Seattle Whale Watching Conservation

San Juan Islands Whale Watching
Blog & Photos

September 13th, 2014

J Pod Saturday

J Pod cruises Haro Strait

J Pod cruises Haro Strait

The southern resident orca whales are in the habit of coming and going lately.  Then, suddenly they surprise you with an appearance of all 79 whales at once!  Yesterday we watched Minke whales and today in the very same place, we are watching orca whales.  The entire community “came in” from the Pacific last night and this morning we are happy to see so many black fins, spread out in Haro Strait!  My eye sharpy scans the water in search of that new calf, L-120.

The group we watch in the afternoon is half of J pod, including J-27 Blackberry and J-34 Doublestuf.  J-17 and her daughter J-28 are present.  Blackberry is tight with his siblings too.

J-27 Blackberry

J-27 Blackberry

The whales are shopping out on Salmon Bank, and later in the afternoon they head up island toward the shore.

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J-17

J pod male surfaces!

J pod male surfaces!

Harbor seals catching a few rays...

Harbor seals catching a few rays...

There’s a new pup right on the edge of the water.  Most of the pups are on their own by now…and we watch carefully for them in the water.  They are not very boat smart…nor are they smart about transient orca whales!

Bickering

Bickering

Looks like these two are figuring out who will have the last roar…for now.

It’s lovely to be on the water today.  Both trips we find orca whales fairly close by, and lots of other wildlife.  The summer this year seems never ending, yet it’s not hard to notice that the light is sharper, the air is crisper…the sea birds are changing their outfits to winter plumage…the steller sea lions are back…no doubt about it, the seasons are changing.

September 12th, 2014

Minke Whales Abound…All Around!

Minke cruises by....

Minke cruises by....

It’s not unusual to look long and hard and come up with a solitary minke whale out on one of the banks in Haro Strait.  But not today!  Today we are surrounded by five or six of these “slender”….35 foot, 20,000 lb. whales!  They are all fishing for small schooling fish and the birds tell us there are many “ball of fish” out here on Middle Bank today.  This adds to the fun of waiting for a minke whale to surface as the birds give us clues to where it might surface next…right where the fish are congregating.

It seems the seabirds out on the bank are aware of big marine mammals about to surface with open mouths and they lift off the water right before that event!  The common murre in the sheltered water around Long Island was not so aware of the adult bald eagle waiting for it to pop up to the surface.

Got it!

Got it!

Off to dinner!

Off to dinner!

Can you make out the open beak of the bird right by the white tail feathers?  Another day of drama on the water!

Off for groceries...

Off for groceries...

The steller sea lions are also out on a mission to find the next meal.  Today there are as many as 50 of these giant sea lions hanging out on and around Whale Rocks.

A roll to the side...and an upside down..water ballet?

A roll to the side...and an upside down..water ballet?

Copy Cats

Copy Cats

Buds?

Buds?

You just never know what will show up in the lens…and be noticed, after you are home looking at your photographs!

For all the world, these two look like long lost buddies…but it’s pretty much just for the moment.

A day full of perfect weather, friendly seas and lots of drama unfolding before our eyes on the Salish Sea!

September 6th, 2014

Awesome News Comes in with L Pod!!

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Saturday morning finds us on our way out to the south west side of San Juan Island.  Last night we hear that ALL of the southern resident orca whales are headed in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Saturday morning proves it must be true.  There are many many orcas spread out from San Juan Island all the way up to Stuart Island, generally heading north.

We spend our time today with L pod.  Here’s L-72, Racer, with her distrinctive saddle patch, along the west side of San Juan Island.  Her offspring, Fluke is close behind and the L-41’s too!  Lots of foraging behavior and some lazy swimming and rolling around going on today!

Follow the Leader?

Follow the Leader?

Check out the little pec fins here….this is a youngster have a great time!!  Maybe rolling right over the top of the adult?  And what’s that tiny fluke at the end?  Another someone is on their side!

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Roll Overs and Twists!

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More of Racer’s group as they meander up and down the shore.  We are never headed in one direction for long!

Guess we are joining in the game of “Follow the Leader!”  Watching L pod members this afternoon, we have no idea that the family has a BIG announcement!

