Posts Tagged ‘Orca whale’

Krazy Ks on the West Side!

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Naturalist Rachel, Captain Pete and I were very excited for our day on the M/V Sea Lion. The sun was shining, our guests were chipper, and we had positive whale reports leaving the dock! A positive whale report leaving the dock does not necessarily guarantee whale sightings, but it always gives you that lucky feeling in the pit of your stomach.

We cruised south this afternoon through San Juan Channel and around Cattle Point Lighthouse at the southern tip of San Juan Island. We were treated to great views of the surrounding mountain ranges, including 14,409 foot tall Mt. Rainier a whopping 110 miles away! The water was glassy this afternoon, which made for a smooth trip up the West Side of San Juan, but I was certainly grateful to be wrapped in my fleece while we traveling at full speed.

True to our report (Man, I love it when that happens!), we ended up meeting a group of Southern Resident killer whales right outside of False Bay. Much to our delight, Rachel and I realized that we were looking at some of K Pod, one of our three Resident, fish-eating, pods in the area. K Pod is currently the smallest of the three Resident pods, made up of 19 whales in three different matrilines, or family units. To identify the whales we look at their dorsal fins (the fins on their backs) and the gray marking right behind that fin, called the saddle patch. These are as unique to the individual whales as our fingerprints are to us! We identified members of the K14 matriline as well as the K13 matriline, some of our very favorite families.

K26 Lobo surfacing

Mother-Son Pair K20 Spock and K38 Comet

K25 Scoter of the K13 matriline

After spending about and hour watching the whales fishing and traveling down island we peeled away to go have a look for some sea lions and bald eagles. We found a lone Steller’s sea lion lounging on a rock, soaking up some rays. These formidable animals can grow up to about 12 feet long and can weigh right around 2,500 pounds! We were also able to track down a bald eagle just inside of Cattle Pass on San Juan Island. They are easiest to spot when you keep an eye out for their white heads and tail feathers against the green of the evergreen trees lining the islands. We pulled back into Friday Harbor feeling giddy about the quality of wildlife viewing we had experienced. What an incredible afternoon on the water!

Naturalist Sarah

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

J16s in Boundary Pass

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

Today Captain Brian, Naturalist Rachel and I headed North towards Canadian waters, with reports of part of one of our Resident, salmon-eating pods, J Pod traveling along Saturna Island’s shore. As we arrived on scene, Captain Brian did a wonderful job maneuvering so that we were not only saying the legal limit away from the whales (100 meters in Canadian waters), but also getting the best looks possible. We quickly realized that we were looking at one of the current famous families in the Southern Resident population, the J16 matriline! This family is one of the more charasmatic, and has made news in the past months after J16 Slick gave birth to her forth calf J50, and that J16′s daughter J36 Alki gave birth to her first calf J52. Both calves were present today and we got excellent looks at each of them! The water was calm, the sky was a bit cloudy, and we had an incredible time out on the water!

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

North of the Wall: Transients are Coming

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Today was a very exciting day. We left the dock without any reports of whales. No humpback whales, no minke whales and unfortunately no reports of orcas. We started to steam North keeping our eyes out for any signs of marine mammals. We had the most amazing fly-over by a mature bald eagle and enjoyed traveling up the east side of Waldron Island through Presidents Channel under clear blue skies. Suddenly our Northern bet payed off, as some tall, black dorsal fins cut through the waves around Patos Island. TRANSIENT KILLER WHALES! We were lucky enough to join two family groups as they hunted and socialized in the Strait of Georgia around Alden Bank. We were fortunate enough to witness the groups make at least a couple of kills, and watch the two females present with the group spend time teaching their young ones the ways of being an orca… everything from how to best kill a seal to how to breach and slap the surface of the water with their tails. What a treat! On the way home we got to take a closer look at some harbor seals hauled out on some rocks. These small pinnipeds are at their carrying capacity on this ecosystem, meaning that they are at their maximum population that can be supported. They are adorable to see bobbing in the water! These are the days that really make me appreciate our sighting network, and our ability to go the distance to find whales. If you board our boat and we have no report of whales do not be discouraged, a lot of the time we end up finding them… because just like winter in Westeros, the whales are always coming.

Memorable Day with the Js!

Saturday, June 6th, 2015

Today Captain Mike and I headed out of Friday Harbor under a beautiful blue sky dotted with the most perfect puffy white clouds. Heading south around Cattle point we had J pod on our minds. Today we were very fortunate to have received a report from other whale watching boats before we left the dock, something that does not happen everyday! We met up with J Pod just east of Victoria, BC, well into Canadian waters… no need to pack your passports though, as long as we do not touch down on Canadian shores or touch another vessel no need for official documentation. When we met up with J Pod they were in resting formation, grouped all together and breathing in synchrony. Throughout our encounter we saw dramatic shifts in the group’s behavioral patterns. From resting, to traveling, to socializing, to fishing, J pod provided a fully range of orca behaviors today! After spending some time with J Pod, we headed to Long Island to check out a bald eagle nest, and very happily found an adult bad eagle not too far away. Bald eagles are amazing creatures, reaching a height of 3 feet tall with a 6 foot wingspan, and building nests that are around 6 feet deep and that can weigh over 2000 pounds! We finished off the day by observing some harbor seals sunning themselves on Whale Rocks.

