Posts Tagged ‘Stellar sea lion’
No orca whale reports today, BUT as we pulled out of Friday Harbor the Captain received word of a humpback whale by Halibut Island, Canada. It took us nearly an hour to get to the location but there it was – a beautiful humpback whale. It looked as though it was feeding the entire time we were with it – almost ½ an hour. When it dove down, one could see many of the ‘knuckles’ on it’s back. Two of the many dives it waved it tail gently before disappearing into the water. Speaking of water, the depth of the water in that location was about 150 feet deep.
This was the last tour of the season.
We will reopen for whale & wildlife tours April 14, 2012. See you next year!
Naturalist, Colleen Johansen
Today with beautiful weather the two Kenmore Air sea planes touched down at the dock and we were there waiting to take the guests for a wildlife tour. The group included people from Denmark, Sweden and Japan.
We went down the east side of San Juan Island stopping a few times to view birds and harbor seals. We had a good look at a mature bald eagle, solo, at the top of a tree. As we neared the southern-most tip of the island, we stopped (turned off the engine) and sat to watch some big stellar sea lions. 10-15 sea lions sunning on a rock outcropping with 100’s of pelagic cormorants. The rocks were literally covered with animals.
We started up again heading north. There were a number of commercial vessels out fishing today with nets out. The guests and I saw several orca whales go right up to one of these boats. I wondered if they were going to try to get fish out of the net, but then they just moved along. There were also many markers bobbing about as crabbing season has RE-opened.
Further north up the west side we saw a male orca solo. We were stopped and watched him for a bit.
We started up going slowly north were we encountered a few more orca whales. I remember a group of 3, either all females or females with a young male. The whales were not coming out of the water – just enough to breath. There were many small groups of whales and seemed to be spread out over a large area.
With the engines off and the hydrophone down (50’) we were treated to the whale calls/song/clicks. I can never grow tired of this. There was a good deal of vocalization today too!
We moved a bit more north were different whales were seemingly on a northern journey. Again, with engines off, we sat just staring to the coast of San Juan Island where whales were popping up and sliding back down. We even saw 2 tail slaps that looked like a juvenile.
We came home stopping near Speiden as one of the guests spotted 4 Harlequin Ducks swimming by. The captain turned the boat around so that Peter, the birder, with a 400 mm lens, could get a really good photo. He was thrilled and so was I. (hope he sends us the photo).
How would I grade this trip? The fog from the morning lifted and the planes came on time, it did not rain, it was not cold, we saw Stella Sea Lion, Cormorants, Harbor Seals, Bald Eagle, Orca Whales, Harlequin Ducks, Heermann’s Gull, Loons, Common Murres, Pigeon Guilemots and more. It was an “A” Trip.
Naturalist, Colleen Johansen
Today, even the Kittiwake had an adventure! We traveled over to Orcas Island to pick up a family of ten for a private charter and from there on, we were surrounded by a continuous showing by Pacific Northwest wildlife!
First, it was a little harbor seal between Lopez and Shaw Islands. Next, it was one then two stellar sea lions (BIG ones too–they can weigh up to 2,200 pounds and be ten feet long!) swimming in the currents between Lopez and San Juan Islands. Further into the Cattle Pass, we discovered two bald eagles perched side by side above a water-front home.
Out into the waters off Salmon bank, where the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Haro straight meet, we found exactly what we were still holding our breaths for: L-pod of the Southern Resident Killer Whales! The pod was spread out near and off shore and from Cattle Pass up towards False Bay. It was every whale for itself, with a few being social and in pairs and trios. Some seemed to be traveling, others hunting and one frisky pair may have been mating (was he an outsider from J or K pod?). They were heading south but after thirty minutes of viewing, they all of a sudden went offshore and started traveling north. At this point we decided to test our wildlife luck and moved on away from the orcas.
The visibility was excellent (we could see Mount Rainier and Mount Baker!), the wind was a mellow breeze and the ocean was flat: a rare and perfect combination for Minke whale searching! We found “bird balls” (high densities of birds sitting on the water, potentially on a ball of bait fish like herring). One bird ball took off all at once and minutes later, we found out why: a minke whale had come in to eat their herring! We watched it for about twenty minutes and then moved on.
On the way back to Orcas Island, the wildlife continued to appear! More stellar sea lions and harbor seals swimming and sunning at Whale Rocks; and our finale of harbor porpoises between Lopez and San Juan Islands. Whew, we were exhausted after that (as evident by the six passengers–teenagers–napping on the ride back in)! A truly wonderful day on the water. Big thanks to the Lower family!
San Juan Safaris
Today was the first day of Memorial Day Weekend and we celebrated it by nearly filling both of our vessels, the Sea Lion and the Kittiwake, for an afternoon whale watch. Throughout the day, the weather went from gray clouds and overcast to nice white fluffy clouds and sunshine. We boarded the boats and left Friday Harbor heading north towards the Canadian border. After an hour of solid travel, several sea birds, numerous islands and a swimming harbor seal, we edged up to East point off Saturna Island. And there they were: a pod of transient orcas!
As we approached the area, we heard through the vessel radio grapevine that the pod may have made a recent Stellar sea lion kill. When we got to the scene, the whales were zig-zagging and milling about; no obvious foraging activity was seen. While observing the pod, we noticed a very large adult male dorsal fin that had significant lean to the left and was very curved for a male. The other individuals in the pod appeared to be females and juveniles. Later, another vessel identified one of the orcas as T18.
After ten minutes or so, the pod started traveling faster towards the south, moving more erratically and then thrashing about. The hunt was on! And it looked like another Stellar sea lion was the target. We saw the pod of four orcas thrashing about, throwing their bloody red tasty morsel in the air. At one point, it looked like the sea lion had gotten away and it made some headway with about forty feet of distance from the whales. But then the transients caught up to their meal and continued thrashing and tossing it around. Eventually, the male and a second orca split off from the other two, leaving the latter to contend with the sea lion. Time was running out for our whale watch and we began making our way back to Friday Harbor.
All in all, quite an exciting day. Seeing transient orca whales feed is never a boring event, especially with the thrashing, breaching and tossing of a bleeding sea lion in the air!
San Juan Safaris