Posts Tagged ‘Orcas’

K pod madness!!!

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Sunday July 13th was a another beautiful day in the Salish sea and we spent 2 great trips with k pod on the west side and south side of San Juan Island. On both trips we got some great sightings of the k13s Skagit and her offspring  and grandchildren. It was awesome for our guests to see the whales fishing and pretty much swimming back and for along the shoreline the entire trip.  That wasn’t the only wildlife we saw!  As we were heading home we got to spotted a male stellar seal nearly full grown! These guys can be huge, and weigh close to 2500 pounds!!!!

It has been great to have Kpod stick around so much the last couple of weeks to get some quality time with them! Hope they are here tomorrow!!

 

M/v Sea Lion

Chelsea

Happy Whales!

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Howdy from a very sunny and warm Friday Harbor!

This afternoon we had an awesome trip out on the Salish Sea. We left the harbor and immediately had a bald eagle fly over our boat, and a little while later we had an eagle fishing right off the bow! Eagles cannot retract their talons once they have sunk them into a fish, so they have to be careful about the size of fish that they attempt to catch. A fish that is too large might pull the eagle under the water, so they are very selective! After going south around Cattle Point we caught up with some orcas on Salmon Bank. We spent some time with that group and then left them to catch up with another reported group on the west side of San Juan Island. We arrived on scene and Naturalist Heather and I were very excited to see two of our very favorite mother/calf pairs: Deadhead (K27) & Ripple (K44), and Spock (K20) & Comet (K38). We had some very nice looks at the whales and even had a chance to drop our hydrophone in the water to hear the whales vocalizing all around us! Each pod in the Southern Resident community has a different vocalization pattern, so you can identify different pods based upon the unique sounds that they make!

It doesn’t get better than beautiful weather and happy whales!

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

 

Whale Search!

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Today we arrived at the M/V Sea Lion with a report of Resident orcas traveling quickly to the southwest. Naturalist Aimee, Captain Pete and I consulted and decided that we would try to catch up with them! Orcas can swim over 100 miles in a single day and can reach speeds in excess of 35 miles per hour. We had a great group on board today who were very excited to be out on the water. We all were hoping that the orcas stayed close enough so that we could catch up with them!

On the way out to the reported orcas we took a slight detour to see a humpback whale! Humpbacks were once plentiful in this area, but were extirpated when the area was heavily whaled. It has only been within the last two decades that humpbacks have begun returning. We reached the orcas just in time to witness the most breaches I have seen on a trip yet this season. The whales definitely put on a show for the boat! Guests were certainly left extremely impressed with the whales’ acrobatics. On the way back to Friday Harbor we got to see some harbor seals and porpoises. Overall it was another amazing day on the Salish Sea!

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

Misty Afternoon Spent With Killer Whales

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Well, well, well, we have whales again! It’s been a great summer with lots of whales and today was no different. Unlike the past few days, the whales decided to take a jaunt up north towards Active Pass in Canadian waters. This was quite alright with Captain Mike, Naturalist Heather, passengers aboard M/V Sea Lion, and myself, since we are always a fan of crossing over into the friendly waters of our Canadian Neighbors. Aside from the occasional warnings that pop up on your cellphone, the sheer cliff-sides and calm waters associated with the Gulf Islands are more than enough to make up for those pesky warnings. And I’d say the whales agree, since we were accompanied by not only J pod, but also members of L Pod as well!

The resident orcas appeared to be in resting mode, slowly meandering up through Swanson Channel just west of South Pender Island. Not a bad place to watch them cruising along as the fog slowly creeped along the tops of the islands, and the orcas below releasing powerful breaths. It was quite the beauty overload today, and was only enhanced by the misty afternoon weather! Here’s hoping for another true pacific northwest feeling day on the water!

 

Caitlin, Naturalist

San Juan Safaris, M/V Sea Lion

Breaching Orcas!

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Rained on and off throughout the day, but opened up to clear skies for our 2pm charter today. All passengers aboard the M/V Kittiwake were in full support of some sunshine and whales! Captain Jim is not one to disappoint, and with reports of resident orcas along the west side of San Juan Island, the whales were also in on making it a great day on the water! We made great time on our original San Juan Safaris vessel, the M/V Kittiwake, and made it just in time to see some of J pod members propelling their full bodies into the air for 2 spectacular breaches! Two seconds later and we would have missed the best part of the show. After a few breaches and a spy hop in the distance, the residents changed directions a bit and headed further northwest. The residents seemed to disperse more at this time, which is not unusual for them. Orcas rely heavily on sound- it is their main way to interact and navigate in their marine environment. They  can even hear each other over 10 miles away! Pretty incredible. We decided to stick with the residents for the remainder of our trip before we headed back to Friday Harbor with smiles on everyones face. All in all, it was a superb day for whale watching.

