Posts Tagged ‘san juan islands’

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

Dall’s Porpoise at Play in Boundary Pass

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

When a Captain decides to take the Sea Lion up North into Boundary Pass and beyond, I’m always hopeful. We left with reports of a Humpback near East Point on Saturna Island, which is what we aimed for leaving the dock. We got to see a lot more.

 

Meandering up North our guests were treated to Steller Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, and a lot of Harbor Porpoise en-route to where other companies are currently watching the Humpback. When we arrived on scene, we quickly determined this individual whale was Big Mamma, otherwise known as BCY0324. This ID code is in reference to where the individual was identified, BC for British Columbia. X,Y, or Z for the amount of white on the flukes. And, the number for the individual.

 

While watching the Humpback heading West across the coast of Saturna, we heard reports of a group of Dall’s Porpoise nearby. Leaving the Humpback we met up with a large group of Dall’s Porpoise who were incredibly friendly and rambunctious. They played in the wake of the boats in the area and even went out to rush through the huge waves a tanker made as it passed by to the West.

 

After getting our heart rates going, watching the Dall’s zipping around, we eased into some wildlife viewing before heading back into Port. Between the Cactus Islands and Speiden we saw lots of Harbor Seals lounging and Bald Eagles posted up on Douglas Firs. But I’ll be honest, all we could think about were the Dall’s we’d seen out on Boundary Pass all the way home.

Naturalist Brendan
M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Sunny Day with L-pod!

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Yet another beautiful late summer day with the Southern Residents! We had a spectacular afternoon full of breaching, tail lobbing and porpoising…. generally very happy orcas! Today we enjoyed the company of a couple of different L-pod families. We spent the most time with the L54s (L54 “Ino” and her calves L108 “Coho” & L117 “Keta”) who were joined by some of my favorite males: L92 “Crewser”, L88 “Wave Walker”, and L84 “Nyssa”. Wave Walker and Nyssa are the last remaining members of their matrilineal lines, so they are often seen travelling with other families. After yesterday’s news of the new L-pod baby we all were keeping our eyes out for the newest addition to the Southern Resident Community, but alas L86 “Surprise!” and her brand new calf L120 were not with the group we saw today. After spending some time with the killer whales we found Steller’s sea lions hauled out on some rocks and were also fortunate to find two bald eagles! The water was like glass all afternoon, and the light was absolutely beautiful. Overall, a great afternoon on the water!

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

Birthday celebrations and seeing all of J-pod

Friday, July 12th, 2013

With eager guests, Captain Jim and myself departed on M/V Kittiwake. As soon as we got out of the harbor area, our guests were scanning the tree line for Bald Eagles. We got to Turn Island and guests spotted two Bald Eagles sitting on tree branches close to the water. The guest that spotted the Bald Eagles was celebrating his birthday!
We headed to the south, toward Hein Bank. We had reports the J-pod was spaced out and as soon as we got closer we could see this was true. We spotted a group of three whales and as we were getting closer, guests on board got to see one whale breach three times! Once down there, we had a group of three close to us and other groups further away. Soon we learned we had most of J-Pod heading our way. We saw a mother, Polaris, and her daughter, Star, swim right next to one another.
Our last view was of a group of whales off our stern. This group included two large males, Blackberry and Doublestuff, and their family. This group swam very close together and provided us with a great viewing of four of them. They would surface together and guests got to see all four dorsal fins come up together! I love when we see large groups surface together, seeing all the dorsal fins come up together is just spectacular. On our way home our guests got to witness a “man” over board drill, but instead of man over board we did a balloon over board drill. We always want to keep our wildlife safe so when we see ballons or plastic bags in the water we will pick them up.

Aimee-naturalist, M/V Kittiwake

San Juan Safaris

Summer Time and the Livin’ Is Easy…With Minke and L Pod Sightings!

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

We brought in the start of a new summer with great weather on the water today! Crew and passengers alike, busted out their shorts and sunscreen while we sped out of Friday Harbor to catch up with some of our favorite summer friends, our resident orcas,  L Pod.  We didn’t have to go far since L Pod was grazing along the west side of San Juan Island searching for their favorite food, Chinook salmon. Chinook salmon makes up 80 percent of resident orcas diet and on average they eat about 200-400 lbs of food a day! Sure is a lot of salmon!

Most of L Pod was spread out along the coastline constantly searching for food to curb that ravenous hunger. And lucky for us, we met up Mega, L-41, and Ocean Sun, L-25, right off of Eagle Point. We were even greeted with Bald Eagle calls in the distance! Mega and Ocean Sun didn’t disappoint our guests today as they slowly meandered along the coastline giving ample opportunities to get great shots of these resident orcas while foraging.

