Posts Tagged ‘Orcas’

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

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Once the M/V Kittiwake made it pass the tumultuous waters of Cattle Pass it was smooth sailing up the westside of San Juan Island. Captain Brent, passengers, and myself were in for a treat as we motored closer to the southern resident community of orcas. Today was one of those tours where it was impossible to look in one direction. The orcas were every where! Passengers had to bop from side to side of the boat because there was just so much activity going on around the boat. Who knew whale watching was such an active sport!

Caitlin, Naturalist- M/V Kittiwake, San Juan Safaris

A Day With Superpod

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

M/V Sea Lion, Captain Craig, Naturalist Andrew and myself had a busy day out on the water! With a full boat on our 1:30 trip we ventured north to avoid the fog down south. Heading north turned out well because we were able to see some Harbor Porpoises along the way! We ran into a small group but in this group were little ones. Andrew and I believe that we were looking at some juvenile porpoises. On the way down to the Orcas it started to rain, but that didn’t stop our guests from being outside to view them! When we first got to the area, the Residents were spread out and broken up into smaller groups! We hung out with a group further offshore. After awhile we started to head south and ran into another group! This group was a little more active with tail slaps and breaches! We continued south to head home!
On our second trip we headed south right away because the Resident Orcas made it down to Salmon Bank. The rain cleared, along with the fog, and our guests were able to get great views of the different small groups of Orcas! These small groups had a pattern to how they were arranged, one or two males, a female, and maybe a calf. Andrew and I started to realize this pattern and started to watch intently to their behaviors. What we were seeing was very common for when there is a superpod, but we were specifically seeing males trying to impress the females! Andrew and I felt as those we entered mating territory at one point during the trip. It was very cool to see and show our guests! Like our morning trip, the Orcas were very spread out and in these small groups, which made it nice to move around and check out other whales. At one point our guests got to see a Minke surface! As we headed back toward San Juan Island, everyone was able to see more and more groups and all these groups were very active. We saw a lot of pectoral fin slaps, tail slaps, breaches, and spyhopping! I always love being able to see our Resident Orcas and being able to show our guests them. Today seemed extra special because we had all three pods here and everyone was able to see just how many Orcas we have here!

Aimee-Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

Transient Orcas and Humpbacks in the San Juans!

Monday, August 12th, 2013

With the grey clouds clearing Captain Mike, Tyler, the guests, and I left Friday Harbor heading north towards Speiden Channel. Just off the south west end of Speiden Island, we encountered a Humpback Whale mother and her calf! Humpbacks are sometimes spotted in the Salish Sea during their migration north. The San Juans provide a nice protected area for these huge travelers to pass though.

A short way a way, in the Haro Straight off of Sydney Island in Canada, we ran into two transient Killer Whales! T20 and T21 were headed south in Haro Strait, and possibly eventually to the Pacific Ocean. Members of the Southern Resident community of Orcas were spotted in the area as well, so it is likely that the Transient Orcas were leaving, as these two eco types typically do not like to inhabit the same waters at the same time. When all 82 Southern Residents are in the area, they are quite a group to compete with. The presence of such a large group of Orcas tends to keep out their mammal eating cousins as well as other large predators like sharks.

After our encounter with two of the types of whales that inhabit the waters around San Juan, we went in search of Bald Eagles and Harbor Seals. The Cactus Islands provided great views of both, including several eagle nests and juveniles!

As we headed south back towards Friday Harbor, I couldn’t help but think what a well rounded trip we just had!

Naturalist Emily
San Juan Safaris, M/V Sea Lion

From Harbor Seals to Orcas

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

As soon as the radio in the wheel house was turned on, there was all sorts of chatter about Orcas milling at False Bay! Captain Mike took Caitlin, the guests, and I around the south end of the island through San Juan Channel and into the Haro Strait in order to see the Orcas. On the way, we encountered Harbor Seals playing in the currents and a Stellar Sea Lion perched majestically on Whale Rocks. While in transit to the Orcas, we also received rumors of a Minke Whale at Salmon Bank! When we arrived on scene, we were not disappointed! The Minke surfaced several times, giving the guests plenty to look at. After an impressive Minke show, the Orcas provided a glorious second act. We got to see Nyssa, L84 and the L54′s, Ino and her children, doing lots of foraging behavior. I sure hope they were getting lots of good salmon! We saw several tail slaps and pectoral slaps, which the Orcas use to stun the fish. Once the fish is stunned, it is easily snapped up!

With Harbor Seals, a Stellar Sea Lion, a Minke, and Orcas, we had a fabulous trip looking at the larger marine fauna the San Juans have to offer!

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

We Saw It All Today!

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Kittywake departed from our Friday Harbor location today as the sun was still high. This morning was pretty foggy so we were all happy that the weather took a turn for the best! We had calm waters, little wind, and clear skies for our afternoon whale watch.

