Posts Tagged ‘L pod’

Breaches, and Breaches, and Breaches

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Today we left the dock in high spirits with two options to see whales. Captain Mike certainly made the right choice, and as we came to decision time, the proverbial fork in the road, we headed North into the Haro Strait. The results couldn’t have been better.

Breaching killer whales are always impressive and as we got closer to a few other boats in the whale watching fleet, it was obvious we were in for a show. I counted at least six breaches before we even got close enough for most of our guests to see the whales. By the end of the trip I had lost count at 40.

When we approach a group of Killer Whales that has already been reported, we often know if they are Southern Residents or Transients, and potentially even which individuals are around. Today was no different, we had already heard K and L pods were traveling South off the coast of San Juan Island. However, had we not known Naturalist Alex and I would have looked at saddle patches first to figure out who we were looking at. Every trip offers different opportunities to learn the individuals that reside in the San Juan Islands during the season.

The weather was glorious and an area of the water that can be tumultuous with tide and wind was flat and calm all afternoon. We followed the intermingled pods, watching breach after breach, logging whales, and a lot of foraging behavior on our way South. We left them as they continued on, happy with amazing views of cavorting wild whales before glacier-capped volcanoes Rainier and Baker. And with a quick view of a Minke Whale on the way back, we were home in Friday Harbor.

Naturalist Brendan

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris


Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Today we left Friday harbor with reports of orcas off the west side of San Juan Island.  We heard reports of K pod in the area for the first time this season.  As we headed out our anticipation grew for the possibility of exciting whale viewing.  We got west of Henry Island and came upon the leading group of orcas.  We let them pass by and got to see a large group of orcas that consisted of about 20 individuals.  This group included members of J and K pod.  We then saw a few whales from L pod as well and at that point we knew that we had encountered a superpod.  Superpod is when all 81 whales in the southern resident community come together and socialize in one area.  We watched the amazing sight of all of the orcas breaching, tail slapping, pectoral slapping, rolling and social touching.  We had an absolutely superb day out on the water with the whales!  As we headed back to Friday Harbor we stopped by to see a bald eagles nest and we were lucky enough to see a chick in the nest.  Luckily it was large enough that was visible from the water.  We then got some great looks at a pod of harbor porpoise swimming through San Juan Channel.  Today was an absolutely amazing day out on the water!  First picture taken by Naturalist Sarah.  Second picture taken by naturalist Rachel.  Both pictures were taken on our tour today.

Naturalist Rachel

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Residents off South Pender

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Today we left Friday Harbor with a report of orcas traveling south at a fast past around East Point.  We headed towards boundary pass in order to meet the whales as they traveled south.  When we came upon the whales they were very spread out through the northern end of boundary pass.  It is very common to see the whales spread out over wide distances in order to cover the most distance to find salmon.  We watched the J16′s which consists of the matriarch J16  (Slick) and her four offspring J26 (Mike), J36 (Alki), J42 (Echo) and J50, her newest offspring.  J36 also had a new calf this winter, J52 who will be named at the end of this upcoming summer.  We then got to see the L47′s which consists of L47 (Marina) and her three offspring L83 (Moonlight), L91 (Muncher) and L115 (Mystic).  Also with the L47′s is L83s offspring L110 (Midnight).  The L47′s were traveling as a tight knit group at a faster pace then the J16′s were traveling.  After watching the L47′s we then got to see J16 eating a salmon!  We watched the J16′s traveling and socializing together which included some behaviors such as breaching and spyhopping!  On our way home we got to see some seals sun bathing on the rocks and a bald eagle in flight.  Below is a picture of J36 (Alki) and her offspring J52 taken by Rachel on the trip today.  It was a great day out on the water and we hope our guests enjoyed it as much as we did!



Naturalist Rachel

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

L Pod Joins the Mix on the West Side

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Today Captain Pete and Naturalist Mike (along with some other seasoned naturalists) crewed the M/V Sea Lion as we left the dock in search of wildlife. The crew and the passengers were all anticipating a great trip because we had reports of L pod, a faction of the Southern Resident Killer Whales, on the west side of San Juan Island.

The Southern Resident Killer Whale population is made up of three populations that inhabit the waters of Southern British Columbia and the Salish Sea, all of whom only eat fish and especially love Chinook Salmon. They spend the summer following these salmon from the open ocean into the Salish Sea, through the San Juan Islands as they migrate up into the Frasier river in British Columbia to spawn. Where as J pod can be seen throughout the year in these waters, K and L pod tend to spend the winters out at sea or along the coast continuing to feed on salmon as they mature in open water. So you can see why it is so exciting to see L pod for the first time this season: it means Summer is here!

We cruised down San Juan Channel around Cattle Point and up into Haro Strait, where we caught up with them at False Bay. We began to see dorsal fins popping up here and there. About 15 Orcas were cruising in a very mellow fashion, interspersed with tail slapping and some dives to snack on salmon, first to the north and then they turned and began heading south. We watched several different groups for a while as they meandered along the coast and got some great looks at these magnificent animals before we decided to let them be and see what else we could find. We cruised over to Long Island to see a bald eagle and its huge nest, and checked out some harbor seals (safe from the Residents) before returning to Friday Harbor.

Always a treat to see the Southern Residents, another Whale of a day on the water!

Naturalist Mike J

M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Cetacean Madness!!!!!