The Center for Whale Research boat discovers that it’s not just 78 whales that are gracing us with their presence today…it’s 79 whales!!  L pod has a wee whale tucked right inbetween it’s mom, L-86 and it’s auntie.  No mistaking it….there has been a new birth increasing the population by one, for the first time since 2012!!!  Congratulations L pod!!  Oh, did I mention mom’s name?  It’s….”SURPRISE”!   This group is to the north of us during our trip…and the news does not reach us until late in the evening.

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Hard as it is to leave the whales….hard as it is to believe the afternoon is turning to evening…we enjoy a stop at Whale Rocks on our way back to check in on the Steller sea lions.  This group grows daily in numbers.  Today it seems we are visiting at nap time.  Not much for aggressive and bullying behavior just now.

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Harbor seals are napping too.  Maybe a universal idea for a warm and sunny Fall afternoon?

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On a lovely summer, early fall day…when everything seems just…so…calm…who would guess there’s a reason for big celebration in the orca whale community…and in the community that cares deeply about them?  Welcome new wee orca whale…L120…here you are!

September 5th, 2014

Today’s T’s…T137’s!!

T137

T137

This afternoon we head north and find ourselves in Canadian water by Tumbo Island.  The first report of these whales is a single male orca, way up by the city of Vancouver.  The report is early in the morning, and by afternoon the report changes to “four orca” heading south toward Tumbo Island.  We’re off!

The afternoon is sunny and lovely, and definitely a hint of Fall is in the air.  The water is flat and Western Prince II skims across the surface headed directly for Georgia Strait.

We have a wonderful afternoon keeping track of the T137’s.  The photo abocve is T-137, the mother of the other three whales.  T137A, her first born and a male, is easy to recognize.  He has an incredibly tall male fin, and there are two nicks out of the trailing edge of the fin.

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The other two whales present are , T137B and T137D her two other offspring.  This is mom and T137B who is 8 years old.  T137D is only two!

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We recognize the NOAA research boat out on the water today.  The project is to tag a whale with a suction cup tag that will record information on depth of dives, length of time underwater at depth, and there is a hydrophone as well.  This will give information about acoustic noise levels from the perspective of the whale.  The T’s prove hard whales to tag.

NOAA Research

NOAA Research

An amazing afternoon on the Salish Sea with transient (Bigg’s) orca whales, enthuiastic whale watchers, a Mexican sail training ship, all combined with beautiful weather.  This is a summer to remember for sure!

August 30th, 2014

Saturday…J’s and K pods are Back!

Saturday morning and the mist is lifting as we motor out of Friday Harbor.  The last days of August are here.  ”Fog-gust” is almost over for another season.  Strangely enough, we really haven’t had many days of fog.

Before we know it, Pete spots  an adult bald eagle observing the water in San Juan Channel.  What a majestic pose!  Now that the chicks are fledged, the adults have more time away from the nests and the rigorous duties of raising hungry eaglets.

Steller sea lions in action!

Steller sea lions in action!

There’s lots of sea lion action out on Whale Rocks today.  The number of Steller sea lions has doubled in the past few weeks and today there is no shortage of pushy and vocal behavior.  There are a few junior animals here too!

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Maybe looking the other way is a strategy for holding ground if you are small?  It wasn’t long before this little one took a dive into the water.

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Yes, we are lucky to spend time both trips today with the Southern Resident orca whales, members of J and K pods.  The atmosphere on the water seems to be one of leisure.  No one seems to be moving very fast, and a lot of cruising back and forth at the southern end of San Juan Island.

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Hello Lobo and mom and siblings!   It is a pleasure spending the afternoon with you!

August 29th, 2014

Friday Full of T’s!

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It’s good news this morning!  Transient (Bigg’s) orca whales are headed south from Canadian waters, there are two family groups traveling together AND one of the families I have never seen before!  I have the chance to meet up with the T-90 group!  The T-124’s and the T-90’s are moving right along and pass us headed south.  A quick turn around fixes that and for awhile we have one group on either side of us.  There is a wee one in the middle of a tight group…and then, it dials up the speed and swims ahead!

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Gotta love that little orca head charging up beside the adult as they cruise past Sucia Island.

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What a pleasure to watch these two groups of T’s and imagine the scene underwater as seals and porpoise dodge the hunters.

We have lots of time for motoring along, keeping track of these beautiful animals in fairly calm seas.  It’s no surprise they seem to be headed for a reef full of harbor seals and some gigantic steller sea lions!

