April 23rd, 2014
So, this time of year we frequently leave the dock without any reports of whales. And some days we get lucky and someone finds them as we leave the dock. Today, we left the dock without any reports. A gray whale had been spotted near Anacortes, but couldn’t be relocated. So we decided to head north where there always seems to be lots of great wildlife and scenery to view. And wouldn’t you know it, 20 minutes after leaving the dock, we get a report of 5-6 orcas way up north of Active Pass. A long run, but we decide to go for it! But the best laid plans and all…wouldn’t you know it–totally unknown to everyone out today–a very active group of 9 Transient (mammal-feeding) orcas were just waiting for us in Boundary Pass!
One of my “bucket list” whales I’ve heard about but never seen is a big male named T63, or as he is more commonly known–Chainsaw (how tough and cool is that name?!) So I was very excited to finally see this whale, and he is HUGE! He gets the name from the fact that his dorsal fin looks like he ran into a chainsaw. Very distinctive. He was in the company of 8 other Transients from a total of 4 different families (T63, T65 group, T36A group, and some of the T124s).
And this group was in a very social, and boisterous mood. It’s always exciting to see the many behaviors orcas exhibit, and this group showed nearly every behavior, some repeatedly! We had a few spyhops, a bunch of tail lobs, porpoising, a triple tail stand, and unexpectedly–106 Breaches. Yes, one hundred and six! It was amazing to see Transients behaving much like Residents do.
The hour we had with this group went by far too quickly, and soon it was time to explore the other amazing sights.
We had the chance to see 100s of Harbor Seals hauled out on Sentinel Rocks while an immature bald eagle stood watch over them.
We had the great opportunity to view the Mouflan Sheep (and their large group of new babies) and even a solid white Fallow Deer, and a few Japanese Siika deer. And to top it off, we thought we’d observe a few Steller Sea Lions, but one came so close he was actually observing US!
It is always a thrill to be out on the water, and I love the fact that every trip is unique, and we never know what to expect. A lot of fun introducing our passengers to this beautiful area. And a big thanks to Captain Nancy for bringing her luck on her first trip of this summer!
John Boyd (JB)
SSAMN Marine Naturalist, Western Prince