Seattle Whale Watching Conservation

San Juan Islands Whale Watching
Blog & Photos

October 18th, 2014

What a Difference a Day Makes…

L pod!

L pod!

Today is SO different from yesterday!  It’s not only SUNNY, but the sea is flat calm, the temperatures are warm…and it’s one of those “incredible October days” on the water.  We leave the dock with a report of a humpback whale across Haro Strait.  The resident orca whales have been south in Puget Sound following a run of salmon down there.  No one has seen them since last night.

Not long into our trip the resident orcas are sighted!  And we are already heading toward them!  Yippee!

L-92 Crewser

L-92 Crewser

I have not spent a lot of time with L pod this summer, so it’s a perfect “last day of the season” for me.  Here is L-92, a male born in 1995, as he swims past us in Haro Strait.

L pod females

L pod females

We have the pleasure of motoring along with at least 10 L pod whales as they liesurely travel off to the west of San Juan Island.  They are trending in a westerly direction, and I’m thinking how lucky we are to see them before they take off for the open ocean again.

Humpback fluke!

Humpback fluke!

Going down...

Going down...

Disappearing.....

Disappearing.....

Now we turn our attention to the humpback whale that is reported off the west side of San Juan Island, not too far away.  It doesn’t take too long to hear the “BLOW” and then spot a fluke in the distance.  We get many great views of this adult humpback today!

Practicing being big....VERY BIG!

Practicing being big....VERY BIG!

The steller sea lions are in great form at Whale Rocks.  I count 40 plus on the south side of this haul out.

Adult bald eagle....not hiding...

Adult bald eagle....not hiding...

This eagle is spotted from a long way away…the adult coloration of the head, a give away.  Easy to spot if you use my clue: “Look for a golf ball, high in a tree, where a golf ball should not be!”  We wind up finding two of these magnificent raptors!

Harbor seal nap time

Harbor seal nap time

Even with the high tide today, we find harbor seals on this haul out at Mummy Rocks….riding high in the high tide!

It’s been another fabulous day on the water, seeing all the wildlife the Salish Sea offers us….

October 17th, 2014

You Just NEVER Know!…..

T-38's cruise past Friday Harbor!

T-38's cruise past Friday Harbor!

We are watching the weather today, and I mean….WATCHING.  There are storm force winds predicted and that can mean challenging sea conditions.  Not exactly great for spotting wildlife, or “smooth sailing.”

We leave the dock at noon and head out.  There are not many boats out this time of year, so that makes finding wildlife even more challenging.  However, not even five minutes into our trip…we spot Transient orca whales right ahead of us!  What fantastic luck!

The T-38 family, perhaps as many as 6 or 7 orcas…are hunting right outside of Friday Harbor.  They are doing a lot of fast swimming, quick turns, and splashing.  The birds are congregating overhead and obviously picking up “left overs” on the surface of the water.

2013 calf tail slap behavior

2013 calf tail slap behavior

Mama spy hop, baby deep dive!

Mama spy hop, baby deep dive!

Little one keeps up!

Little one keeps up!

Tail slap!

Tail slap!

Youngster pops UP!

Youngster pops UP!

We wind up watching this family as they hunt their way past Friday Harbor, down San Juan Channel, and past the reef at Turn Island.  Once they disappear by an island shore, only to pop up on the other side of the boat hunting the reef marker area!

Picking up speed....

Picking up speed....

The wind and storm weather is lurking nearby and suddenly the whales pick up speed and start racing through the waves and current!

Spy hop goodbye!

Spy hop goodbye!

After a fantastic time watching this family hunt for harbor seals and porpoise…and…well, what we can’t see under water…they swim off up an adjoining channel.  We turn to the north and look for sheltered water!

Adult bald eagle

Adult bald eagle

We find flat water and lots of wildlife up to the north by Spieden Island.  Here’s one of the 7 bald eagles we find today!

Mouflon big horn ram and female

Mouflon big horn ram and female

There are lots of mouflon sheep out on the hillside this afternoon, as well as European fallow deer.

Fly Away!

Fly Away!

Finally we turn for home, and have some choppy water to get through before we are tied up at our dock safe and sound.  What an awesome trip today!  You just NEVER know what you are going to see….until you get back!

October 11th, 2014

Hello Little Humpback!