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Not that this reef full of “groceries” for orca whales seems to have any nervous animals hauled out.  The thing that apparently made them flush into the water?  A dinghy full of boaters that motors too close taking photos seems to be the reason.

This trip takes us in a big loop around the islands so we head toward Friday Harbor on a different route from the way out.  There are a few more stops for harbor seals and yes, an adult bald eagle.

August 26th, 2014

Transient Orcas Fill the Salish Sea Today!

Heading for Shore

Heading for Shore

Amazing!  We leave the dock with reports of four different transient orca whale groups cruising the San Juans!  How spoiled can you get with such choices?

Today we decide to go a little further than “just around the corner” with the idea we will be able to be near three different groups that are close to each other.  The afternoon sun in Rosario Strait near Orcas Island sets up a beautiful sight!

The first group we watch is a group of four whales traveling right down the middle of the strait, until they turn for the shore.  Yes, there is another family group near the shore!

Syncronized Swim!

Syncronized Swim!

Then we turn to find a group heading out into the sunshine and the most amazing thing happens to whale blow breath in the right sunny light….it becomes a rainbow of it’s own!

"Whale-Bow"

"Whale-Bow"

The three groups we are with for most of an hour have all females and juveniles in the mix.  They make a kill before we arrive and now they swim past surfacing harbor porpoise and right past seal haul outs!  These seals are lucky…but do they know it?

Safely Ashore

Safely Ashore

The afternoon is a beauty with warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine.  As we approach Friday Harbor, what should appear but…yes, another group of transient orcas!  They are speeding along the shore and we have another opportunity to see yet more whales.  One more look on an afternoon to remember.

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August 23rd, 2014

Smile…it’s a Sunny Saturday!

Red throated phalaropes...on the way south!

Red throated phalaropes...on the way south!

Saturday in the San Juans…and it’s sunny!  Hard combination to beat…especially if you have the opportunity to be watching wildlife on the water!

We leave the dock without an orca report…but soon news of transient orca whales is reported.  They are up in Canadian waters, so off we go, to the north, across the water, up the waterways, between the islands, and finally, through Active Pass.  It is glassy and calm this morning, and we fly north.  The three transient orcas have just finished making a porpoise kill.  They are now in the business of travelling south, and before long, we are drawn back into Active Pass as they are travelling quickly!~  More fins appear in the back and another group joins us!

J Pod on a sunny Saturday afternoon!

J Pod on a sunny Saturday afternoon!

In the afternoon the resident pods appear to the west, but travelling to the east…which means, by 3:00 p.m. we are with members of J pod along the south end of San Juan Island!  Here’s J-14, Samish as she swims around the gill nets that the fish boats have set out.

Hey There!

Hey There!

This family of J pod slips down the coast of San Juan Island, looking for fish.  There are August fish boats out today and we are always glad to see the whales avoiding these nets….and boats.

Moms and youngsters

Moms and youngsters

The tide is racing this afternoon and on our way back to Friday Harbor we get a chance to see the Steller sea lions going about their business of being “biggest and best” on Whale Rocks!

Me...ME, ME!!!

Me...ME, ME!!!

Incredible sunny Saturday in the San Juans…from the gigantic stellar sea lions to the tiny red throated phalaropes…a truly awesome day from morning to evening!

August 22nd, 2014

Transient Surprise

T-65A-5 in the lead!

T-65A-5 in the lead!

We leave the dock with no whale reports.  It’s a misty morning, and foggy in the straits, so a lot could be missed on early searching trips.  We head north.  We know there are whales out of our range way to the north, but maybe they will head south!?

About half way into our trip, with everyone on board scanning the water, a passenger says….”You, know, I think I saw a fin….way over….there.”  Hum.  We get out the binoculars, and after a minute, sure enough, a fin appears in the distance!  Yippee!  We are off, with a quick reserse of the boat!  We find the T-65A family with little T-65A-5 popping it’s head up!

What a perfect top off to the morning…after watching eagles, harbor seals and harbor seal pups…we are the first boat of the day to find orcas!

Adult member of T-65A's in Boundary Pass

Adult member of T-65A's in Boundary Pass

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In the afternoon our trip takes us back up into the same Canadian waters where left the whales a few hours earlier.  Now they are passing by the entrance to a busy marina and thankfully, they don’t stop there.  There is something else on the agenda for this afternoon….hunting!

