff (J-34), Cookie (J-38), and Rhapsody (J-32). These are two family groups that we always see traveling together.

While watching, guests got great views of Doublestuff and Mike. They were really able to see the difference between a female dorsal fin and a males. The male dorsal fin can get to about six feet tall, where as a female dorsal fin will get to about three feet tall! M/V Sea Lion and guests took in their last views while watching the orcas travel north into the Canadian Gulf Islands.

 

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

Another Beautiful Day with Killer Whales!

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

We departed the docks today with sunny skies above. It would seem like every day in the San Juan’s is just as beautiful as the next; however, today was clear enough so that we had a panoramic view of the Cascade mountain range with Mt. Baker in the center,  as well as Mt. Rainier and the Olympics. Guests got a spectacular view of these mountains as we headed out through the San Juan Channel and out through cattle Pass. It wasn’t long before we started seeing what everyone wanted to see- black dorsal fins slicing through the beautifully calm water!

 We caught up with members of J pod along the west side of San Juan Island fishing for salmon! I quickly identified J27, Blackberry, his brother Mako (J39), and his sister Tsuchi (J31).  Blackberry, J27 is often a favorite. He has a beautiful saddle patch and dorsal fin, but what really makes him endearing is his devotion to his family. These kids lost their mother in 2008. Ever since then, the three musketeers, (J27, 31, and 39) as I call them, have been inseparable! We also saw members of L Pod foraging as well. Before we left, they all started to get rather playful- spyhopping out of the water for better looks, breaching, and cartwheeling! What an awesome day!
Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

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