Posts Tagged ‘Orcas’

Active Orcas in Active Pass

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

Today the Sea Lion was crewed by Captain Mike and naturalists Mike and Alex. We were joined by Captain Jim and naturalist Rachel on the Kittiwake out on the water today! We had lots of happy, adventurous and curious passengers and reports of whales! J Pod had been spotted in Canadian waters so we headed North out of Friday Harbor up toward boundary pass. We made our way up through Plumper Sound to Active pass, which connects Boundary Pass to the Strait of Georgia.

J Pod is a faction of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population, the only pipulation that is federally recognized as endangered. Their diet consists mainly of Chinook salmon that return to the Salish Sea from the open ocean in order to spawn in the Frasier river. They enter through the Strait of Juan de Fuca and get pushed up against the west side of San Juan Island as they head north towards Boundary Pass and Georgia Strait up into the Frasier river, where they will exert the remaining energy of their life to spawn. The resident Orcas tend to swim along this same path towards the estuary, eating salmon as they go.

Today was no different, we caught up with most of J Pod in Active Pass including the J17, J19 and J22 matrilines. We got some great views of J27 (Blackberry) and J51, a new calf of J19. It’s always incredible to see the imposing 6 foot tall dorsal fin of a mature male and always fun to see a baby whale porpoising along behind its mom.

We followed these whales all the way through the pass out into the Strait of Georgia where they became extremely happy and began spyhopping and breaching! After they calmed down a bit we headed off to let them be whales. Just when we thought we were out of whales, we came up on a Humpback just as it was blowing! it came up for a few more breaths before aounding and ahowing its flukes. We took that as a wave goodbye and began the journey back to Friday Harbor.

Along the way we saw lots of harbor seals and harbor porpoise, the former hauled out and enjoying the sun and the latter appearing above the water briefly to breaths before slipping back beneath the surface.

A really nice, beautiful day on the water with fantastic wildlife sightings in the San Juans!

 

Naturalist Mike J

M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

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

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

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

Orcas at East Point

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

Today Captain Mike left the dock with rumors of Orcas from J pod near Saturna Island. As we made our way north out of Friday Harbor, we had calm water and awesome views of bald eagles, harbor seals and even a few harbor porpoise. After cruising in gorgeous weather with views of the San Juan Islands, we arrived at Java rocks to see Killer whales from J pod! after seeing several females and the dorsal fin of a tiny calf, we realized that it was the J 16 matriline. The whole crew was present, including the matriarch J 16 (slick), her daughters J 36 (Alki) and J 42 (Echo) and her very recognizable son J 26 (Mike). In addition we saw J 50 and J 52, two of the newest additions to J pod! Both of these calves are descendants of Slick, J 50 is her daughter (making Slick, at age 42, the oldest female to have a calf) and J 52 is the daughter of Alki. Slick must still be excited about being a new mother and grandmother, because we saw her perform a series of very impressive breaches! There is nothing like seeing a full grown, black and white killer whale completely out of the water.

At first the pod was quite spread out, but we did get to see them come together, some great breaching, some very cute calf swimming, and some tail in the air as some pod members did some synchronous diving. That was our cue to say goodbye and begin heading back down south. On our return journey, we got to see some more bald eagles on Spieden island and lots of seals hanging out on some exposed rocks near the Cactus Islands. All in all a great trip with some wonderful weather, fantastic whale sightings and good times had by all!

Naturalist Mike J

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

www.sanjuansafaris.com

A J Pod Encounter on the West Side

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

Captain Mike, Naturalist Emily, and myself took our guests out on the M/V Sea Lion for what turned turned out to be a stellar trip today. We had reports of members of J Pod in the Haro Strait, so we sped up and around the North end of San Juan Island there right from the Harbor. Not long after entering the open strait we had our first sighting!

L87, who travels with J2, was the first animal we saw. He popped up a few times in the Haro and we followed him South, his tall dorsal fin dipping through the waves with Spieden Island in the background. Soon after following him down the strait, we  ran into a larger group of J Pod and were witness to a bevy of breaches, spy hops, and cavorting youngsters. This was a real treat so early in the season. While it was hard to tell in all the activity, it looked as if the newest youngster of J Pod, J51 was cavorting in the waves. Calves are certainly noticeable by size, but they really stand out because of their coloration, an off orange that is a result of a less developed layer of insulating blubber, apparent on this young one.

After continuing to enjoy the whales as they headed South with the ebb, we took a calm tour through Mosquito Pass between Henry and San Juan Island. Along the way we enjoyed a quick view of a California Sea Lion and some nice close looks at Long-tailed and Harlequin Ducks. Rounding off an already excellent day, we cruised the shoreline of Spieden Island for some looks at the introduced sheep and deer on land, Bald Eagles in the air, and basking Steller Sea Lions in the water. We couldn’t have asked for a better early season tour with Southern Residents and wildlife galore!

Naturalist Brendan

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Transient Orcas Abound Around San Juan

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

What a beautiful day on the water!  Guests aboard the M/V Sea Lion, along with Captain Mike, Naturalist Brendan, and I departed the dock in Friday Harbor with word of orcas near the south end of San Juan Island.  Naturalist Brendan was the first to spot these whales on his ferry commute from Shaw Island!

After viewing harbor seals hauled out on the rocks and Steller Sea Lions rafting in the water, we motored out towards the group of 8 transient orcas located near Hein Bank.  With water like glass, the full Cascade Range, including Baker, in view, and beautiful sunny skies, it was a beautiful day to watch whales.  The group of transient orcas were feeding and displaying many surface behaviors.  The gulls also appreciated a free meal as they snacked on the mess left behind by the orcas.

After watching the orcas in the sun, we began motoring towards home and even got to see several Bald Eagles along the way!  All in all, it was one for the books!

Naturalist Emily

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Transient Orcas on the West Side

Saturday, March 7th, 2015

With guests aboard and the sun on our backs, we were feeling lucky just being out on the water.   To make the day even better, a call came in that there were transient orcas on the west side of San Juan  Island!  We motored around the north end of San Juan and caught up with two of the members of the T137s near Lime Kiln State Park  We followed the pair north to Henry Island where they made a kill, which was likely a harbor seal.  After the commotion of the hunt, the other two members of the group came out of no where to enjoy the meal!  These orcas were spotted over a hundred miles north in Nanaimo BC just yesterday!

On the way home we saw many Bald Eagles and Steller Sea Lions hanging out on Spieden Island.  We cannot wait to be back on the water next week!

Naturalist Emily

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Another Baby Orca for 2015!

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Late last week another baby orca was spotted in the Salish Sea and confirmed by the Center for Whale Research.  The newest member belongs to J Pod and is designated J51.  The calf of 36 year old J19 seemed to be happy and healthy as it swam alongside its mother.  It is estimated that the calf is about a week and a half old.  J50, born at the end of 2014, was also spotted looking healthy and energetic.  J50 has even been confirmed a female, which is great news for J Pod.  The first year of life for baby orcas can be very difficult and we certainly hope these two little ones make it!  The birth of J51 brings the population up to 79 animals and we are very excited at the upward trend.  We can only hope there are more baby orcas to come!

Naturalist Emily

San Juan Safaris