Posts Tagged ‘Salmon Bank’

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


Transients Kill on Salmon Bank

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

The M/V Sea Lion left the harbor today with no whale reports as it was pretty foggy on the west side of San Juan Island. However, like many non-whale report days, it wasn’t long before a sighting of the orcas come across on the VHF radios on Salmon Bank. I broke the news to our guests, which is always my favorite part, and we headed straight there!

When we got on seen, I quickly recognized the group of transient orcas as the same group we saw yesterday: T-120s. They were milling in a circular formation when we got on seen.  As soon as we shut our motor off, I saw a porpoise being flung though the air. The transients had clearly found prey on Salmon Bank worth pursuing and were in the process of killing it. The whole thing lasted for at least two hours. We saw the whales breaching on the porpoise, playing with it, tail slapping and more. A while would go by and then more aggressive behavior would happen. It was an afternoon of action and was truly incredible to be reminded of why these mammals have their place in the food chain as the top predator. Luckily, these whales never turn on humans! As vicious as these killer whales can be, there has never been a report of a wild killer whale attacking a human.

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

Visits with KPod

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

We left Friday Harbor today and motored out towards Salmon Bank. The rain had quit for most of the duration of our trip and the sun was starting to shine through. As we went through Cattle Pass and by Whale Rocks we got some great looks at steller sea lions and harbor seals. They were foraging in the water as well as hauled out on the rocks giving us some great looks.

As we got out to Salmon Bank we soon came upon members of KPod. The whales were spread out for miles foraging for salmon. They prefer to eat King or Chinook Salmon, the need to eat about 300-400 lbs per day! These guys were all making sporadic movements and trying to round up the salmon. All in all it was a great day, I never complain when we have whales everywhere!

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

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

Minke Mayhem!

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Today we headed south out the San Juan Channel, into Cattle Pass and out to Salmon Bank. It was sunny and beautiful for fall! Along the way we had some great looks at harbor porpoise, harbor seals and even some steller sea lions. The marine mammals were all foraging in the strong tidal currants that stirred the fish making it easier for them to catch them! When we got out to Salmon Bank we came across a mike whale. We spent a while with this guy who was taking us in every which direction! Mine whales forage sporadically, often times they are hard to spot and even harder to keep track of. This guy however, surfaced numerous times right next to our boat giving our guests amazing views! On our way back we even saw the steller sea lions hauled out. In this way, we can really get a great appreciation for all two thousand pounds of them!


Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris


New Old Faces

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

There have been some subtle changes in the Salish Sea of late. Common murres have been flooding in, little phalaropes are again congregating at current lines, and it seems that another Steller’s sea lion adds itself to the slumberfest at Whale Rocks each day. In the coming days and weeks other migratory waterfowl like loons, grebes, and scoters will arrive from northern breeding and feeding sites. We’ve recently ended our sunset tours because darkness was beating us to the docks. All signs that summer is rapidly drawing to a close.

The whales are still here though! Yesterday we saw Bigg’s killer whales near Victoria. The day before, we watched Southern Resident orcas and humpbacks in the same tour. Today we marveled at numerous minke whales feeding at Salmon Bank. At one point we had a minke surfacing a fish’s throw from the bow of the mighty M/V “Sea Lion.” Mugged by a minke again!

I’m not looking forward to the shorter days, but bring on the Fall and all the new, old faces that come with it.

Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
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

Resident Orcas All Day Long!

Monday, August 12th, 2013

M/V Kittiwake, Captain Jim, and myself had a busy day! We had early morning reports of our Resident Orcas moving south in Haro Strait. Our guests were very excited to hear the news and begin our trip.
Along the way to the Orcas, we were lucky to see Harbor Seals and Steller Sea Lions! On Whale Rocks there were two large male Stellers that jumped into the water and another that was laying on the rocks! Since these guys are known as Grizzly Bears of the ocean, it was awesome to see them jump into the water! We greeted our Resident Orcas near the Southwest side of San Juan Island and were very lucky to get some great views of several different Orcas! K-21, Cappuccino, surprised us and surfaced off our stern! With more and more whales heading our way we started to head home. Captain Jim had a tricky time trying to get us home because of all the orcas were heading south so we ended up getting more views of other orcas! Needless to say our guests weren’t in a hurry to get home.
After making it through the pack, we made it back in time for our afternoon trip, which was just as spectacular as our first one! When we left the Orcas, they were moving fast and southwest, so Kittiwake made its way southwest to catch up to the trailers in between Salmon Bank and Hein Bank. On this trip, the Orcas were surfacing together and were very active! We were seeing tail lobes, pectoral fin slaps, and breaches! My favorite way to view the Orcas is when our engines are shut off, the Orcas surface together, and you can hear all of their blows. Today our guests got to hear that and enjoyed it just as much as I do! We were able to watch this surface activity go on for a long time and finally we had to say our goodbyes to the Residents. At the end of the trip we had smiling guests with great photos who had a great time out on the water!

Aimee-Naturalist, M/V Kittiwake
San Juan Safaris

Harbor Porpoise and Minke Whales

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Captain Brian, guests and myself departed Friday Harbor just after the rain stopped and headed south. We made it down to Griffin bay to check out a group of curious Harbor Porpoise. Usually Harbor Porpoise are shy and dive deep when hearing boat motors, but today they were friendly and stayed around. Afterwards we continued south and watched two large Steller Sea Lions swim in the water. After seeing the Stellers poke their heads up and looking at us we decided to head to Salmon bank to see a Minke whale. Our guests were able to see the whale for quite some time. Our guests were lucky because not only did they get to see this whale, they got to see more porpoise! It is always nice to see a big group of Harbor Porpoise is this area. Our family on board got to see the nice array of wildlife we have here in the San Juans.

Aimee-Naturalist, M/V Kittiwake
San Juan Safaris

Steller Stellers and Mischevious Minkes

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Captain Mike, Naturalist Kevin, the guests, and I were lucky enough to have the rain let up as soon as our engines started! With clouds that were only threatening, we headed out to Whale Rocks were we spotted 4 Steller Sea Lions! They were all big boys and were enjoying themselves on the rocks as well as playing in the current. After a time with the Stellers, we headed towards Hein Bank where we spotted several Minke Whales! We got some great views of the Minke surfacing! On our way home we found another Minke at Salmon Bank and some Bald Eagles on Point Davis. All in all, a beautifully gray day in the Pacific North West!

Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris