Posts Tagged ‘san juan islands’

Transients Orcas and Summer weather!

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Transients Orcas and Summer weather!

Fantastic day on the water:  treated to clear skies, summery temps, and a stunning view of Mt. Baker, we traveled north out of Friday Harbor, around the north side of Orcas Island, until catching up with Transient Orcas on the north side of Lummi Island. Counts varied, depending on who you talked to, but we agreed that we did see 7 total. Latitude 48°44’ Longitude 122°45’. As mesmerized as we were by the orcas, it was hard not to notice the many pairs of Rhinocerus Auklets calmly floating by, as well as a pair of Loons. Our day would not be complete without a Bald Eagle sighting, which was our final reward when a stately adult sailed overhead as we entered back into the marina.

Naturalists Shelly and Tara, San Juan Safaris

Calm Seas Bring Out the Wildlife

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

For a day where the weather forecast predicted rain, it was awfully sunny and calm in the San Juan Islands today! As we left Friday Harbor we stopped to view a California sea lion hauled out on a buoy right outside the  harbor. We then headed south towards Salmon Bank to look for minke whales since the water was like glass, the perfect condition for spotting minkes! But before getting there we were able to see harbor seals hauled out and in the water, double crested cormorants on Goose Island, and a single, giant male steller sea lion hauled out on Whale Rocks. It was rubbing all over the rocks; a very cool behavior!

At salmon bank it wasn’t long before we spotted a minke in the not so far distance. It surfaced twice and then disappeared. We turned around eager to spot more, but came across two more steller sea lions thrashing around in the water. A flash of a fish in it’s mouth and swarming gulls told us they were foraging! Finally at 48o 24.0930′ N, 122o59.0386′ W another minke was seen. We watched for a while before heading to Long Island where we saw a single bald eagle next to its huge nest. Finally, back in San Juan Channel there were two groups of at least six harbor porpoises on either side of our boat, still surfacing as we made our way back.

Kristen, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris

Harbor Day

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The name of the game today was Harbor. Harbor Seals and Harbor Porpoises were everywhere in the Salish Sea today. We started by heading north out of Friday Harbor. Our first stop was Spieden Island, where we saw not only mouflon sheep and sika deer, but at least six bald eagles flying over the tree tops. Two of them left the island and flew straight over our boat! We also spotted harbor seals everywhere! They were hauled out on just about every rocky island. We then headed towards Mandarte island where double crested cormorants and gulls were nesting and flying above. Then, off Turn Point we spotted harbor porpoises all around the boat! Coming up multiple times so that we were able to get a good look. Plus, there were more bald eagles! Two were perched at the top of a tree, and three more were circling above Stuart Island. Finally, on the way back there were two Steller sea lions off the south tip of Spieden Island.

~Kristen, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris

Whale Watching & Wildlife Report Tuesday April 24, 2012

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Leaving Friday Harbor under solid grey skies, a damp drizzle, no wind, very calm seas, and a last minute report that Transient Orcas were on the west side of San Juan Island, we headed north and quickly made our way to the west side via Spieden Channel  in anticipation of running into the northern-bound whales.

It wasn’t until Pile Point though, before we caught up with 3 of the T-100’s, including T101 and T102 (48°28’N, 123°05’W), traveling south from Pile Point off the west side of San Juan Island. Another group of Transients were reported behind us (6 or 7). We stayed with the T-100’s till the Salmon Banks buoy before heading towards Cattle Pass and home.  A stop at Whale Rocks gave us great viewing of hauled out Stellar Sea lions covering one end, while several more milled about in the water.  And, just like yesterday, we found several groups of Harbor Porpoises foraging in San Juan Channel, between Lopez Island and Turn Island. It was also a great day for viewing Bald Eagles. We found them perched in tree tops, posed on the top of rocks, and even one sitting on a rocky beach on the north end of San Juan Island.

Another perfect day in the Northwest!

Naturalist Shelly and Captain Mike

A Warm Spring Day of Whale & Wildlife Watching from Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

California Sea Lion

California Sea Lion

A Warm Spring Day of Whale & Wildlife Watching from Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

Today we took off with reports of our resident orcas coming north on the west side of San Juan Island.

