Posts Tagged ‘Orca whale’

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Although the beautiful, sunny skies were replaced by clouds and grey skies today, our spirits were not dampened; we were all equipped with a sense of adventure and eager to spend the afternoon exploring the Salish Sea.  And, we were not disappointed. 

Within minutes of departing Friday Harbor and entering the San Juan Channel we were rewarded with a large, male Steller Sea Lion enjoying his lunch.  The Sea Lion would emerge with a fish in his mouth, aggressively thrash the fish about at the surface, tearing bits of meat off the carcass, and send the fish remains flying.  He would then retrieve the fish and repeat his foraging routine. 

As we cruised along Spieden Island, we saw dozens of the exotic Mouflon Sheep and Fallow Deer.  And as we turned the corner of Sentinel Island, over 30 Harbor Seals were crammed on a small rocky outcrop, enjoying a relaxing afternoon. 

Our journey continued along Stuart Island where we had our first sightings of Killer Whales!  Over 20 Southern Resident Killer Whales were spread out between Haro Strait, Spieden Channel, and Stuart Island.  The whales were initially headed north before they changed direction and began to travel east through New Channel. 

We were surrounded by whales; they were seen in all directions.  Among the whales we identified Scoter (K25) and Cali (K34), Scoter’s younger brother.  Also, we identified Onyx (L87) another large male born in 1992.  Although the whales seemed to be spending most of their time foraging or traveling, a few individuals were performing aerial displays: breaching, lobtailing, and pec-slapping.  With so many whales in the area and the flat calm waters we decided to drop the hydrophone, an underwater microphone, to see if we could hear the whales vocalizing.  While sitting with our engines off listening to the whales exhale at the surface and vocalize and echolocate from below, a group of four whales changed direction and came in for a closer look.  We were mesmerized as the whales traveled along the port side of the vessel, while their vocalizations echoed throughout our boat.

Boy, my job sure is amazing!

Naturalist Amy, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching and Wildlife Tours

 

A-MAZ-ING Day!

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

We had reports of Transient Killer Whales near Victoria, B.C. today.  When the animals are reported this far away we do have to do a bit of traveling but fortunately the Killer Whales were traveling east and headed our direction. 

As we were motoring through the Strait of Juan de Fuca to reach the whales we saw 5 Dall’s Porpoise.  The Dall’s Porpoise were actively foraging in the highly productive region.  After a few minutes of viewing these animals we continued on our way when we spotted a Minke Whale!  The Minke Whale surfaced twice before diving.  We knew the whale would be down for several minutes so again we continued on our journey but, it was only a matter of minutes when we came across a number of Harbor Porpoise.  The Harbor Porpoise were also taking advantage of the abundance of prey and were actively foraging.  Then, it wasn’t much further before we spotted the Transient Killer Whales! 

There were 8-9 whales headed north between Middle Bank and Discovery Island (48°23.02N, 123°12.54W).  This was a rather large group for the Transient Killer Whales who are known to be very stealthy and elusive.  Initially the whales were traveling in a tight group but as we continued watching them they began to spread out and form two smaller groups.  They were still traveling within close range of each other; one group of whales was only a few body lengths ahead of the other group.  On two different occasions we saw several of the whales circling and diving in a small area while several seagulls were swooping in from above…it turns out the Killer Whales were having a late lunch evident by the remains of what we suspect were Harbor Porpoise, based on our earlier sightings, floating at the surface.  When it was time to head back to Friday Harbor the Transient Killer Whales had once again formed a tighter group and were traveling in close proximity of one another.

Then it was time to return to Friday Harbor but just because we were leaving the whales didn’t mean the tour was over.  On the way back we saw several more Harbor Porpoise and a number of Harbor Seals.  At Whale Rocks over 30 Steller Sea Lions were littering the island, sprawled out and resting or walking about and grumbling at each other.  While another 6 Steller Sea Lions had decided to take a dip in the frigid, 48 F waters. 

Naturalist Amy, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching and Wildlife Tours

Whale Soup.

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Southern Resident Killer Whales were spread out from Salmon Bank to False Bay today (48°26.51N, 123°02.29W). 

We viewed at least 20 individual whales but there were a number of other Killer Whales seen in all directions further in the distance.  We were in whale soup.  The whales were spread out traveling west.  There were so many whales at one point we shut off our engines, dropped the hydrophone to listen to the whales vocalize, and simply watched the whales go by.  With our engines off we were also able to hear the exhales of the whales as they surfaced. 

As we began to motor back to Friday Harbor we saw another group of Killer Whales bringing up the rear.  We stopped and watched these animals cruise by and again began to motor back.  We didn’t get very far though before another group of 8 Killer Whales surfaced.  These whales were traveling in very close proximity with one another and included J37 “Hy’Shqa” and her calf J49!

