Posts Tagged ‘yellow 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.

Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris

Transient Orcas Traveling the Inner Islands

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Today we found 5 Transient Orcas headed west in Rosario Strait between Cypress and Orcas Island (48°31.68N 122°48.62W). It was the T36’s and T39’s who appeared to be finishing off part of a kill. They were circling around the area and aggressively deep diving towards the center, gathering any remains. Once they were done they headed directly for the shoreline and picked up speed.

On our way in we took a scenic ride through some of the inner islands passing Blakely, Orcas, Shaw, Yellow, and Jones Island.

Just another pleasant day on the water!

Naturalist Tara, San Juan Safaris

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

Breathtaking Wildlife Day From Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Breathtaking Wildlife Day From Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

We departed Friday Harbor under clear, sunny, 60-ish degree skies.
Right off the bat, near Shaw Island, Captain Craig found 2 CALIFORNIA Sea Lions hanging out on a bright red buoy. It is not that frequent that we see the California sea lions around here. Off we went heading north. 

Since there have been several transient orca whale sightings in Canadian waters as of late, we felt this was our best chance at whales. A few Harbor Porpoise showed themselves. near Stuart Island – weaving amongst the 10 inch waves.

And to Canada we did go. We went all the way to Mandarte Island – known for its bird population. There were conventions of Cormorants. They were iridescent with spring plumage. And plenty of gulls – several variety. 

We then headed back in to U.S waters near Stewart Island, Turn Point - the northern most point in the lower states.  In these waters we were greeted by several Dahl’s Porpoise who not only rode our boat wake but swam around and around us. One Dahl’s continued to stay with us long after all the rest had scattered.

We had six birders aboard with us today. And we did not disappoint. Not in any particular order today we saw: 2 bald eagles, one each in separate places, a Belted Kingfisher inches above the water fishing, a Rhinoceros Auket (a guest spotted it) a Western Grebe (Naturalist Kathy spotted it) Harlequin Ducks (again a guest spotted) a Red Neck Grebe (that was MY spot) a group of Pigeon Guillemonts (my spot again) and a few more that I now cannot remember.

On our way back home we swung past the south end of Speiden island where 14  – 1500 Stella Sea Lion were worshiping the sun. Then in a place we normally would not see porpoise, between San Juan Island & Shaw Island,  a hawk-eyed guest spotted about three harbor porpoise (BRAVO – good spotting!)

Sorry you were not with us today . . . but we are going out again tomorrow.

Over and out for now,

Naturalist, Colleen Johansen
San Juan Safaris Whale Watch & Willdife oh and Birding Tours

I tried to trace the path of our trip on this map. I am sure I’ll hear something from Capt. Craig.

April 21, 2012 tour route, approximate

April 21, 2012 tour route, approximate

Sunny skies, calm seas

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Excited by an early morning report that a large number of Orcas had been sighted off Cattle Point on San Juan Island, we could not wait to get out on the water at noon. Heading north in San Juan Channel, our first stop was at Yellow Island to check out a healthy number of Harbor Seals hauled out on the rocks.  Next stop, Green Point at Speiden Island, where more than a few mammoth Stellar Sea Lions dove and rolled on all sides of the boat. Several Harbor Porpoises surfaced long enough for a quick look as we passed Speiden, en route to Stuart Island. Bald Eagles were sighted, either soaring overhead, or posed in treetops. Easy cruising under clear skies and calm seas, but no whales.

After cruising around Stuart Island, we headed over to Canadian waters to check out the Cormorant rookery on Mandarte Island. Saw both Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants sitting on nests and a lone sentry Canada Goose on top of the rock. Hearing reports of Dalls Porpoises, we headed back into Haro Strait to catch a quick glimpse of one between Gooch Island and Turn Point, Stuart Island.  Cruising along the west side of Spieden Island gave us a good look at the monumental number of newborn baby Mouflon Sheep scattered all over the steep, grassy sides.  Another last look at the Stellar Sea Lions surfing in the currents off Green Point, then we turned for home. Although the whales eluded us today, it was a priceless day in the San Juan Archipelago — warm, sunny, spring-weather, a calm sea, and a plethora of Bald Eagles, Pinnipeds, Porpoises, and Pelagic birds.

Naturalists Shelly and Kathy

A Proud Day for San Juan Safaris, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island WA

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

All staff,

With a spectacular spring day, the MV Sea Lion and crew (Captain Craig and MikeO) headed north with our special charter of Western States Agency Policy Makers.

Ken Balcomb, of The Center for Whale Research, Kari Koski of The Whale Museums SoundWatch program and me were asked to describe in our view, the process that lead to the new NOAA rules.  We were asked how those new rules would affect the whale watching industry and how they might affect the orca whales themselves.

Yesterday was what I call a “World Bank” day. In my past I have educated young children, then teenagers, then more influential adults.  It became clear to in my forties how short life really is.  I realized that if I were to make a difference, I needed to be talking to the “World Bank”

The people aboard the Sea Lion tour yesterday are mid-level managers through the northwest. The group was brought together by a bright, kind and gentle man who is making a real difference in the western United States as he develops and facilitates seminars relating to resource issues.  His name is Mike Crouse.

It was Ken Balcomb who said that “These are serious people and I am impressed. Maybe there is hope for the future.”

What I want you to realize is that not every day is a “World Bank” day, but someone who you may have on your tour may just be waiting for that positive message that you deliver.

Please know that a few facts well-delivered with enthusiasm and conviction can make a big difference.

We did that yesterday.