What an amazing day observing so much wildlife in their natural habitats!

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

J Pod off Turn Point

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Today we left Friday Harbor with reports of Jpod heading up the west side of San Juan Island.  On our way to the whales we stopped by a group of foraging bald eagles.  There were about 9 bald eagles grouped together by Ripple Island.  There was a combination of adult and juvenile bald eagles.  Until about the age of 5 bald eagles will be completely brown with light spots throughout their body, causing them to be commonly mistaken for golden eagles.  After leaving the bald eagles we headed towards Turn Point where we were planning on meeting the whales during their travels.  We first came upon the J19′s including the new baby J51.  As we watched the J19′s we realized that all of the 27 whales in J pod were present in the area.  We watched a great deal of social behavior such as spy hopping and  kelping!  Kelping is when the whales drape the bull kelp stems and leaves across their body as they swim through the water.  We also got some great looks at J35 (Tahlequah) and her son J47 (Notch).  We enjoyed watching the whales this afternoon and think that our guests enjoyed themselves as well!

Naturalist Rachel

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

A Great day for Js!

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

After shooting to the North last Saturday night, J Pod had disappeared. The whale watching fleet had gotten no reports and all of the hydrophones in the Salish Sea had been silent to the melodious calls of the Js…. UNTIL THIS MORNING! We got to the M/V Sea Lion and had a flurry of reports of all 28 members of J Pod traveling south down the West Side of San Juan Island. And were they ever! It was like watching whale popcorn out on the water today, everywhere you looked there was a whale breaching out of the water, pec slapping, tail lobbing, or cartwheeling. We got looks at all three of the new J Pod calves (J50, J51, J52), awesome views of the J22 matriline (J22 Oreo, J34 Doublestuf, J38 Cookie), as well as crowd favorites J27 Blackberry, J31 Tsuchi and J39 Mako. After leaving the whales we headed to Whale Rocks right off the Southern Tip of San Juan to view some Steller’s sea lions. These guys can grow to be about 12 feet long and right around 2000 pounds! We rounded off the day with a great view of a bald eagle! It was an absolutely amazing day that none of us will soon forget!

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

San Juan T Party!

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

Much like the infamous night in Boston Harbor, the waters around San Juan Island were full of Ts…. transient orcas that is! Also known as Bigg’s killer whales these impressive creatures eat other marine mammals, with harbor seals making up 60% of their diet. This afternoon and evening we were treated to two amazing transient-filled trips! This afternoon at 12:00 we found the T65A matriline with the T75B matriline, as well as the HUGE male T51 (born 1981). The most exciting sighting of the day was of the new calf in the T65A matriline. This new little one joins a whole host of new orca calves, both resident and transient, here in the Salish Sea!

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

New Orca Calf is a Girl!

Friday, January 9th, 2015

There is a lot of mystery surrounding new baby orca J50, but one thing is now clear.  It’s a girl!  The telling photograph was snapped and everyone could not be happier with the results.  A healthy population needs females in order to continue matrilines and produce more offspring.  Currently the Southern Resident Killer Whale population has more breeding age males than females, which does not bode well for future offspring.  We can only hope that little J50 survives this first crucial year and then continues to grow and thrive into adulthood.  Females typically become sexually mature around 13 years of age and will typically have 4 calves in a lifetime.  Orcas travel in matrilines, which means that the group is defined by the mothers, so it is very exciting that the J16 matriline continues to grow.

Speaking of J16, researchers are now unclear if she is indeed the mother or grandmother.  J50 has rake marks on her dorsal fin, and researches think that another orca helped with the birth of the new orca calf.  Orcas are very social and intelligent creatures, making an orca midwife not too far fetched.  J36, J16′s daughter, is another possible candidate for being J50′s mother. J16, at 43 years of age, would be the oldest known orca to give birth to a healthy calf.  At 16 years of age, J36, has yet to have a calf and everyone has been eagerly awaiting the day.  J16 was not on scene with the rest of her family when J50 was first observed and it is possible she was recovering from a tough delivery and letting grandma do a little baby sitting.  J50 has been observed leaving J16′s side, which leads some to believe that she is not the mother, as typically calves never leave mom’s side.  Through further encounters and observation, we hope to figure out the mystery surrounding J50′s birth.  For now, we are just happy that the little orca seems happy, healthy, and playful!

Naturalist Emily

San Juan Safaris Whale Watching

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