Hunting the Pender Island Bluffs

Hunting the Pender Island Bluffs

On this trip we are lucky to have time to cruise between the Cactus Islands and find lots of bald eagle drama!  The harbor seals are plentiful in this area as well.  Wildlife abounds!

August 17th, 2014

Transients, Residents…Take Your Pick!

T-37's on the hunt!

T-37's on the hunt!

There’s nothing quite like transient orca whales in hunting mode, and today we are lucky to watch the T-37’s as they circle an island that is a harbor seal haul out.  Small seal heads bob in the water close to shore, one or two seals are up on the beach, but there’s a lot of action from this orca whale family, swimming back and forth close to shore.

After a complete circle of two islands out in the middle of Haro Strait, they move out to more open water.  How many seals are left behind?

Picking up the speed and heading "out"...

Picking up the speed and heading "out"...

Before we move on a tufted puffin lands right beside the boat!  Beautiful guy…and what a flashy dresser!

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Now on our way back to Friday Harbor we slow down to check out this gathering of birds.  Something is definitely happening below the surface….but what?

Something's Up, Down Under!

Something's Up, Down Under!

We get our answer with the surfacing of a minke whale!  And it surfaces several times, giving everyone a good look.  These usually solitary whales are often a challenge to spot…but not today!

Kissin' Cousin Auklet

Kissin' Cousin Auklet

Another beautiful bird appears while we watch the minke whale, a rhinocerous auklet.  This is a “cousin” of the tufted puffin.  Lovely birds on grey water…I suppose winter is out there somewhere, moving toward us.

In the afternoon we find J pod whales moving up the westside of San Juan Island…they are fishing for salmon…right along with the commercial fish boats…and recreational fishermen as well.  The big boat only pulls in about 10 fish.  Enough for everyone?  We hope so.

Sachi racing north tight to a family member

Sachi racing north tight to a family member

Fishermen and Fisher-whales

Fishermen and Fisher-whales

Another wonderful day on the water…but today, for the first time, something about the temperature, the light…the water…hinted at the summer’s passing….here we go…on to a new season.

August 15th, 2014

Misty Morning, Sunny Afternoon

This morning begins misty and gradually the sky clears and by late afternoon we are back to our sunny summer day.  You just never know what to expect this time of year…and a little bit of everything is a perfect combination!  As with the weather…so goes the wildlife…a little bit of everything.

Hey Mom, Wait Up!

Hey Mom, Wait Up!

We watch as a mom harbor seal swiftly slithers up the rocky shore.  Her pup is right behind her, although not so swift!  Looks like this pup has had plenty to eat so far, so no worries…obviously it keeps up with her.

No eagle chicks today, but how about this adult bald eagle?  It’s all “business” in that pose and look!

Time for lunch....

Time for lunch....

There are more and more harbor seals showing on the rocks.  Some days they seem to be “everywhere!”  Today I count 6 bald eagles on our morning trip, and over 250 harbor seals in various locations.  Then…a steller sea lion appears in the middle of the channel!  Surprise!

Yikes!  What a big mouth you have!

Yikes! What a big mouth you have!

We keep a close ear to the radio and finally we have whales in our range!  For the afternoon trip we are off to Canada again.  Lucky for us the Georgia Strait is flat calm as we race across it to find part of J pod swimming along the far shore!

Here’s L-87 as he passes by us.

L-87 cruises the Georgia Strait

L-87 cruises the Georgia Strait

Lots of water miles covered today…and a little bit of everything in the weather and the wildlife!

August 12th, 2014

Perfect Day Recipe

Transients Rule!

Transients Rule!

The ingredients for this day are:  transient orca whales, bald eagles and fledgling chicks, harbor seal moms and pups, sunshine, calm water and magical San Juan Islands.  The directions?  Mix all together with liberal amounts of everything, add lots of smiles and looks of wonder…serve up for four hours of enjoyment!

We start the day with a transient orca report right over the border in Canada.  What we find upon arrival is a first for me.  The T-65A family is on the hunt right inside Bedwell Harbor next next to Poet’s Cove Marina and Resort…oh, AND Canada Customs dock!  A busy place for sure, but there must be a great marine mammal grocery store here too!

Racing along the Pender Island shore line!

Racing along the Pender Island shore line!

We find two transient orca families here hunting together.  Of course it’s amazing to watch the newest member T-65A5 racing along with the grown ups.  See that little head charging along?  And then below, following along?

Stealth cruising close to shore!