Naturalist Amy, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching and Wildlife Tours

 

L-pod basking in the sunshine…

Friday, August 31st, 2012

We had a fabulous trip to the south side of San Juan Island today.  Sunny skies and calm waters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca made for incredible whale watching!  After seeing several harbor seals cruising through Cattle Pass, we encountered the Steller sea lions on Whale Rocks.  At least ten were lounging in the sun.  As we headed into the strait, we saw several members of the resident L-pod actively feeding offshore of South Beach (48°26N, 123°00W).  First we saw members of the L12 matriline, including L41 “Mega”.  He was switching directions and slowly coming to the surface.  At one point he rolled on his back and slapped the water with his pectoral fins and tail.  It looked like he was doing the backstroke!  We also saw L94 “Calypso” with her calf L113 “Molly”.  “Molly” was very active, splashing, rolling, tail-slapping.  L77 “Matia” was also spotted with her calf L119 born earlier in 2012.  After observing these special mammals, we headed back to Friday Harbor.  So thankful for another day to see these orcas in the wild.

SJS Naturalist Jenny

They’re Back!

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

As we traveled south we had amazing views of Harbor Seals and Steller Sea Lions.  Both species were taking their afternoon siestas, soaking up the sunshine.  Many of the Harbor Seals were resting in a “banana” pose, keeping their head and hind flippers raised out of the frigid, 49°F water.   Whereas, the Steller Sea Lions were sprawled out across the island, making even the most jagged rocks look comfortable.

We then caught up with four Southern Resident Killer Whales near False Bay.  This group of Killer Whales included Cappuccino (K21) a mature male born in 1985, as well as, Opus (K16) and her son Sonata (K32).  The whales were initially traveling southeast before changing direction and double-backing to the west.   Further to the west we spent time viewing another group of Killer Whales near Pile Point (48°28.0017N, 123°05.6076W).  All in all there were roughly 20 whales spread out along the southern end of San Juan Island.  Although the whales were largely spending their time traveling, a few individuals performed aerial displays; in total we saw 5 breaches!  Crazy AWESOME! 

Amy, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris

Transient orcas…on the move!

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

We journeyed north around San Juan Island today, first passing Spieden Island en route to Haro Strait.  Several mouflon sheep and sitka deer were feeding and resting on the hillside of Spieden Island.  Somehow they can carefully traverse the cliffs just above the chilly waters.  We circled exposed rocks to the southwest of the island where six harbor seals were resting.  We spotted at least one pup.  After we were south of Henry Island (48°35.33N, 123°12.53W) we began to see spray…the spray of four transient orcas!  They were moving towards the northeast, hugging the shoreline.  We believe this group included T19B.  Just to the west, closer to Sydney Island (48°37.30N, 123°15.69W), we observed another group of four transients, possibly T60s, milling and then moving to the northeast.  Upon our return to Friday Harbor, we encountered two bald eagles sitting together at the very top of a tree on the north side of Spieden Island.  The appeared to be watching the surface waters for their next meal.  Calm day on the water with so many things to see!

SJS Naturalist Jenny

Enter to Win – Win by Having Tons of Fun Seattle to San Juan

Friday, August 24th, 2012

If You’re Willing to Go the Extra Mile… Then So Are We!

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

And that we did today…

With no Orca whale reports in US waters, we decided to “go for it” today, extending our tour, to make the extra trek far north into Canadian waters to see our Southern Residents. We were one of two boats from San Juan Island to make the trip, and man was it worth it!!!

Headed southeast in the Strait of Georgia, we found the K13’s whom were about a mile offshore, north of the coal docks, outside of Vancouver, Canada (48°59.37N 123°10.67W). They were initially traveling, tight knit, and moving together as one, but before we knew it their playfulness kicked in. One adult female began breaching 5 times in a row, and quickly after, an adult male followed in suit.

After watching them for a while they began to break off into smaller groups to forage. 

It may have taken the extra mile, or 30, but there is nothing like be amongst the Southern Residents.

Naturalist Tara, San Juan Safaris

Great start to the week…K-pod!

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Today we enjoyed the August sunshine on our trip to the south side of San Juan Island.  We encountered glassy and calm waters  coming through Cattle Pass, and a great view of the Olympic Mountains.  As we came upon Whale Rock, we observed several harbor seals and then ten LARGE Steller sea lions resting.  The sea lions were crowding each other for space and we heard a couple of them vocalizing and grunting!  Then we turned west into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and noticed several large bait balls collected along south shore.  The sea birds were going wild!  We could hear the calls of the common murre, as many were out feeding.  Cormorants, gulls, and rhinoceros auklets were congregating in the area too.  Members of the resident orca group K-pod were close by, including K-27 “Deadhead” feeding by False Bay (48°28’316N, 123°05’047W).  Three other members of the K13 matriline were around, including a male, likely K-25 “Scoter”.  At one point we witnessed SIX BREACHES in a row!  What a sight.  As we returned to Friday Harbor, we basked in the summer warmth and memories of the amazing K-pod.

SJS Naturalist Jenny

Southern Resident Killer Whales!

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Killer Whales from both K- and L-Pods were headed north along the westside of San Juan Island. The whales were reported heading north from Lime Kiln State Park. We caught up with the leaders near Open Bay (48°34.824N, 123°11.685W) who were mostly members of K-Pod. We traveled with these whales to Kellett Bluff where we waited for the rest of the group to travel north. We saw over 15 whales as they cruised by. At times we were surrounded by whales as a few individuals were traveling further offshore as well as the whales that were seen ahead and behind us; we didn’t know in which direction to look! It was wonderful. Since the seas were flat calm, we even had a chance to turn off the engine and just enjoy the sunshine and the whales, listening to them exhale as they surfaced. Sigh. It was marvelous.

Amy, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching and Wildlife Tours