We headed out through the San Juan Channel, into Cattle Pass and onto the West side of San Juan Island, just south of Lime Kiln Lighthouse. We caught up with our L-Pod members, Mystery and Wave Walker! They were foraging and having a great time tail slapping as they went along! Our guests were very happy to see them, for most, it was their first time ever seeing Orcas.

As we headed back, we were fortunate enough to see a Minke Whale, Harbor Seals, Harbor Porpoise, and even a Seller Sea Lion. As our guests put it, ‘was there anything we didn’t see today’?! I love days like this where we see such a wide variety of wildlife.

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Kittywake
San Juan Safaris

Orca Whales and Wedding Bells

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Today M/V Sea Lion chartered a wedding group early on leaving from our Friday Harbor location. It was a little foggy as we headed out the San Juan Channel and into Cattle Pass, but that soon lifted just in time for our party to see some dorsal fins in the distance! It was soon to be one of the best wedding presents for the bride and groom to be!

Or Orcas were foraging along Eagle Point, off the West side of San Juan Island. Captain Brian and I quickly identified the whales as our Southern Resident L-Pod. Mystery and Wave Walker were both there foraging, tail slapping, and cartwheeling! Everyone was very cheerful to see such fun behavior on such a gorgeous day! Congratulations to the bride to be and groom!

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

Orcas on the West Side of San Juan

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The M/V Kittiwake departed from our Friday Harbor location today with spirits set high with an awesome whale report early on. We confirmed the report later when we got on scene with our L-Pod Orcas! It was going to be a great day!

After going through the renowned Cattle Pass and a little bit of fog, the Kittiwake made her way to the Southwest side of San Juan Island off Pyle Point. It’s always a great sight to see your first dorsal fin and our guests were amazed at their grace and beauty. Our L-Pod Orcas were traveling close together tail slapping, spy hopping, and porpoising out of the water. L-87 (Mystery), L-85 (Guia), L-2 (Grace), L-88 (Wave Walker), and L-77 (Matia and her Calf) were all identified while on the water.

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Kittiwake
San Juan Safaris

The Orcas Are Back!!

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Captain Craig, Naturalist Andrew, and myself were all very excited to share with our guests that a group of resident orcas are back! As some of our readers know we haven’t been seeing our resident orcas recently so this news definitely had all of our staff very excited!
We caught up with part of L-pod just north of False Bay on the west side of San Juan Island. The whales were close to shore when we first arrived but then a male surfaced closer to our boat. Andrew and I were able to identify this male as L-88, Wave Walker. We could identify him because of his open saddle patch on his right side. Wave Walker did show us his tail a few times with doing some tail lobes.
Seeing as this is the first report of our residents in a while, the conservation K-9 boat, Moja, was out. This boat had Tucker the black lab on it and they were following L-pod. Soundwatch was also out monitoring all of the private boats as well as the whale watch boats. Soundwatch is a program out of the whale museum and is an education system on how to view our resident orcas properly.
After watching L-pod travel back and forth, we motored back home. All of our guests were excited that they were able to view part of our resident orcas. Andrew and I still are excited they are back and can’t wait for the rest of them to return!

Aimee-Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

Transients on the Move!

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

What an exciting day on the water! For the afternoon and evening trip, we got to hang out with some pretty speedy transient orcas. The afternoon trip started out foggy but Caitlin, Captain Mike, and I had high spirits. We came upon the group of 4 transients south of San Juan Island and they were showing behaviors typical of a hunting pod. Their movements were swift and they spent a considerable amount of time submerged between breaths. Traveling northward toward Lopez Island, the whales moved in closer to shore where we got to see something amazing! A big patch of blood broiled to the surface, indicating a fresh kill! Although the prey was not confirmed, the naturalists guess that it was most likely a harbor seal. We informed our guests that while the more easily tracked Southern Resident Orcas dine primarily on Chinook salmon, the Transient populations in the area dine exclusively on marine mammals, with harbor seals constituting about 60% of their meals. Other sources of food for transients include the harbor porpoise, Dall’s porpoise, the Stellar sea lion, and Minke whales, among other things. We followed the pod of 4 from Friday Harbor (they were practically waiting outside of the harbor to pick us up!) northward along the east side of San Juan Island, where they were engaging in a casual cruise along the coast. After spending a considerable amount of time with the largest species of dolphin in the world, Captain Mike steered us on a course for Spieden Island, the largest privately owned island in the San Juans. We saw the many Sika deer, fallow deer, and Mouflan sheep that were introduced to the island in the 1970s in an attempt to start a safari-style hunting attraction. Guests on both the afternoon and the evening trips were lucky enough to spot multiple immature and mature American bald eagles in addition to several nests! After saying goodnight to the transients, the Sea Lion headed for Friday Harbor while the guests disembarked with big smiles on their faces.

- Meg, Naturalist M/V Sea Lion