Posts Tagged ‘san juan islands’
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
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!”
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.
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
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.
As the sun dissipated the daunting clouds, we encountered J-Pod near Pile Point as they headed north toward Lime Kiln Point. A few individuals breached while the rest of the group continued to move at a slow pace in a spread out formation. We were excited to identify Riptide (J-30), the alleged great-grandson of Granny (J-2), who is believed to be 100 years old and the eldest female of the entire Southern Resident Community!
Kirsten Dale, Naturalist
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
With a spectacular spring day, the MV Sea Lion and crew (Captain Craig and MikeO) headed north with our special charter of Western States Agency Policy Makers.
Ken Balcomb, of The Center for Whale Research, Kari Koski of The Whale Museums SoundWatch program and me were asked to describe in our view, the process that lead to the new NOAA rules. We were asked how those new rules would affect the whale watching industry and how they might affect the orca whales themselves.
Yesterday was what I call a “World Bank” day. In my past I have educated young children, then teenagers, then more influential adults. It became clear to in my forties how short life really is. I realized that if I were to make a difference, I needed to be talking to the “World Bank”
The people aboard the Sea Lion tour yesterday are mid-level managers through the northwest. The group was brought together by a bright, kind and gentle man who is making a real difference in the western United States as he develops and facilitates seminars relating to resource issues. His name is Mike Crouse.
It was Ken Balcomb who said that “These are serious people and I am impressed. Maybe there is hope for the future.”
What I want you to realize is that not every day is a “World Bank” day, but someone who you may have on your tour may just be waiting for that positive message that you deliver.
Please know that a few facts well-delivered with enthusiasm and conviction can make a big difference.
We did that yesterday.
Owner, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching & Wildlife Tours
It started off a rainy Monday and turned into a great wildlife watching day. We headed north out of the Harbor and up toward Speiden Island. It was raining steadily but there were a dozen Steller Seal Lions hauled out at the point and more in the water. Some of them were only half way out of the water, reclining against the rock, like a bunch of guys relaxing in a hot tub. There was a bald eagle sitting on the nearest hill who had a mostly white head, but when he stretched out his wings showed us his mottled, juvenile coloration underneath.
We passed by a few soggy Mouflon Sheep and out into Haro Straight. The calm water and low light made it perfect for spotting Harbor Porpoise. We shut down to try and get a look at the shy cetaceans and realized that they were all around us for at least a half mile in every direction. After a few minutes we continued on and eventually encountered a handful of Dall’s Porpoise. They darted in toward the bow and spent the next few minutes bow riding, drafting, and surfing in our wake.
We cruised around Stewart Island and back around to Speiden. The sea lions were all in the water rafted up like a bunch of rocks floating at the surface. As we pulled away we saw splashes and watched as two sea lions chased something, occasionally porpoising out of the water.
With our fingers crossed we turned back toward the harbor. Eyes and binoculars were glued to the water in hopes of a last minute Orca sighting. Alas, there were none. However, it was a great day for other wildlife.
Naturalist, San Juan Safaris
We left Friday Harbor with reports of a Minke Whale in Canadian waters. Under sunny skies and over glassy water we headed west. As we approached the area of the last sighting we slowed to a stop and shut down the engines. The passengers spread out along the rails and kept their eyes on the water. After fifteen minutes of scanning we saw the small whale surface about a quarter of a mile from the boat.
We watched it surface and saw that it was moving east. We idled parallel at about 300 yards and saw a half dozen good surfacings. After fifteen minutes it changed direction again we said goodbye to the Minke.
On the way home we saw Stellar’s Sea Lions sharing a rock with some Harbor Seals. Everyone appreciated the beautiful weather and the Minke Whale.
San Juan Safaris