 

Caitlin, Naturalist, M/V Kittiwake

San Juan Safaris

J Pod Westside!

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Well you can probably guess it, but it was another beautiful day on the water! Today, Captain Pete and myself, were accompanied by a small group of passengers who were eagerly awaiting to get out on the water and find some wildlife! Captain Pete isn’t one to disappoint, and with a few sightings of Residents on the westside, M/V Sea Lion was ready to find them. Our intention was to meet up with J Pod  along the north end of San Juan Island, but the orcas had other plans for us when they decided to turn south. We had to play a bit of catch up, but once we were on scene with members of J Pod , it was well worth the effort! The resident pod was spread out along the shoreline, but all seemed to be chasing their own meals under the surface. These whales are continuously chasing down their favorite prey, chinook salmon. Chinook is the fattiest of the salmon, and makes up the majority of our resident orcas diet. Fully grown these orcas can ingest a whooping 200 to 400 lbs of salmon a day! Makes sense that these orcas are constantly on the look out for food, which is awesome for us to see the residence on the prowl! Orcas feeding makes for an awesome day whale watching!

Caitlin, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Transients on the hunt!

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Today started out a little bit iffy with some rain showers in the morning and not much in whale reports. As we were leaving Friday Harbor on MV Sea lion Captain Pete heard some great news from a fishing vessel. There were transients in Canadian waters near Saturna and  we caught up with the T065As just in time.

T065A and her four offspring were on the hunt! We watched as they did rapid dives, exhalations, tail slaps, and body rolls at the surface, then an awesome thing happened… a seal went flying through the air! The killer whales tossed a harbor seal into the air before they finished off their lunch. This is a rare occasion for whale watchers to see, most of the action happens below the surface and naturalists and guests can only guess what is happening down there. It was exciting to get a front row seat on the action this time, and that harbor seal was definitely outnumbered by these 5 killer whales. Harbor seals are a main food source for the transients here in the Salish Sea and we are expecting whales to be in this area quite a bit in the next few weeks because its almost pupping season for the harbor seals.

This whale watch is one for the books, I’m not sure there is much that can top that but I am looking forward to what the whales have in store for us this summer.

Naturalist Chelsea

MV Sea Lion

Rare Encounter with 20+ Biggs Killer Whales!

Monday, May 5th, 2014

We left our Friday Harbor location today and headed north with hopes of intercepting some killer whales that we had heard were traveling through the area. The weather definitely wasn’t cooperating- it was cold, windy, and rainy! However, a little weather never stops us when killer whales are involved! Guests soon settled in the heated cabin as we headed into the Canadian Gulf Islands. When we got on seen with the whales, what we ended up witnessing was something we never would have expected!

There were more than twenty Biggs killer whales in between Salt Spring and Portland Island, British Columbia, today. It was an incredible encounter. Biggs killer whales, or Transient killer whales, are mammal hunters; their social structure, behavior, underwater acoustics, and other aspects of their lives are highly adapted to exploit this prey resource. To see so many Transients in one area, and displaying resting behavior (which only accounts for less than 3% of their activity budget) is extremely rare. There’s really only one time where this kind of killer whale would be so docile, and that’s when they don’t have to worry about consuming prey.

We watched in awe as these magnificent animals glided through the water in their large family groups, socializing and traveling without a care. We even got to see little T065A5, a new calf who was first seen in March of this year! Other family groups included the T023s, T036’s, T100’s, T101A, T102, and T124’s. It was a magically peaceful day listening to the “koof, koof, koof” of the surfacing twenty plus Orcas!

 

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

 

Transient Orcas in Canada

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

With impending rain, Captain Mike steered the M/V Sea Lion north with Naturalists Heather and Emily, and guests in tow.  The goal: transient killer whales off North Pender Island in Canada.  A little Northwest rain did not dampen any spirits on board and before we knew it we were rewarded with great views of 7 transient orcas traveling southeast in Swanson Channel.  T137 and her offspring T137A, T137B, and T137D were traveling with T36A and her two offspring T36A-1 and T36A-2.  It was awesome to see two different family groups traveling together!  We followed the 7 transient orcas for several miles and saw porpoising, a couple of rolls, and a few spy hops!

After traveling with the orcas for a while, Captain Mike took us in search of Steller Sea Lions.  There was a large group of Stellers hauled out on Green Point on Speiden Island.  A couple of the sea lions were swimming in the wind blown water and playing in the waves!  At 10ft long and over 2000lbs, you would think the Steller Sea Lions would not be on the menu for transient orcas, but with a lot of team work and skill orcas are able to bring down these giant pinnipeds.  Recently two Steller Sea Lions were found dead with many rake marks from the teeth of the orcas.  One of the theories for the decline in the Steller Sea Lion population is that they are being selectively targeted in some areas by transient orcas.

Everyone had a great time out on the water viewing orcas and sea lions on this rainy spring day!

Naturalist Emily

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

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