Bill Wright

Owner, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching & Wildlife Tours

Natural Resource Charter May 17, 2011

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

March 27, 2011

The first charter of the season

Today was the first official charter of the 2011 season!  Captain Mike Kramer along with naturalists Colleen, Laura, and Mike took 22 brave passengers out in the cool temperatures and overcast skies.The group arrived from Seattle in style on the Kenmore Air Whale-Plane around 10am and we got underway shortly after.  As we headed out of Friday Harbor the passengers bundled up in warm jackets and blankets and kept their eyes on the water for wildlife.

We encountered a couple shy Harbor Porpoise just off the west side of Yellow Island in the middle of San Juan channel in the first 20 minutes of the trip.  We also found dozens of Bald Eagles and a few Harbor Seals both hauled out and bobbing in the water.

Speiden Island was teeming with Mouflan Sheep which were a treat for the group.  And Stewart Island revealed one of the most exciting finds of the day, a Peregrine Falcon!

Even though it was a little chilly and wet everyone had a great time searching for all kinds of wildlife.  It was a great start to the season, and we are all excited to start running regular trips in the next two weeks.  We hope to see you out here soon!  And be sure to check back for more sighting updates as we await our first Orcas of the season!
Naturalist Mike Oster

Sleepy Harbor Seal by Herb

Sleepy Harbor Seal by Herb

The Farthest North We’ve Ever Been

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Today was a great day; sunny and calm with a strong flood current pushing us north. With no reports of Orcas we headed north to East Point on Saturna Island to seek out Harbor Seals and Steller Sea Lions. When we flew passed three magnificent Steller Sea Lions swimming in the water, without any time for our passengers to take a look, I went into the wheelhouse to check in with the captain. Transient Orcas had been found even further north off of Mayne Island in the Strait of Georgia. We were deep into the Gulf Islands.

The passengers had been happy and content with the sunny warmth. There were 3 groups on board for a total of 7 people and they were enjoying the ride regardless of whether we saw whales or not. This is the third time this has happened this week. We left the dock with no report and about halfway through the trip, just in time for us to catch up with them, we’ve gotten the call. In fact, one time this week, we left the dock and discovered them off of Yellow Island. Its great when we’re the boat to discover them because we get the congratulations and pure idolatry of all the other boats.

We were lucky to be headed north with a 3 knot flood current. Instead of our usual 17 knots, we were booking at about 20 knots. Even on our way home we were blessed with a slack tide; much better than bucking a 3 knot flood. On the way home we went through Active Pass, an absolutely gorgeous and sometimes torrential stretch of water between Mayne and Galiano islands. All 7 of us were sitting out on the bow doing impressions of Steller Sea Lions bathing in the sun. Eventually it got too cold (we couldn’t quite do a convincing impression of all that blubber) and we went back into the heated cabin.

I encouraged the customers to see Popeye, our resident harbor seal, as soon as we got back since the seafood shop closes at 5pm. I warned them, “If you stand there watching Popeye and don’t feed her, she WILL splash you.” And of course, at the end of our trip, people were hungry and wanted to do an impression of a harbor seal eating a salmon. I do believe that all 7 passengers went to Downriggers, the seafood restaurant above our office. It has a wide selection, a romantic view of the harbor and a great cocktail menu. Right before we arrived on the scene to see the orcas, they had apparently made a kill. Passengers often ask how much they eat. The answer is that they eat about 3% of their body weight per day.
I prefer the answer though that much like humans they eat as often as they possibly can.

Let The Nights Begin!

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

As spring advances towards summer here and the days become longer in the San Juan Islands, we at San Juan Safaris shift into our evening sunset tours along with the lengthening sunlight. This particular Saturday marked our first late tour of the season and it was a glorious one. The sun shone through a clear sky, but the wind made jackets a necessity, especially out on the water. As Capt. Peter maneuvered us out of Friday Harbor and I talked with the guests aboard the MV Sea Lion we received a report that there was a Humpback Whale not far from us. We quickly traveled south around Turn Point and down Griffin Bay.

We were nearly to Cattle Pass when Capt. Peter slowed the boat and told us all it was time to look. It only took a minute before I spotted a blow 450 yards away at Cape San Juan. This is a beautiful protected area on the southern tip of San Juan Island. The whale was right at the edge of the current line feeding on all of the food that was being pushed through Cattle Pass with the flooding, or incoming, tide. Because the water was boiling around us with the rushing of the tide we lost track of the whale a few times, but always quickly located him again. He was also swimming in erratic patters depending on what his food was doing. Two other boats joined us out in the melee as we tracked the beautiful giant out of the pass.

Once the Humpback had moved out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca we decided to seek calmer waters. We slowly traveled up Lopez Island looking for eagles and then cruised into Parks Bay on Shaw Island. The water was like glass as the land closed around us in the little bay. At the very back of the bay we had the privilege of seeing an Osprey sitting in the top of a tree next to it’s nest. Finally, it was a circuit around Yellow Island and an aerial show by juvenile and adult Bald Eagles over a nearby island as the sun sank down.

Our first evening out epitomized the tranquility of the islands and reminded us all that sometimes you need to stop and smell the roses. So, from all of us to all of you, thank you and we will…

See You In The Islands!
~Tristen, Naturalist

Orca Whales and Wildlife Are Our Only Business. ©


Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Our adventure startedby heading North out of Friday Harbor. We found the orca whales about 5 miles North of Patos Island heading and they were headed north.

Members of J and K pods were there. We identified J-1 “Ruffles”. We were also lucky enough to see one individual back dive about 4 times in a row. One of our guests got a great picture. Hope she emails it to us (

On our ride back we made a quick stop around Yellow Island to see some Harbor Seals hauled out on the rocks.

Everyday is a great adventure we never know what great things we are going to get to witness.

Jeanette Miller

Orca Whales and Wildlife Are Our Only Business. ©