Stealth cruising close to shore!

We have a chance to cruise back toward Friday Harbor slowly, enjoying an immature bald eagle blending into a tree on one of the Cactus Islands.  Amazing…the ability to totally “be one with the tree.”  A guest pointed this one out to me!

Easy to miss…..

Immature Eagle Hide and Seek

Immature Eagle Hide and Seek

The afternoon trip allows us to travel all of about five minutes from the dock when Captain Pete announces:  ”We’re here everyone!”  What???

Something's Up!  Or...Down!!

Something's Up! Or...Down!!

Right across San Juan Channel we find the T-18’s shopping the shore of Shaw Island.  This group of four transients, including two big males, have a lot of interest in small rocky reefs which they circle around throwing up “pressure waves” hoping the seals will slide into the water for “safety”!  Ha!

Amazing to watch this group as they forage and hunt their way up the Shaw shore, right on over to the little islands around Yellow Island and then circle all of that island for at least 30 minutes.  They are in full hunt mode, with quick turns, dives, and lots of coordinated action.

We move on to check out other wildlife and what to our wondering eyes does appear?  As we are watching this young bald eagle chick in the nest…it takes off on a flight…right over to a tree top next door!  It’s the first eagle fledgling flight of the season for me!

Bald Eagle "Chick"

Bald Eagle "Chick"

Always intersting to see what’s in the kelp beds around some of the smaller islands.  Today we a find harbor seal cruising and a  mom and pup….watching…us!

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Who's Watching WHO?

Who's Watching WHO?

"If we turn this way, they won't see us!"

"If we turn this way, they won't see us!"

All ingredients added, mixed and savored.  A perfect recipe for a perfect cruise!

August 8th, 2014

Summer Breeze…and Orcas Please!

L-92 Crewser

L Pod cruises north

What a great way to start a morning!  We have a whale report first thing and leave the harbor with a good idea of where to find whales.  Today we locate parts of all three southern resident orcas off the south end of San Juan Island.  There is a nice breeze, a few wind waves and lots of whales!  They are in traveling mode…so we are too.  Along the westside of the island we go, heading north at a good clip.

There is a lot of current this morning and in the tide rips…lots of tail slapping and breaching!  A littel bouncy for photography, but perfect for watching spectacular whale behavior!

The whales take us on a complete circumnavigation of San Juan Island, although we leave them to the west.  Our afternoon trip takes us back to the west again, but lucky for us, some of the whales that were headed north, turned and came back south….to a perfect place for us to view them!

Or…for them to view us?

Spy Hop!

Spy Hop!

What a beautiful day to be on the water, in the company of whales.  We also have the opportunity to find harbor seal moms and pups and  bald eagle adults and chicks!  It’s that time of year in the San Juans!

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Sometimes I really do wonder…just WHO is watching WHO?

August 2nd, 2014

Humpback Antics

Today we found ourselves among humpback whales in the morning, as well as a huge steller sea lion, harbor seals and eagle chicks.  In the afternoon we watched transient orca whales as they headed out into Georgia Strait.  Both trips were in glorious sunshine and warm, warm weather.  Oh, and flat, flat water!

Dive!

Dive!

This morning’s trip finds us way out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca heading toward humpback whales.  We find a mother and calf, perhaps the same ones we saw last week?  Then my eye catches another blow in front of us!  There are three humpbacks!

Often we see these massive whales in traveling mode, but today they are in “goof off mode!”  The calf treats us to at least a dozen tiny spy hops and the mother and calf get into a “tail flopping” contest!

Baby Spy Hop and Big Spray

Baby Spy Hop and Big Spray

Ready, Set...Action!

Ready, Set...Action!

Sneaky Surfacing

Sneaky Surfacing

First it’s just a back…a long, long, LONG back.  But, then….

Cute "Little" Humpback Smile!

Cute "Little" Humpback Smile!

More Than Just a Dive!

More Than Just a Dive!

Here’s the grand finale…at least while I had my camera out.  Wow!

August 1st, 2014

Residents, Transients…

It’s a beautiful morning out on the water and not long after we are away from the dock we hear that some of the southern resident orca whales are heading south from Canada!  We find them in Boundary Pass…today they are Canadian whales as they are hugging the Canadian shore.

Some J's and K's Racing Down Boundary Pass

Some J's and K's Racing Down Boundary Pass

There are several big males cruising along off to the side of some of the smaller groups of females and youngsters.

