Posts Tagged ‘Spieden Island’

Transient Orcas Snack on Rock Sausage

Friday, September 13th, 2013

It’s not often that we get to choose between viewing Bigg’s Killer Whales or Southern Resident Killer Whales on the same trip. That was the case today. I wish we could spread out this luck for the guests who didn’t get to see any killer whales on their trip. For a time during peak summer, we were striking out trip after trip, at a time when killer whale sightings should have been at their peak. That unpredictability is part of the fun of viewing killer whales in the wild.

So what did Captain Mike choose? Transients, because they were right around the corner from our Friday Harbor docks! The first group of transients were porpoising north at a high speed from Yellow Island toward another group milling off of Flattop Island. We paralleled this first group and then moved on to observe Steller’s sea lions at Green Point on Spieden Island. When we turned to catch up with the second group of transient orcas, we realized they were headed right for us and the sea lions. Suddenly there was a boil of white water with the faint outline of a seal flipper in the center. It appeared that the transients had found a tasty morsel. The group continued toward the sea lions and we wondered if the orcas had finished their appetizer and were now moving on to the entrée. But no, after lingering at Green Point, the gang continued west, tight along the shore of Spieden, playing and breaching.

Andrew
Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

Playful J-pod

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

M/V Kittiwake, guest, Captain Jim, and myself departed Friday Harbor and headed north. Our guests got a great view of the Cactus Islands, Johns Island, and Stuart Island. We caught up with part of J-pod just off of turn point, which marks the most north western point in the U.S. Our guests got great views of the cookie clan, which includes J22-Oreo, J32-Rhapsody, J-34 Doublestuff, J-38 Cookie. This family group was also traveling with another two family groups and our guests were seeing about 10 to 15 whales! Two younger whales, J-46 star and J-47 looker, were showing off for our guests. They were spy hopping, tail lobbing, and breaching. A lot of my guests always ask, “Why do they do that?” I always saying they are trying to look at our guests and showing off for them. On the way home we got to look at two different pairs of nesting Blad Eagles, one on Stuart Island and the other on Spieden Island. Our guests walked off our boat with great pictures of playful J-pod and smiles on their faces!

Aimee-Naturalist, M/V Kittiwake
San Juan Safaris

Transient,Transient, and more Transient Killer Whales- April 13, 2013

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

Our 2013 Whale Watch season is off the a great start. We’ve hosted guests on four Whale Watch tours in the past week and encountered Transient mammal-hunting Orcas on each tour. Today was no exception!

We departed Friday Harbor without any reports of killer whales in the area and were having a great wildlife tour encountering Stellar’s sea lions, bald eagles, and harbor seals galore. We were about to leave Spieden Channel to head North into Haro Strait when (to our surprise!!), I looked towards Roche Harbor on the port side on the vessel and holy cow! WHALES! The T65s and T49B surprised us all! We observed this small pod of six traveling east down Spieden Channel, on the northern end of San Juan Island. We witnessed tons of fast moving feeding behavior and I even thought I saw a glimpse of a porpoise being pushed around by T49B.

This time of year, we most often see Transient (also now known as Bigg’s) mammal-hunting Orcas, which travel is small family pods and can sometimes be difficult to spot. When we do though, it’s very exciting!

-Naturalist Kevin

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Although the beautiful, sunny skies were replaced by clouds and grey skies today, our spirits were not dampened; we were all equipped with a sense of adventure and eager to spend the afternoon exploring the Salish Sea.  And, we were not disappointed. 

Within minutes of departing Friday Harbor and entering the San Juan Channel we were rewarded with a large, male Steller Sea Lion enjoying his lunch.  The Sea Lion would emerge with a fish in his mouth, aggressively thrash the fish about at the surface, tearing bits of meat off the carcass, and send the fish remains flying.  He would then retrieve the fish and repeat his foraging routine. 

As we cruised along Spieden Island, we saw dozens of the exotic Mouflon Sheep and Fallow Deer.  And as we turned the corner of Sentinel Island, over 30 Harbor Seals were crammed on a small rocky outcrop, enjoying a relaxing afternoon. 

Our journey continued along Stuart Island where we had our first sightings of Killer Whales!  Over 20 Southern Resident Killer Whales were spread out between Haro Strait, Spieden Channel, and Stuart Island.  The whales were initially headed north before they changed direction and began to travel east through New Channel. 

We were surrounded by whales; they were seen in all directions.  Among the whales we identified Scoter (K25) and Cali (K34), Scoter’s younger brother.  Also, we identified Onyx (L87) another large male born in 1992.  Although the whales seemed to be spending most of their time foraging or traveling, a few individuals were performing aerial displays: breaching, lobtailing, and pec-slapping.  With so many whales in the area and the flat calm waters we decided to drop the hydrophone, an underwater microphone, to see if we could hear the whales vocalizing.  While sitting with our engines off listening to the whales exhale at the surface and vocalize and echolocate from below, a group of four whales changed direction and came in for a closer look.  We were mesmerized as the whales traveled along the port side of the vessel, while their vocalizations echoed throughout our boat.

Boy, my job sure is amazing!

Naturalist Amy, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching and Wildlife Tours

 

Wildlife Galore

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

We had a very exciting and full-of-wildlife day! We departed Friday Harbor heading north into Canadian waters. Before seeing the main event (killer whales) we spotted about five or six harbor porpoise just north of San Juan Channel. Not long after we saw one dorsal fin, then another, then three more! There were about eight to ten southern resident killer whales, traveling close to each other. They were moving north along Pender Island (48º 36.54’N 123º 04.94’W). We watched as three whales spy-hopped, one after another, followed by a full, body out of the water, breach! The whales then moved close to shore, slowly diving and surfacing. In this group naturalist Jenny and I were able to identify members from both J and L pods, including L-72 Racer, J-27 Blackberry, J-28 Polaris, L-25 Ocean Sun.

After watching the whales, we motored around Stuart Island and spotted a few nesting cormorants on the rocky cliff near Turn Point. Also included in our trip home was a great look of Spieden Island where the non-native, but oh so cool muflon sheep and fallow deer were grazing, bald eagles were flying over the island and perched in a few trees, and eight harbor seals were hauled out of the water near the shore, including three mother pup pairs! Finally, just before getting back into Friday Harbor, a guest spotted another bald eagle. Definitely not our average Wednesday out on the water!

Kristen, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris

Through the Fog

Friday, July 13th, 2012

We circumnavigated San Juan Island today, seeing wild life all the way around. We left Friday Harbor heading south and ran into a group of harbor seals hauled out on the rocks. Shortly after, around Goose Island, there was another large group of seals foraging in the water!

Continuing around to the west side, we ran into some fog and slowed. We could make out some boats, so we stopped and started to look for whales. Through the fog we heard the distinctive “powoof” of a killer whale surfacing to breath. We then saw a single female pass by. The fog began to lift, and we traveled further north. Just south of Lime Kiln we encountered five more killer whales, one of which was J-34, “Doublestuf.”

After watching for a while we started moving toward the north end of San Juan Island. There were a few harbor porpoise that surfaced a few times in our wake just as we passed Spieden Island. By the time we made it back, the sun was shining and every one was relaxed after an amazing afternoon out in the Salish Sea.

Kristen, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris

Porpoising Orcas

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

We caught up with killer whales just as they were swimming across Turn Point, off Stuart Island, heading west. The whales were not just slowly traveling by; they were porpoising out of the water, moving fast! All together there were four of them. Two were right next to each other, their bodies flying out of the water in full synchronization.

Four more killer whales followed shortly after. There were two large males in this small group. We could see their massive dorsal fins at least four hundred yards in the distance before they too made it to Turn Point and went on by. Finally, we came across two other female orcas. Their bodies also were coming out of the water, providing the perfect opportunity for a young guest to snap a fantastic photo!

The trip back to Friday Harbor was also exciting. We saw three bald eagles, a few mouflon sheep on Spieden island, and harbor seals enjoying the same bright sunny day we were.

~Kristen, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris

 

Whale Report July 2, 2012

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Southern Resident Killer Whales today!

Caught up with about 7 slowly foraging members of J-Pod, including Granny (J-2), Blackberry (J-27) along with Onyx (L-87) on the west side of San Juan Island at 48.27.388N 123.03.597W. We stayed with them until peeling away at the light house at Lime Kiln to complete a circumnavigation of San Juan Island.  Caught a quick sighting of 2 Dall’s Porpoises close to Kelp Reef too.

On the way out, San Juan Channel was busy with Harbor Porpoises (at least 10) and a large group of Harbor Seals (about 15) heads up and bobbing in the tide rip before Goose Island. Counted about 12 Canada Geese pecking on the grassy top of the rock offshore from Cape San Juan, while a lone Bald Eagle kept sentry on top of a snaggy fir on shore.

Our return trip took us along  Speiden Island where a large flock of Mouflon Sheep grazed with several rams keeping watch on the perimeter. Also, sighted one albino Fallow Deer tucked in the exposed roots of a tree just above the water and 4 Sika Deer outlined on the ridge line. On our last glance back at Spieden Is., a nice showing of 3 Bald Eagles that overhead from Sentinel Island towards us.

Naturalists Shelly, Tara and Jenny; San Juan Safaris

 

 

 

Orcas heading north on Canada Day!

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

A great day to be on the water; we had blue skies, wispy white clouds, and plenty of wildlife to observe.  First we headed out to Spieden Channel and came upon a group of harbor seals hauled-out on an exposed rock.  They were snoozing and enjoying the sunshine.  We continued northwest towards Stuart Island and encountered “Onyx”, L-87, slowly traveling the same direction, just south of Turn Point (48°39.931N, 123°14.114W).  As we continued into Boundary Pass, we encountered members of J-pod, including “Granny”, J-2.  Four females were traveling close together as they hugged the south side of South Pender Island (48°42.999N, 123°14.294).  After observing these fascinating mammals, we returned south and cut between Stuart Island and Johns Island.  We were on alert for bald eagles and their massive nests.  Many great photo opportunities today.  As we returned to Friday Harbor, guests commented on how grateful they were to visit the San Juan Islands and see orcas swimming in the wild!

Jenny, Naturalist San Juan Safaris

Morning Charter

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

I experienced something new and beautiful today. We had a service at sea during the first part of a charter trip this morning. Not much to say except that we were honored to be a part of it. After which we headed north, first slowing by Spieden Island looking for muflon sheep and deer, but seeing a few harbor seals resting on the rocky shore and a group of harbor porpoises surfacing in front of our boat!

We then went around the top of San Juan Island and saw our first killer whale just off Henry Island, traveling north west (48 35.480′N 123 12.887′W). There were two of them and they seemed to be proposing out of the water and traveling fast. We then noticed we could see dorsal fins off in every direction. We spotted two large males, one of which was L-92 “Crewser,” and also around was L-41 “Mega” and L-26 “Baba.” After watching them for some time, and cruising across the US border into Canadian waters, we took the scenic route back to Friday Harbor, going between Stuart and Johns Island and the eastern side of Spieden. Truly a beautiful day all around.

Second trip out today and more orcas! About 8 members of J-Pod, including J-26, J-27, and the J-16′s were tightly grouped and slowly moving north at 48.45.9N and 123.19.2W, just above Moat Point, Pender Island, BC. We were also treated to at least 6 sightings of  Bald Eagles, adults and juveniles, flying low over the bow, perched in snags, on the rocks (with a Turkey Vulture) in various spots along Stuart Island.

Kristen, Tara, Shelly; Naturalists, San Juan Safaris