Humpback Hello

Humpback Hello

Today we have a high school ocean studies group aboard.  We are ready to leave the dock and we get a call that there is a humpback right outside of the harbor.  Our first stop for wildlife for the day is only five minutes away!

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This appears to be a “smaller” humpback whale and may be one that we spent time with two days ago.  Unfortunately I do not get a good photo of the underside of the fluke, which would help to identify this animal.

We have lots of other wildlife to check out today, including steller sea lions, harbor seals, seabirds, harbor porpoise and adult bald eagles.  The afternoon turns into  brilliant sunshine and calm water as we motor between the San Juan Islands and search out fabulous wildlife sightings.

Adult Bald Eagle Watching Us!

Adult Bald Eagle Watching Us!

Snowy White

Snowy White

High and Dry?

High and Dry?

Fancy Backbend!

Fancy Backbend!

Yoga Seal

Yoga Seal

The harbor seals are having quite a time with the rushing currents today.  Seconds after I take this photo, the seal winds up shooting off into the water and disappears!

Lurking Steller Sea Lion

Lurking Steller Sea Lion

We have three opportunities to watch steller sea lions today.  The first is in pretty active water and waves, but the last is floating in calm water as these huge males circle around the kelp beds.  We hope it’s good fishing for them!

Out for Lunch

Out for Lunch

Another great day on the water in autumn!  We had every weather condition to today, ending in perfect light and water….and lots and lots of wildlife…living a wild life!

October 10th, 2014

J Pod!

Southern Resident Male

Southern Resident Male

The morning starts with a report of J pod and K pod calls on the westside hydrophone at 6:00 a.m.!  The fog prevails, but we know they must be out there.  The hydrophones can’t be wrong!

By the time our trip leaves, we have several reports of J pod whales foraging on the westside.  It’s a bit “bouncy” today and we have a full boat of enthuiastic whale watchers, so not too many photos.  Just the pleasure of watching orca whales with a great group of passengers, fills the afternoon.

Foraging Along the Shore

Foraging Along the Shore

Breaking Surface!

Breaking Surface!

On our way back to Friday Harbor we also make a stop to see the enormous group of steller sea lions gathered at Whale Rocks.  I count over 40 animals.  We find harbor seal pups in the water around Goose Island, and even a few grebes (sea birds) pop up near us!

Even grey, misty northwest days seem bright with so much wildlife surrounding us.

October 9th, 2014

Humpback High Fives!

Humpback High Five!

Humpback High Five!

It’s foggy today.  FOGGY.  The ferries are late, the fog horns blast, the air is full of heavy mist….how will this all work for watching wildlife?  I wonder.  The answer is:  fantastic!

We start out of the harbor at  noon.  The fog is thick, but within 20 minutes we are suddenly in clear air with views in all directions!  Thinking that we will start with searching to the north, a radio call tells us that humpback whales have been spotted….and not all that far from our position!

Luckily the water is flat and calm, perfect spotting condtions.  On our way to the northern shore of Orcas Island, we find many harbor porpoise popping up in the channel.  Two western grebes also surprise us!

Then, what we have been hoping for….a sighting of two humpback whales!  And the afternoon of whale watching really begins.

A Deep Dive!

A Deep Dive!

What could be better than floating along on smooth water, in the sunshine and watching two humpbacks as they poke around between islands?

Huge Cartwheel!

Huge Cartwheel!

Perhaps the answer to that is, two humpbacks that start doing aerial displays!!  What surprises!  Here is a cartwheel by one whale, while the other swims alongside.

Flukes UP!

Flukes UP!

Up, UP, UP!!!

Up, UP, UP!!!

Oh my!  Here’s a breach sequence that I am lucky enough to capture.  There are a few of these, but I only get one with my camera.

Still UP!

Still UP!

And now....OVER!

And now....OVER!

And....Splash Down!

And....Splash Down!

Sometimes there is a series of breaches that happen close together.  These two whales are full of surprises, and no prediction works….it’s just all “SURPRISE!”

"Two Thumbs Up" rating?

"Two Thumbs Up" rating?

Here are two pec fins, raised in the air.  Each pec fin can be up to 14 feet in length.  Slapping a pec fin on the surface really makes a loud “Slap”!!

So Long!

So Long!

After a wonderful afternoon with two, and then, three humpback whales, we turn for Friday Harbor.  It all began with wondering what a foggy day, with some limited visibility, could turn up with wildlife….and…what a SURPRISE!

