May 30, 2011

Circumnavigating San Juan Island for Transients

It's not too often we have the opportunity to circumnavigate San Juan Island; it usually isn't terribly convenient for where we have to travel and the amount of time we have to do it in.  But today was the exception to the rule.

We got the call in early that there were orcas spotted off of Canada's Discovery Island (just off of the southern tip of Vancouver Island) but that they may be headed out to sea.  So off we went, full boat and ready for wildlife viewing.  After traveling south from the island, past a swimming harbor seal and several logs, and around Cattle Point, we headed out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and eventually found our whales right where they were supposed to be: still off Discovery Island.  These orcas were in a pod of two and with the help of another whale watching vessel, they were identified at the transients T20 and T21.  T20 is a large male and T21 is a fairly large female, both estimated to be in their forties and known to travel together.  After twenty minutes of watching them zigzag with long down times, we got word of another species of whale in the area: a gray whale.

Five miles to the north, we saw a larger bushier blow (whale breath!) and eventually we saw the gray whale that belonged to that blow.  After a few more breaths from the whale, we headed off towards the north end of San Juan Island to continue our circle around it.  Along the way, we stopped by a lighthouse to see a Stellar sea lion trying desperately to balance is large body on the edge and out of the cold water.  All but its fins were dry.  It's a good idea for this sea lion to stay as much out of the water as possible with transient killer whales around because he or she would make a nice meal for T20 and T21.

Serena, Naturalist

San Juan Safaris