L-87 Onyx

L-87 Onyx

Lobo K-26

Lobo K-26

Before we know it we have crossed the “line” and now we’re back in U.S. waters…along with these members of the southern resident orcas.

Great Blue Heron...."Tree Sitting"

Great Blue Heron...."Tree Sitting"

After a good hour with the orcas, we head to some of the small islands on our route.  Looking up…what a surprise!  A great blue heron is perched high in a tree today.  We usually see these magnificent birds balancing on a kelp patch or standing on a rocky shore.

Gull Fly By

Gull Fly By

This gull is on a mission.  There is a group of birds greedily poking their heads into the water up ahead.  The small schooling fish must be hanging out just under the surface!  This is what a gull hopes for!

Adult Bald Eagle

Adult Bald Eagle

Eyes up again….there’s an adult bald eagle watching over all the drama below.

Harbor Seal Mum and Pup

Harbor Seal Mum and Pup

Cruising through some harbor seal territory, we find a new pup with it’s mom, soaking up the late morning sun.

The afternoon trip takes us back up to the north, but this time we find ourselves in the company of a transient orca whale family.  There is lots of action today, but it seems more social than the serious business of hunting.

Transient Orca Ballet Duo

Transient Orca Ballet Duo

Tail Wave Goodbye!

Tail Wave Goodbye!

Time watching orcas “at play” passes too quickly!  Why is that?

July 26th, 2014

Minkes and Humpbacks!

Humpback Duet

Humpback Duet

Saturday is another day of incredible weather in the Salish Sea.  In the morning we head north and find a minke whales up near Boundary Pass and Waldron Island.  This whale is good a guessing games.  Today’s game is called “Where Am I?”  This is one talented whale, as on our first looks, we are surprised each time it surfaces in a very different location!  A circle around a wildlife refuge island turns up over 100 harbor seals, including moms and pups in the water.  The eagles are also out and about.  Then, what do you know…return of the minke whale.  This time there is no guessing game, just lots of great viewing as it surfaces and dives many times around us.

Our afternoon trip turns up two humpback whales, way way off toward Victoria, B.C.  It’s a long run, but out by Middle Bank we are treated to three minke whales all surfacing and diving in the same area.  Arriving four miles off the Victoria shore, the humpback spouts are visible in the air ahead of us!  Today we watch as a mother and calf travel to the west, all the time into the flood tide, which means none of us went very far west.  Can you pick out the calf dorsal fin, right next to mom?

Mama Humpback Travels with Calf

Mama Humpback Travels with Calf

Here’s one more photo of the “wee one.”  Guess there is never really a “wee” humpback whale!

Humpback Calf

Humpback Calf

July 25th, 2014

Surprise! Tufted Puffins….and More!

Tufted Puffin With Groceries

Tufted Puffin With Groceries

Friday morning takes us out to Salmon Bank for our whale and wildlife search.  We find a very elusive minke whale and after a bit, decide to look closer into the shoreline.  What do we find?  Wow!.. a tufted puffin is shopping for groceries right on the south shore of Lopez Island!  And that’s not all…it turns out to be four tufted puffins!  I count myself as lucky to have a sighting or two a summer, but four at one time is very very lucky!

Does it see us in the rear view mirror???

Does it see us in the rear view mirror???

catch-of-the-day

What flashy dressers with the amazing and bright orange beak…feet too…and then…the striking white and special long head feathers.

Right near the puffins, two marbled murrlets pop up in the water.  Since these tiny birds only nest in old growth forests, they must  fly about 70 miles from their nest sites to the waters right here in order to fish for the same food the puffins like.  Small bird…with a mighty flight mission every day.

marbled-murrlet

We head back out toward the bank and find the minke whale circling along the edges of the more shallow area, where the bank drops off to deeper water.  Everyone gets some wonderful looks at this adult minke, busy collecting today’s catch.

On our way back to Friday Harbor we cruise by a wildlife refuge and find gull chicks perched on the rocky top and harbor seal pups with moms on the shore below.  Those soft grey chick feathers and spotted heads are excellent camouflage for a bird born and raised on these grey, spotted rocks!

"Three chicks on a ledge and the little one said...."

"Three chicks on a ledge and the little one said...."

Lending a flipper....

Lending a flipper....