We headed out of Friday Harbor going north making a stop at NWR Yellow Island, and rock outcroppings with 43+ snoozing Harbor Seals.   We made our way along the coast of Speiden Island. Often times this is a great place to spot Bald Eagles – no Eagle this time.  But we did see about 10 Sea Lions. All but one was a Stellar. The other was a California Sea Lion -deep dark brown in color with the telltale knot on his forehead as if he had been clobbered.

We made our way slowly into Haro Straight between Henry Island and Stuart Island. Up came dorsals. Out came whale breath. Over all there may have been 15 – 20 animals. They were traveling in small groups of 6 – 8 and it appeared to me that they were in a resting-style mode. 

Residents can be very vocal. No vocalizations today – we dropped the hydrophone three separate times.
Residents can be very playful and energetic. None of that today. Lots of slow “up” and sinking back “down”.  The water was glass-like. No wind. No noise. It felt very peaceful bobbing in the water with the engine off.

On the way home we did see at least two mature bald eagles, one in a nest. The boat made another quick stop on the end of Speiden. The Stellars and California Sea Lions were still in the water where we left them.  Just before pulling into Friday Harbor we spotted a California Sea Lion hogging a red buoy. I think I saw some zzzzzz’s over his head.

And there was one Common Murre fishing next to the buoy to complete our wildlife viewing for today.

Naturalist, Colleen Johansen
San Juan Safaris Whale & Wildlife  Watching

Sunny skies, calm seas

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Excited by an early morning report that a large number of Orcas had been sighted off Cattle Point on San Juan Island, we could not wait to get out on the water at noon. Heading north in San Juan Channel, our first stop was at Yellow Island to check out a healthy number of Harbor Seals hauled out on the rocks.  Next stop, Green Point at Speiden Island, where more than a few mammoth Stellar Sea Lions dove and rolled on all sides of the boat. Several Harbor Porpoises surfaced long enough for a quick look as we passed Speiden, en route to Stuart Island. Bald Eagles were sighted, either soaring overhead, or posed in treetops. Easy cruising under clear skies and calm seas, but no whales.

After cruising around Stuart Island, we headed over to Canadian waters to check out the Cormorant rookery on Mandarte Island. Saw both Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants sitting on nests and a lone sentry Canada Goose on top of the rock. Hearing reports of Dalls Porpoises, we headed back into Haro Strait to catch a quick glimpse of one between Gooch Island and Turn Point, Stuart Island.  Cruising along the west side of Spieden Island gave us a good look at the monumental number of newborn baby Mouflon Sheep scattered all over the steep, grassy sides.  Another last look at the Stellar Sea Lions surfing in the currents off Green Point, then we turned for home. Although the whales eluded us today, it was a priceless day in the San Juan Archipelago — warm, sunny, spring-weather, a calm sea, and a plethora of Bald Eagles, Pinnipeds, Porpoises, and Pelagic birds.

Naturalists Shelly and Kathy

Sassy juveniles

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Another fabulous day.

Our first stop was for a few Harbor Seals hauled out on the rocks.  Our second stop was for the ever elusive Harbor Porpoise.  It was one of the few times that I have seen a large number of them, too preoccupied while hunting, to care that we were watching.  Most of the time all we see is a little black blip at the surface and have to spend the next several minutes trying to convince passengers that the blip was actually a porpoise.  Today everyone got to see one up close.  Capt. Mike shut down and we sat in the calmest water imaginable watching no less than 10 porpoise cruising around us.  When we finally left them we continued on south toward Cattle Point.  We stopped for a couple of gregarious Steller’s Seal Lions and then ventured out into the straight.  L Pod was pretty much at South Beach when we first came upon them.  They were spread out over a tremendous area.  Once again the calm water made for easy identification of the saddle patch.

Among the first whales we saw were L2, L79, L72, and later L41 (Mega-my favorite).

We also had an amazing encounter with two juvenile whales who shot up, out of nowhere, in front of the boat, while we were shut down and proceeded to swim laps around us while we watched in amazement.  The water was calm and clear and we could see the white flash from their bellies as they scooted in past us in a blur and then darted out to regroup before doing it again.  In my whole summer out here I have not seen behavior like that from orca whales until today.  Orcas may pop up near a boat and pass by at close proximity, but it is always with an air of dignity, as though they are on a mission and could care less about boat or the people on it.  They always keep their composure and when they do let loose a little it is typically in the company of other orcas with boats watching from afar.  Today was different.  There was no breaching or rolling upside-down.  No tail slapping or lollygagging at the surface.  These two little guys were behaving, totally and completely, like a couple of hooligans.  It was awesome.  Even Capt Mike had to leave the wheelhouse and squeeze up to the railing to get a better view.  It was one of those exceptional moments that makes you want to do a fist pump and yell, “Yessss!”

