Posts Tagged ‘Stuart Island’

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

Transient Orcas On Opening Day Out!

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

     Exciting first day on the water! Not only were we rewarded with an unseasonably gorgeous, sunny day, but, after 1 ½ hours of getting to the whales (this is very unusual, usually we travel about 30 to 45 minutes), we caught up with approximately 7 Transients traveling in Swainson Channel, just off Salt Spring Island, and with Ganges Harbor in sight. Since transients tend to travel in very small groups, 3 – 5, our sighting today was exceptional.  Also exceptional was the fact that they continually surfaced, which gave us many good views.

     On the way back, a fantastic showing of Bald Eagles on Stuart Island, including one perched confidently on the red roof of the lighthouse.  Slow tour along Spieden Island ended with a mini-herd of Stellar Sea Lions (7-8) in a tight knit circle, right at Green Point, poised upright, noses in the air, seemingly frozen in place (& appearing to be worshiping the sun!).

Naturalists Lori, Shelly, and Colleen

Whales galore

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

After two whole days without orcas around (but with Humpbacks and Minkes!) our residents returned to the sound in full force.

There were lots of animals around on the way up to see the whales: harbor seals, harbor porpoises, and even a bald eagle! As for the whales,  there were groups representing all 3 pods up in the area between Stuart and Pender Islands.  When we came on scene the whales we were with appeared to be resting.

After about 20 minutes they suddenly turned around and sped up.  There were whales everywhere. We were surrounded! As we prepared to leave the area a Humpback appeared, heading north.  We had heard about the animal earlier in the day.  We kept our distance and didn’t stop to watch the single whale, as it was entangled in fishing gear and there were boats around with the hopes of untangling it from the line.

Finally, on our way back we stopped around Speiden Island to view some mouflon sheep that were moving around right on the rocks near the water.

Laura and Kristen, Naturalists, San Juan Safaris

Newest Addition to Southern Resident Community

Monday, July 18th, 2011

We started seeing the dorsal fins of K pod after exiting the Speiden Channel and spotted Deadhead (K-27) with her new son (K-44). The boy is her first offspring and he will remain unnamed until after he has survived a winter and is officially considered part of the pod. Researchers do this because of the alarming fact that only around half of the calves survive the first year of life. The first-born calf has an even lower survival rate which is believed to be partially due to the large amount of toxins they receive through the milk. The organic toxin Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) is extremely concentrated in the orcas of the Salish Sea with the transients having the highest levels recorded in any marine mammal. PCBs are soluble in fats so they are found in high doses in the fat-rich milk of mothers. A female unloads a huge portion of the toxins she accumulated throughout her life onto her first child, with subsequent calves receiving much less of the chemicals. With hopeful thoughts of this little ones future, we watched him lobtail next to the cliffs and lighthouse of Stuart Island while the sun warmed the scene.

Kirsten, naturalist