The orca whales remain somewhere out in the open ocean today, both residents and transients.  The weather is fabulous, the water flat and glassy, and it’s a perfect day for being out on the Salish Sea.

July 22nd, 2014

Dinner is Served at Salmon Bank!

Today is Tuesday.  Tuesday is a good day to spend with whales…and it’s seems that’s true!  We have an early morning charter today and what luck, a whale report to begin the morning.  We head off to the north and find Southern Resident orcas traveling down the side of San Juan Island.  They are using a travel pattern we have seen many times before, cruising close to some of the bluff areas, through the big open bays with stops for foraging, and then swiftly across the channels.

Southern Resident Female

Southern Resident Female

It’s good to see the Center for Conservation Biology out with their scat sniffing dog, Tucker, ready to go into action!

The Orca Poop Collection Team!

The Orca Poop Collection Team!

We encounter whales early, have a great whale watch, and have the luxury of finding other wildlife on the trip home.  We even take a senic cruise through Mosquito Pass and Roche Harbor.

In the afternoon the whales draw us again to the south end of the island and Salmon Bank.  There’s a reason it’s called “Salmon Bank” and hope the fishing is very, VERY good for our Southern Resident orcas today!

Lobo Goes on a Deep Dive

Lobo Goes on a Deep Dive

We find both J pod and some of K pod fishing together this afternoon.  They are very spread out in small groups, and eventually, head out for the Salmon Bank bouy together.

First there was “one”….and….”then there were three”!  The magic of now you see it, now you don’t…and, then you DO!  Those whales!  Magic!

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July 19th, 2014

Transients! You’re Back!

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Sometimes you have no idea of the detail in a photograph until it appears on your computer screen.  Look who is popping up in the back of this group!

Today we spend the morning searching and searching for the Resident orca whales that were last seen traveling to the north.  We see abundant wildlife on our trip and search many miles in both U.S. and Canadian water, but the elusive whales remain elusive to all the boats.

Then….suddenly Transient whales are found in Rosario Strait…and not one, but two family groups and an adult male often seen alone!

Racing Along Shore

Racing Along Shore

It doesn’t take too long to arrive on scene and lucky us…the whales are traveling in the direction of Friday Harbor!

So, we all travel along together headed for the same destination…as it turns out.

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Adult Male Transient Orca Whale

The lighting doesn’t help much  in this photo as far as noticing the large nicks out of the trailing edge of this male dorsal fin, but the identifying marks are there.  We have two family groups this afternoon, the T-137’s and the T-124’s and then T-77A.

We have time this afternoon to also admire harbor seals and an eagle.  Often with the word “wildlife” the word “surprise” enters into the conversation.  By the end of the day, our Resident orca whales, so elusive in the morning, are discovered racing right past the place we had gone to find them….and the Transient orca whales made a pass right up San Juan Channel and Friday Harbor!

July 18th, 2014

Whales and Wildlife Abound!

We are lucky to find whales to the north this morning and spend a wonderful hour or more traveling along with them.  We encounter them before we expect to so the first fin sighting is a big surprise!  It is a little bouncy for photography this morning, but later in the day it’s a different story!

Who is Watching Who?

Who is Watching Who?

There is a lot of wildlife out and about this morning!  Harbor seals are always some of our favorite marine mammals to watch…but today…who is watching who?

We are lucky to encounter lots of eagle action out and about some of the low lying rocky areas around the islands.  Here’s an adult bald eagle taking off from a spot where several eagles are challenging each other for the prize!

Taking Home the Prize

Taking Home the Prize

Morning Break Time

Morning Break Time

Where's My Prize?

Where's My Prize?

Heading south this afternoon we find this little harbor seal out for a swim in a kelp bed.

Morning Swim Exercises

Daily Swim Exercises

What a perfect place for hide and seek in the kelp forest underneath the surface!

Got Fish???

Got Fish???

In the afternoon the whales take us way down to the south end of the island where the water is flat and the fishing must be good!  Here is a mother and calf pair rounding up dinner.

The High Speed Chase is ON!

The High Speed Chase is ON!

K-21 Cruises Slowly By

K-21 Cruises Slowly By

Airborne!

Airborne!

Wow!  We’re about to leave the whales…and in the distance an airborne whale!  Beautiful!

Good Afternoon!

Good Afternoon!

In the distance we see whales moving north, as we are moving south toward home.  Seems it’s easy to admire these incredible creatures both from near and far.  We have both opportunities!