Posts Tagged ‘Orcas’

K Pod Back in Action!

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Captain Mike, Naturalists Emily and Kevin, and guests on board the Sea Lion were lucky enough to see K Pod on yesterday’s Whale Watch Tour!  This is the first tour of the year where we were able to view our Southern Resident Killer Whales.  K Pod, comprised of 19 individual orcas, returned in full to the waters surrounding San Juan Island.  This pod was spread out into 3 traveling groups, all headed east from Victoria, B.C. towards the west side of San Juan Island.  K Pod is typically seen the least amount of the 3 resident orca pods, so we all hope that this is a good omen for the coming summer and the 2014 salmon run!  While traveling guests were able to see several great spy hops.  Orcas spy hop so they can check out what is happening above the water.  They are just as curious about us, as we are about them!

Besides great views of K Pod, guests were also treated to almost 20 Stellar Sea Lions at Whale Rocks!  At 10 feet long and up to 2,000lbs Stellars are the largest of the Sea Lion family.

K Pod, Stellars, and so much sun it felt like summer,  it was a great day on the water!

Naturalist Emily

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Transient Orcas at Henry Island

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Another fabulous day on San Juan Island! Our Owner and Captain Brian was out on the water today and spotted transient orcas near Henry Island late this morning.  T18 was out with the T19 group hunting in Open Bay and off Battleship Island.  We often see these transient orcas in the summer months as well.  Harbor seals were the main course this morning, a favorite of transient orcas.  Brian observed lots a vocalizations after the hunt was over.  Transients are often seen “celebrating” after a kill, the sign of a happy and full orca.

Battleship Island is a nature preserve and heavily populated with harbor seals.  The harbor seals enjoy the large kelp bed that surrounds the small rock island.  In the summer time harbor seal pups are often seen laying on top of the kelp.  It is not wonder that it is also a favorite diner for transient orcas!

Emily

Reservations Manager, San Juan Safaris

J Pod Braves the Waves

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

J Pod made an appearance this past week traveling through Haro Strait.  With exceptionally high winds this week, the Haro has been rougher than usual, but this did not stop J Pod from trudging through.  In the summer months the Haro Strait is often very calm, as it is very protected by Vancouver Island.  During winter months, the normally placid waters around San Juan, can become windswept and whitecaped.

Of the 3 Southern Resident Pods, J Pod stays closest to home during the winter months.  K and L pods are often spotted off the coast of Oregon and California.  K and Ls are sometimes seen as far south as Monterey Bay California.  Each summer the 3 South Resident Pods return to the waters surrounding San Juan Island in order to feed upon salmon that are traveling to the Fraser River in Canada.   Salmon run past the west side of San Juan Island in high concentrations, making it an excellent place to grab a bite to eat.

We hope to see all of the Southern Residents eating up a storm this coming summer season!

Emily

Office Manager, San Juan Safaris

Sunshine on Valentines Day

Friday, February 14th, 2014

San Juan Island has seen just about every type of weather in the last week. Currently, it is everyone’s favorite: blue skies and sunny! We are hoping this weather lasts. All of the sunshine is making it feel like summer is right around the corner. We are already gearing up for the season and taking many reservations for 2014.

While we have not seen orcas recently, there was a Grey whale that popped into Puget Sound to say “hello” earlier this week.  Grey whales are baleen whales, or mysticetes, at eat benthic invertebrates through a process called “mucking”.  Grey whales lay the side of their mouth on the bottom of the sea floor and muck up the invertebrates.  This process often causes the Grey whale to have one side of its face free of barnacles and possibly a misshaped head.  We hope the Grey whales decide to visit us more often this summer!

With love in the air and cetaceans on the mind, we hope the coming season is the best yet!

Emily

San Juan Safaris

Whales+Snow= A Great Weekend

Monday, February 10th, 2014

J-Pod, and L-87, made an appearance in the San Juans this weekend. Vocalizations were heard over the hydrophone at Lime Kiln State Park Saturday night. As to their current location, some faint vocalizations were picked up on the Port Townsend hydrophone, but nobody has seen or heard from them sense. A group of possibly 30 transient orcas were spotted up in Canadian waters this weekend as well.

While the snow has turned to rain here on San Juan Island, the flakes are still coming down on Mt. Baker. Baker already has 8 new inches in the last 12 hours, and it is supposed to keep on coming. We hope you have a chance to go play in the snow this week!

Emily
Office Manager
San Juan Safaris

Magic All Around

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Today the M/V Sea Lion left Friday Harbor with good reports of black and whites on the west side of San Juan Island. As a naturalist, I always like it when there is a high probability of seeing not only whales, but more specifically, Orcas. It was also naturalist, Andrew’, last time on the water for the season. So, with hopes set high by myself and the guests on board we headed out towards Salmon Bank where the whales were reported to be foraging. Our hopes would be met throughout the entire trip.

As soon as we got to Whale Rocks, we saw some incredible behavior from our steller sea lion friends. They were hauled out, roaring, flippering, playing in the water, and just giving us a great demonstration of how huge they really are. These guys are all of 2,000 pounds! Really impressive… and somewhat intimidating when they pop up right next to our boat with open mouths full of teeth!