October 4th, 2014

September Saturday

What a great Saturday out on the water!  We have word that there are southern resident orca whales in the area!  Great way to start a trip!  We take our time on the way to see the whales, as the wildlife spotting turns up a lot of things to look at!

We find harbor seals, steller sea lions, sea pups and even a bald eagle!  The day is overcast and typical of our pacific northwest weather pattern.  While taking our time watching wildlife, we learn that the orca whales have decided to rocket up the westside of San Juan Island!  Time to get going!

Hello J Pod!

Hello J Pod!

We find J pod whales, including J-27, Blackberry, up the north west side of San Juan by Open Bay.  The water is flat calm and provides us great viewing opportunities.

Surface!

Surface!

Tucker the Conservation Cainine Hard at Work!

Tucker the Conservation Cainine Hard at Work!

It’s great to see Tucker out on the water hard at work sniffing for orca poop!  This is a research group that uses a dog named Tucker to locate orca poop in the water.  The scat is scooped up and sent into a lab for analysis and the information is very valuable in putting together the puzzle of the challenges the southern residient orca whales face.  Tucker:  My Hero!

Soon, too soon, it’s time to head back to Friday Harbor.  What an amazing day out on the water with whales!

(and seals, sea lions, seabirds, harbor porpoise, …..and cool dogs!)

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October 2nd, 2014

Fall….into Wildlife and Whales

Flipper High Five

Flipper High Five

Who knew a Thursday in October would be so beautiful?!  Fall is definitely here and and we are enjoying it with a lot of exciting wildlife and whales.  Today we find nearly 60 steller sea lions down near Cattle Pass.  We stop to admire a giant “High Five” from this adult male.  We’re thinking this one tops out the scales at the gym…maybe 2,000 pounds!?

"Hey!  Watch this...."

"Hey! Watch this...."

"Sploooshhhh!"

"Sploooshhhh!"

Watching these incredible sea lions is always surprising and we are not disappointed today!

It doesn’t take too long to hear about two families of transient orca (Bigg’s) whales that are traveling north.  So, off we go…to the north!

".... Go swimming two by two.."

".... Go swimming two by two.."

Look closely and you will see four whales.  We find the T-49A’s and then suddenly it’s the T-49B’s as well.  As if whales are multiplying, some T-65’s join in.  So within thirty minutes it goes from “several” whales to many many more!

Family and Friends

Family and Friends

Today is full of guessing games as to where whales will pop up after the five minute dives.  Sometimes it’s pretty much where we expect….and then sometimes it’s on a different side and headed the opposite direction.  We can only guess there is some wiley prey under the surface leading the chase.

Afternoon Nap Time

Afternoon Nap Time

And there is plenty of prey for these mammal eating orca whales in the Salish Sea.  Here are a few unsuspecting harbor seals who seem to have no idea they could be on the menu.

Dramatic Pose

Dramatic Pose

On our way back to Friday Harbor we find this regal adult bald eagle perched high on the side of an island tree branch surveying the water for it’s next meal.  What a beauty!

Now that the Fall season is really here, we run our trip earlier and we are back on the dock by 4:00 p.m.  It’s been an awesome afternoon!

September 27th, 2014

Sunny September Saturday

Common murre....winter outfit

Common murre....winter outfit

Look who is out on Salmon Bank in Haro Strait today!  Common murres are covering the water in places and looking very outfitted for the winter season.  Such a beauty floating on calm blue water!

K-21 cruises westward

K-21 cruises westward

It doesn’t take long today to locate some of the southern resident orca whales.  Part of J pod and several members of K pod are all foraging in the same area, but very spread out.

Polaris - J-28 logging

Polaris - J-28 logging

Polaris and her calf, Star, are being more lazy this afternoon.  Here is mom, Polaris, quietly floating with just her fin and back showing.  We call this “logging” or “sharking”….easy to figure out why!

J-38, Cookie

J-38, Cookie

We find J-38, Cookie, one of the young males of J pod, swimming with K-21, a young adult K pod male!  They appear to be best buds today!

K-21 breaks the surface

K-21 breaks the surface

The time passes too quickly.  It’s such a lovely afternoon on the water with the luxury of watching several whales almost all to ourselves.

Hey!  Good Lookin', What 'cha Got Cookin'???