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Today Captain Mike, Naturalist Caitlin and I had a trip that we all agreed was the highlight of our season. We left Friday Harbor at 12:00pm and immediately stumbled across some harbor seals hauled out on some rocks. The seals need to lay in the sun to warm up as they have a very minimal layer of insulating fat known as blubber. With another stop to check out some nesting double-crested cormorants and some gulls, we headed out to find a minke whale on a glassy Haro Strait. We caught up with a minke whale while it was feeding and enjoyed watching it surface a few times in beautiful golden light. After about 20 minutes we left the minke to catch up with some orcas! We were delighted to have a report of southern residents (the salmon-eating whales) this late in the season. Though we see transient orcas all year round, the residents are usually here only when the salmon are running June through August. With that being said, we are having an excellent September for whale watching! We were delighted to see L72 Racer and her son L105 Fluke, as well as J28 and her son J46 Star. We enjoyed many breaches and great underwater vocalizations broadcasted from our on-board hydrophone. We had some excellent looks of whale sin both L and J pods. After leaving the orcas in Haro Strait we started to meander our way back to Friday Harbor, finding some northern sea lions and a bald eagle. As we rounded a corner, nearly back to the harbor,  the water around the M/V Sea Lion started to boil with over 150 Pacific white-sided dolphins. The dolphins played in our wake, bow rode, and lept out of the water. We were all so entranced that we ended up extending our trip by about 40 minutes! Today was the most incredible day on the water I have had the pleasure of witnessing. I will be dreaming of dolphins tonight.

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

Sunny Day with L-pod!

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Yet another beautiful late summer day with the Southern Residents! We had a spectacular afternoon full of breaching, tail lobbing and porpoising…. generally very happy orcas! Today we enjoyed the company of a couple of different L-pod families. We spent the most time with the L54s (L54 “Ino” and her calves L108 “Coho” & L117 “Keta”) who were joined by some of my favorite males: L92 “Crewser”, L88 “Wave Walker”, and L84 “Nyssa”. Wave Walker and Nyssa are the last remaining members of their matrilineal lines, so they are often seen travelling with other families. After yesterday’s news of the new L-pod baby we all were keeping our eyes out for the newest addition to the Southern Resident Community, but alas L86 “Surprise!” and her brand new calf L120 were not with the group we saw today. After spending some time with the killer whales we found Steller’s sea lions hauled out on some rocks and were also fortunate to find two bald eagles! The water was like glass all afternoon, and the light was absolutely beautiful. Overall, a great afternoon on the water!

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

Late Summer Resident Whales!

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

Saturday September 6th was a great day on the water. M/V Sea lion, captain, crew, and guests enjoyed the sunny weather and calm seas on the south west side of San Juan Island today. The resident (salmon-eating) orcas seem to still be finding food here in the Salish Sea and were back in full force. We had reports of all three pods in the area (J, K, and L)! We spent most of our afternoon with what seemed to be a mixture of K and L pods, with some close looks at K21 and L44 both mature males in the Southern Resident community. But killer whales weren’t all the guests got to see!

We also got to spend some time viewing Stellar Seal Lion males fighting and barking at each other for space on the rocks. The seal lions like to rest and warm up while hauled out on the rocks but the males compete for the highest spot on the rocks. It was amazing to see these 2000+ lb whales battle it out. We also got lucky enough to spy a Tufted puffin!! Extremely rare in this area but our guests got to see a solitary bird hanging with some gulls, and auklets.

Beautiful, fun filled day on the water today!


San Juan Safaris

Westside Whales

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

It was an eventful day today with our resident whales along the westside of San Juan Island. We were greeted by both members of K Pod and L Pod for our afternoon trip on the M/V Sea Lion. We first met up with these whales at Battleship Island and then followed them north towards Turn Point Lighthouse on Stuart Island. I always love being able to see them at Turn Point because Mt. Baker, the lighthouse, and the whales, will occasionally line up perfectly for the ultimate whale watching shot. A few of our lucky guests were able to capture that magical shot! Most of the resident whales continued their trajectory north, however a few stragglers stuck around for our evening trip. We were rewarded with Mega, Mystery, and even Solstice. Great day for whale watching and we got to top it off with a full moon in the sky!



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

Wildlife and Whales Everywhere You Look!

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Today was a beautiful day all around with sunny sky’s, nice people, L-Pod, and lot’s of wildlife! The M/V Sea Lion headed North today towards Turn Point (the most Northwestern part of the continental U.S.) where we had reports of some Southern Resident Orcas. I couldn’t contain my delight when I told guests we had reports of these Orcas especially since it is rather late in September and they are still around!

On our way out we say some steller sea lions surfaced right in front of our boat, our Captain, Craig, about had a heart attack while everyone on board was enthused! We spent some time with the stellers and harbor seals then continued heading north into Canadian waters. We had reports of the leaders of the pod by Pender Bulffs. However, there were no boats around so we weren’t quite sure where the whales were. The water was pretty rolly in Boundary Pass, but I quickly spotted some blows in my binoculars and we headed that way. As it turned out, we were the only boat the entire time to watch the some 15 L-Pod Orcas- I didn’t mind the private show!

Many of the orphan whales of L-Pod were there today including L-84 Nissa and L-88 Wave Walker, both of whom lost their entire family and were adopted by the other L-Pod members. L-54 and her calf born in 2010 were also there. We watched as the 15 whales spread out length-wise side by side and herded salmon right towards Pender Bluffs for about a half mile, and then headed north along the shoreline continuing to surface in synchronicity. With the evergreens in the background and the puff, puff, puff of the whales spouts in the air, it truly was beautiful.

The day get’s better though, on our way home Captain Craig found us some dalls porpoise to play with! We engaged them with our boat (carefully), and they began happily playing in our boat wake. You could see them gliding effortlessly and very quickly though the water right next to and under our boat! These porpoises are so much fun!! Probably one of the top 3 days of the month! Great guests, great whales, and great wildlife. I love my job :)

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