Posts Tagged ‘Stuart Island’

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

Whale Report June 27

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

With reports of Resident Orcas on the west side of San Juan Island and Transient Orcas north of Stuart Island, it was a tough call on which direction to take. Fortunately, heading north to search for Transients turned out to be a great choice! At Blundand Island (Gulf Islands, BC) we caught up to about 8 or more tightly grouped whales (48°43’86N 123°10’9W), including T102, that seemed to be slowly moving along the island until something kicked a pair into action and they repeatedly porpoised along the island, took a long dive, then surfaced along with the rest of the group.

Harbor porpoises were everywhere today – milling in San Juan Channel and in Boundary Pass.

We also watched Bald Eagles perched, as they kept an eye on their territory at Cactus Islands, along with one spotted on the flag pole at the end of Stuart Island, and another 2 at Flat Top Island. One was even perched on top of the National Wildlife Refuge sign. We also saw two Great Blue Herons at John’s Island.

Another great day on the water; sunny skies, glass-like seas, and excellent wildlife viewing!

Naturalists Tara, Kristen, and Shelly; 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



Family Matters

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

North was the direction we headed out of Friday Harbor and it didn’t take long to spot wildlife; a bald eagle was perched high in the tree tops just outside the harbor. Along Spieden Island is where we encountered more wildlife. Harbor seals were hauled out on a rocky island just off the island, and as we motored ahead a bald eagle flew along the island traveling the same pace as our boat! J-pod, the second largest pod in the Southern Killer Whale community, was also around the San Juan Islands today, and we caught up with some of the Orcas off Stuart Island (48º 40.025′ N, 123º 13.402′ W). The whales were spread out and traveling north. We watched as one whale tail slapped in the distance, and another even partially breached in front of our boat! As we saw different whales, we were able to identify “Mike” (J-26) swimming with his mother “Slick” (J-16). I always find it amazing that family really matters to these small pods of whales. Their bond is so strong and you can really see this when watching a 21 year old male swimming at the side of his mom. It definitely was an outstanding whale and wildlife safari.

~Kristen, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris

J’s through the fog

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

Rain could not keep us away from the whales today as we departed North out of Friday Harbor. It was a bit foggy as we left, but the further north we went, the clearer it became. Then, just south of Turn Point we spotted J-2 “Granny” swimming along Stuart Island by herself. We watched as the 101 year old killer whale surfaced and dived. The rest of J-pod wasn’t far behind her including J-27 “Blackberry”. After watching the whales go by for a while we started back towards San Juan Island. Along the way back we stopped by Spieden Island and saw two juvenile bald eagles as well as Muflon sheep. Around the north end of the island we noticed a couple more bald eagles all around the same spot; they were munching on a deer or sheep carcass! It was an incredible sight. The fog then thickened as we slowly made our way through it to the docks, giving the Salish Sea an eerie calm, and a great ending to the trip.

~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

A Day Filled With Pinnipeds

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Today we were lucky enough to see a variety of pinniped species. Just outside of Friday Harbor was an unusual sight. There was a California sea lion hauled out on a buoy! It was the first time I’ve seen a California sea lion since I started last year! After getting a good look, we made our way to Spieden Island where there was a large group of at least six Steller sea lions were relaxing on the rocks. Along Spieden we spotted mouflon sheep and sika deer, as well as a juvenile bald eagle perched high in a tree and an adult bald eagle on the ground clutching the remains of a fish. We then headed towards Mandarte Island to check out the nesting cormorants and gulls. Then, on our way back though Stuart and John’s Island we spotted several harbor seals swimming through a bed of bull kelp.

Kristen, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris

Whale Watch Report for April 30th 2012

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Almost left a naturalist at the dock today! With the winds prevailing, the naturalist wasn’t quite fast enough to get on board once she let the lines loose. Luckily the captain came back to pick her up at the “Spring Street Landing” dock. With all on board we headed out through the San Juan Channel. A light drizzle and sun-teasing skies had the crowd curious. We arrived at the first stop on the north side of Spieden Island and found one lonely Steller Sea Lion. Traveling our way through the channel between Stuart and Jones Island, wildlife was scarce and the crowd grew anxious. Mother Nature could tell we needed a little excitement so she whipped up a large gust of wind and off flew a fender, right from the top of the boat. With the water as choppy as it was, it seemed we had lost her for good. High winds and choppy seas are very unusual around the San Juan Islands April through October. We headed out towards Morsbey Island where we saw a few Harbor Porpoises and the excitement grew.

Next stop,  Mandarte Island. The bird sanctuary was highly active with Cormorants and gulls. As we made our way further into Canada and past Sidney there were no Orcas in sight, even though we had a solid report of transients around 10:00 AM.

We headed back to the southern side of Spieden for a little more wildlife viewing. Sitka Deer and Mouflon Sheep were interspersed along the hillside. Little fawns were spotted, causing a few of the passengers to grow soft. As we approached the very end of the island we caught one last glimpse of excitement. 8 or so Bald Eagles were feeding on what appeared to be a baby Sika Deer carcass. Just in time for dinner!

All-in-all, it was another great day aboard the Sea Lion!

Naturalists Tara and Colleen and Captain Mike


Whale Report for Thursday April 26, 2012 from San Juan Island

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Another beautiful sunny day in the San Juan Islands.

We saw several members of the J-pod including J2 “Granny” the 100 year old matriarch.  After viewing the whales we motored through Mosquito Pass into Roche Harbor where a number of seabird species were observed including surf scoters, rhinoceros auklets, pelagic cormorants and pigeon guillemot

We ended our day traveling along Spieden Island where harbor seals and Steller sea lions were hauled out basking in the sunshine while 11 bald eagles soared in the skies above.

Naturalists,  Amy and Colleen


April 26, 2012 Whale Watch Tour Route

April 26, 2012 Whale Watch Tour Route

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