L Pod wasn’t the only type of whale out enjoying the productive waters off San Juan Islands’ coastline. We also got great views of Minke whales not too far away! Minke whales, unlike Orcas, are baleen whales that have bristle-like plates that they use to filter plankton and small fish out of large gulps of seawater. These guys are one of the smaller of the baleen whales, but no less impressive to see at close range. Overall it was a great opportunity to see not one, but two very different types of whales that live right off the coastline of San Juan Island!

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

Strait of Georgia Humpback

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

After leaving our slip in Friday Harbor we were greeted with beautiful calm waters in San Juan Channel. Our destination today was north in to the Canadian waters hopefully to catch up with a Humpback whale spotted earlier in the day.
After a scenic ride north we entered the Strait of Georgia around East Point of Saturna Island where the Humpback was spotted just north of Tumbo Island. This whale was fairly non-directional possibly in a feeding behavior. This has been a excellent spring with Humpback Whale sightings.
Humpback Whales of the Northeast Pacific have been making a steady comeback over the last two decades. In the mid 90′s the estimated numbers were around 4000. Today the estimations are over 15,000 which means more and more Humpbacks are coming in to the Salish Sea. An incredible animal that we all hope will continue to be a common sight around the San Juan Islands.

Kevin, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris

A Different Kind of Day

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Today’s tour was a bit different than usual, yet so refreshing! With no whale reports since the night before, we took our tour to the inner islands.

Sure the San Juan Islands are home to one of the most charismatic animals in the world, the Killer Whale, but that is not the only thing that makes them beautiful. Often times the inner beauties of these islands are overlooked, but today we allowed our guests to discover these beauties. We toured along Flattop Island, the Cactus Islands, through Johns and Stewart Island, then into Canada to see Moresby and Mandarte Island, and back into the U.S. to finish with Spieden Island.

The abundance of wildlife inhabiting these islands and the channels between is nothing short of remarkable, including those we saw today such as dozens of Harbor Porpoise, dozens upon dozens of Harbor Seals, Bald Eagles, Cormorants, Sika Deer, Fallow Deer, Mouflon Sheep, Great Blue Heron, Gulls of all shapes and sizes, and Steller Sea Lions.

Animals aside, these islands standalone in their natural beauty. Glaciation has carved this area into one of the most majestic places on earth; the geology, the vegetation, simply awe-inspiring.

And if you haven’t seen enough then consider this, there are hundreds of islands that make up the San Juans and every island has a story of its own. From the coastal Sammish, to the Spaniards, to a one room school house, no plumbing, no electric, to the richest of summer homes, to marine state parks, to national wildlife refuges, to a war almost started over a Pig, to even owning an island yourself. These islands are something worth seeing and we can give you this experience.

Naturalist Tara, San Juan Safaris

International Travelers

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Today we headed north on a wildlife adventure!  Incredible scenery through the northern San Juan Islands; we passed by Spieden Island first.  Adult male mouflon sheep were grazing near shore; their large and round horns are quite a sight.  Several females were also resting in the grass close by.  We also spotted a bald eagle at the top of a tree looking out for its next meal.  A harbor seal was resting with her pup on a mattress of rockweed, a type of seaweed, up against the shoreline.  These pups nurse for about six weeks and then it is time to learn to hunt for fish.  As we turned toward Stuart Island, we kept a lookout for any splashing at the surface.  Harbor porpoise would quickly pop up, and down they would dive.  Once we crossed Boundary Pass, we hugged the shoreline of Saturna Island.  We were in Canada!  We moved through these waters for a period of time, on the lookout for large marine mammals.  We turned back toward Waldron Island and sure enough, the elusive minke whale (48°41.44N, 123°05.42W).  Surrounded by seabirds, including rhinoceros auklets, common murres, and glaucous-winged gulls, a bait ball was just under the surface.  Several surfaces by the minke allowed us to see that curved dorsal fin and pointed rostrum, or snout.  After watching the minke for several minutes, we returned to Friday Harbor under sunny skies.  So much to see while on the water!

SJS Naturalist Jenny

Orca Whale Photos off San Juan Island Washington

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Herb Hartman, photographer, has gone out whale watching with us so many times that he is considered an honorary staff member.
Here are photos from his two tours, one at 1:30 and one at 5:30 from August 13, 2012.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Minkes today!

Although our Southern Resident Killer Whales were nowhere to be found today, we did have luck finding Minke Whales. Not just one, but two (maybe even 3!) Minkes were in the Salmon Banks area, on the south side of San Juan Island (48°25.33’N, 122°59.94’W). Just rounding the corner out of Friday Harbor, a Bald Eagle majestically perched at the top of a fir on Turn Island. On the way out of San Juan Channel, eight Stellar Sea Lions sunned themselves on Whale Rocks, while young Harbor Seal pups seemed to be everyone in the water.  On Goose Island, Glaucous Winged Gull chicks still covered the east side of the rocks, while Cormorants sunned themselves near the water’s edge. Along with the wild life viewing, today’s sunny weather, and an exciting current racing with the flood tide through Cattle Pass, it was another excellent day on the water!

Shelly, Naturalist