Laura, Naturalist

 

Sunset – The Lighting Is Magical

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
LOrca off South West End of San Juan Island Sunset Whale Watch Tour

Orca off South West End of San Juan Island Sunset Whale Watch Tour

Last evening I got out from behind the computer and went on the 5:30 whale watching tour. It is the “lighting”. I just love it around 7:00 pm when eveyone’s faces are warm from the sunlight. The Madrone trees seem firey and the summer grass on the hills glows.

There were many, many whales out off San Juan Island last evening. A guest took a photo and Serena ID’d the orca as Cappucino. The orcas were doing lots of fishing.  The movements they were making near the surface – back and forth, back and forth – then there were some spy hops and some well, was it “love” in the water?

The seabirds were partying on an outcrop. Sea Lions and Harbor Seal were all having a snooze – lazin’ about.  A couple bald eagles were circumnavigating Spieden Island.

We passed through Mosquito Pass (Roche Harbor) named so because the boats through that passage were as thick as mosquitoes. We slowly passed homes gleaming in the late light, little private docks, little private boats, large private boats (none with helicopters tonight) and more Madrone trees popping out past Pearl Island near Spieden Island.

18 knots and 25 minutes later we came around the corner and there was our little town on the hill – Friday Harbor with its evening lights twinkling. Home Sweet Home.

 

 

Sea Lions and Seals Sunset Whale Watch Tour July

Sea Lions and Seals Sunset Whale Watch Tour July

Male Southern Resident Orca Whale Sunset Whale Watch Tour

Male Southern Resident Orca Whale Sunset Whale Watch Tour

Madrone Trees on the Sunset Whale Watch Tour

Madrone Trees on the Sunset Whale Watch Tour

Guest on the Sunset Whale Watch viewing snoozing harbor seals

Guest on the Sunset Whale Watch viewing snoozing harbor seals

Male Orca Dorsal on the Sunset Whale Watch Tour July

Male Orca Dorsal on the Sunset Whale Watch Tour July

Lookin' Around (spy hop) Taken on a Sunset Whale Watch Tour

Lookin' Around (spy hop) Taken on a Sunset Whale Watch Tour

It's a Sea Bird Party! Sunset off San Juan Island

It's a Sea Bird Party! Sunset off San Juan Island

Young Guests Viewing Wildlife at Sunset

Young Guests Viewing Wildlife at Sunset

There's A Serious Photographer - Photographers Love the Sunset Tour

There's A Serious Photographer - Photographers Love the Sunset Tour

Milling with Killer Whales

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

We headed north out of Friday Harbor this afternoon in search of any and all wildlife that lives in or around the Salish Sea. Our first encounter came when we slowed and went across Spieden Island where there was wildlife from the shore line to the sky. First we noticed harbor seals that were hauled out on the narrow shoreline. Then looking up, we saw mouflon sheep and fallow and sitka deer along the grassy hill tops. Finally, in the sky was a lone bald eagle in all its glory; wings fully extended and soaring above the tree tops.

It didn’t take much longer until we saw the first signs of killer whales; spouts were up ahead! Then dorsal fins! After watching for a few minutes we realized that there were a lot of whales, twenty plus, milling around in very close proximity to one another. It looked like there were members from both J and K pod in the group, and there was a very small, orange calf that didn’t look like K44! (new calf possibly?!).

After spending our time with the whales we headed back to San Juan Island. On the way we stopped by turn point near the lighthouse where we encountered a few harbor porpoises and we were also able to stop and view some more harbor seals that were hauled out on rocks. It was a very exciting day!

Kristen, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris

Sea snake

Monday, July 4th, 2011

J pod was spread out along the southwest coast in smaller groups. The flag of American Camp waved on in the background as we encountered the first group of three orcas. It consisted of the mature male Mike (J-26) whose sea snake was present and the flashing of pink startled and confused the passengers. As we headed further north we saw a formation of four with whom we believed to have Granny (J-2) and Riptide (J-30) leading. The juveniles we passed along the way were continuously lob tailing and we even witnessed a few breaches. We enjoyed our views of the glowing haystack of Rainier and Mount Baker as we headed back in the warm sun.

Kirsten, naturalist