On to our Orcas! We motored out from Whale Rocks and were pretty much instantly surrounded by foraging Orcas. They were everywhere you looked stretching across the horizon. Whales were breaching, tail slapping, and vocalizing like crazy! One of our guests was actually brought to tears because she was so engulfed by the magic that these Orcas poses. They really have a way of sparking all sorts of emotion in us, they are incredible beings that have no comparison. I identified J27- Blackberry and L44- Mega.

Mega was traveling with his usual harem of females and their young. Mega has been known to “babysit” the little ones, giving the mothers a chance to take a break and relax! Babysitting is very important in Southern Resident Orca culture, enough so that some scientist speculate females will have more male offspring first, then later have female calves. Male Resident Orcas will stay with their mother for their entire life, taking care of their little sister or niece is just something they were born to do. It’s not surprising some people are brought to tears by the kind actions of our whales.

I almost forgot to mention, the magic didn’t stop there either, on our way home we were all in for a treat because popping up right in front of our boat were dalls porpoise!!! This is only the second time I have seen dalls porpoise and was just as excited as the guests to encounter them. Our Captain, Craig seems to be a magnet for them. For some reason, if they are anywhere in the Salish Sea, they will find Craig! We engaged them and they road our bow and stern waves. It was pretty cool!

Yep… it was one magical day indeed! Over and out!

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

Southern Resident Killer Whales Get Down!

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

When I heard the vocalizations of orcas at the Lime Kiln hydrophone this morning, I knew it would be an entertaining day. The whale chatter seemed excited and endless!

Several hours later when we were viewing the same animals from the M/V Sea Lion, they were still partying hard. We watched a large group of Southern Resident Killer Whales begin to disperse as they entered Boundary Pass from Turn Point, heading toward the Pender Island bluffs. Soon small socializing groups of whales were spread across the horizon. Lob-tailing seemed to be the most popular form of expression, but we also watched several spyhops, and some full body breaching as well. I also saw a few “Pink Floyds”…if you will…indicating the amorous state of some of the large bulls. A mere seventeen months from now, a new mother may recount the whole tale to her new born calf.

Andrew
Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

Sunny Days with Transient Orcas

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

As the sun beat down on Captain Craig, the guests, and I we enjoyed a cool breeze as we left the harbor. With temperatures near 80 degrees today, everyone was thankful to be out on the water! We were lucky enough to have positive reports of transient orcas in Canadian waters. We arrived on scene near Gooch Island to find about 8 transient orcas milling in a kelp bed. After traveling past Mandarte Island the orcas appeared to find something to eat! While, it all happened under water, it was clear that the group had found something tasty! After a good meal, there were lots of tail slaps, cartwheels, and plenty of breaches! With two small calfs in the group, it was nice to see some young blood!

All in all, it was a gorgeous sunny day spent with whales!

Naturalist Emily
M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Orcas, Humpback, and Minke Whales all in one Trip?!?

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

What a day, I don’t even know where to begin on this blog! Today was one of those days (we seem to have those quite frequently) where you just couldn’t look anywhere without seeing something cool! We had a whale “Trifecta” day where we saw a Minke Whale, Humpback Whale, and Orcas! It was incredible. We no sooner got done looking at our Humpback (which decided to surface literally three feet from our boat) and we had another whale to look at! I think our major problem today was deciding how long to spend with each whale!

These whales are all a very important part of the ecosystem dynamics and feed on different things. The baleen whales (Humpbacks and Minkes) feed on small schooling fish like Krill, San Lance and Herring while the Transient Orcas may feed on them. I was a little concerned for Mr.Minke when the Transient- mammal hunting- Orcas went right through the area that we were viewing the Minke whale from. It wasn’t too long ago when a Minke whale was attacked and killed by a small group of Transient Orcas… However, it looks like both the Minke and Humpback will live to see another day; something I must admit I’m pretty happy about!

We had sunny skys, little wind, calm water and happy guests. We also saw lots of Steller Sea Lions, Porpoise, and Harbor Seals. With the close encounters both of our whale watching boats received from all three whales today, this day is going to be hard to beat!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion and Kittiwake

San Juan Safaris

 

 

Transient Killer Whale Play Time!

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

With the sun on our backs, Captain Craig, Naturalist Aimee, and I headed north out of Friday Harbor. Earlier in the morning we had received word of a group of Transient Orcas in the area, and we were eager to catch up to these beautiful animals! We arrived on scene with a trailing group at the south west end of Stuart Island. The trailers consisted of four whales that were traveling north toward Turn Point. At Turn Point we were joined by another group and had at least nine Transient Orcas around us! The guests and I were thrilled to see lots of tail slaps, porpoising, and even synchronized breaching! The group of Transient Orcas looked like they got at least one great meal along the way, which gave them plenty to celebrate!

With awesome views of Transient Orcas, fabulous guests, and a whole lot of sunshine, it was a wonderful day on the water!

Naturalist Emily
M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris