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