Hey! Good Lookin', What 'cha Got Cookin'???

Whale Rocks, a wildlife reserve island, has as many as 45 steller sea lions today.  There is a lot of drama with roaring, pushing, shoving, more roaring, and all over what may be a female sea lion.  We usually see exclusively males in this place, so it’s interesting to watch it all unfold.

Snoozin' harbor seals rest on Whale Rocks

Snoozin' harbor seals rest on Whale Rocks

A careful survey of the rocks turns up three harbor seals way over on the edge.  Seems they are too far into dreamland to be bothered by all the action next door.

Eyes on YOU!

Eyes on YOU!

Turning around and glancing off the stern, I see we are not the only ones keeping eyes on things around here!

September 24th, 2014

Special Visitors….Pacific Whitesided Dolphins!

Freedom

Freedom

Another day of dramatic northwest weather….and amazing northwest wildlife.  Today we find pacific whitesided dolphins out in Haro Strait.  And…not just one or two…but easily over 50 of these energetic beautiful cetaceans!  Wow!

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Catch Me if You Can!

Catch Me if You Can!

Contest Winner

Contest Winner

Peek!

Peek!

But wait!  Who is that peeking above the surface?!  It’s one of two adult males from the southern resident orca whale population!  Today we find Mike, J-26 and K-21 hanging out together in Haro Strait!  The rest of Mike’s immediate family passes by too!

And...UP!

And...UP!

It’s perfect out on the water today for just hanging out, watching these two huge males, hang out…

Doublestuf J-34

Doublestuf J-34

Then along comes J-34 and mom J-22, Oreo.  It seems all of the whales are now headed for shore and up island.

Suddenly we’re in a flock of over 50 common murres, bobbing in the water!

Winter Clothes

Winter Clothes

Time to check out the sea lions over on Whale Rocks….here we go…

Snoozers

Snoozers

Big Guy Practice Pose

Big Guy Practice Pose

On the way in…Alison gets this fabulous seal pup shot!  Another piece of evidence for my phrase: “We never know what we are going to see….we just know…if we’re not there…we’re not going to see it!”

Who Are You?

Who Are You?

What a sweet end to a day filled with a little bit of everything…all the best of the Pacific Northwest!

September 17th, 2014

Humpback Day!

Winter Water Fall

Winter Water Fall

Our trip today takes us to Rosario Strait on a grey, Pacific Northwest weather day.  Spirits are high as not far out of the harbor we are surprised by a steller sea lion cruising along the shoreline by Lopez!  We motor on to Rosario Strait and in the distance a huge blow is visible.  We have the pleasure of being the only boat watching this amazing whale.

There She Blows!

There She Blows!

It’s soon clear that this is an adult humpback and not in any hurry to go anywhere.  Perhaps finding something to eat?

Deep Dive!

Deep Dive!

Lazy whale....

Lazy whale....

Eventually we have to turn for Friday Harbor.  Along the way we find dozens of harbor seals hauled out on the Pea Pod rocks.  Here are two of my favorite photos from today!

Best Buddies

Best Buddies

A Game of "Statue"

A Game of "Statue"

Everybody loves harbor seals!  Right?

September 16th, 2014

The T18’s Are Back!

King of the Tree...or Queen

King of the Tree...or Queen

Speaking of “Back”….the bald eagles seem to have returned from their annual party over at the Skagit River.  We are happy to find this beautiful bird posing for us high in a tree in the islands this afternoon!  Of course the greenery really shows off the amazing coloration of the adult eagle!

Soon we see black fins in the distance!  It’s transient (Bigg’s) orca whales today!  This group of transients, the T-18’s and 19’s (always together) are among my favorite whales.  There are two males and two females.

"Mr. Floppy Fin" T19B

"Mr. Floppy Fin" T19B

This photo was taken by the steep shore of Stuart Island, right below “Lovers Leap”!  The massive fin on this whale is tipping the the right, so you can’t see the entire fin from this angle.  It’s sort of like a disguise as it looks different from any angle!

Heading Up Island

Heading Up Island

I know I probably won’t see this particular group tomorrow as they roam far and wide quickly.  A good reminder of remembering to appreciate what you are seeing at the moment, and doing more “watching” than photography!  So I do a little of that …..

Pacific Northwest Classic Day

Pacific Northwest Classic Day

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!