With the help of some of our sharp-eyed passengers we found two gray whales today at the south end of Camano Island. On most days the boat crew finds whales, but today it was the passengers that spotted our firs whale. It was right at Camano Head and we were just to the point where we were turning around to look in a different direction when several passengers spotted an exhalation blow.The gray whale was feeding in the shallows off Camano Head. Shortly after acquiring this first gray whale Capt. Michael spotted another gray whale not far from the first. We stuck with the first one for a while and quickly identified it as number 723. Eventually he started to swim out into deeper water and he even raised his tail flukes once for us. The other gray whale was slowly making his way toward us so we waited until he got into close range. This whale seemed to be pretty confused as to which direction to go. He kept swimming back-and-forth – out into deep water then back to the shallows, then out again, and back to the shallows! It took a while but we finally figured out this second animal was number 383. Other wildlife that we spotted during this beautiful day on the water included California sea lions, a bald eagle, cormorants, Brant, and pigeon guillemots. Naturalist Bart Rulon
First of all, while we were on scene with our little group of J pod, including little J51, born earlier this year, we got word that there was ANOTHER new baby in J pod! That means that we have three new babies just since January 1st! So, the newest little one is J52, its mother is unconfirmed as of this blog post.
Now on to our trip today…
As we left the dock, the sunshine continued to stream through the clouds and we had blue skies all day! We spotted a few common loons as we started our trip. We took a turn to the north up Rosario Strait. There was a mature bald eagle perched in a tree on the north side of Orcas Island. A sharp-eyed passenger spotted a harbor seal in the water. Captain Scott kept us trucking to the north! We eventually left the US-Canadian border in our dust as we continued north. We found orcas! The first whale we saw was J34 (Doublestuf)! His dorsal fin has definitely grown since last year! He surfaced a few times, but then another little group caught our eye! It was J19 (Shachi), J41 (Eclipse) and J51! We had some great looks and J51 was definitely having some fun, s/he almost breached! We had a spyhop from one of the whales! Then we had a huge breach from J19! The whales crossed our bow and then J34 resurfaced off the stern and continued to surface alongside us! After J34 passed us, we had to turn back toward homeport. We spotted J38 (Cookie) in the distance. We had a long haul home. On our way back, we spotted several harbor seals hauled out on Clements Reef and several Steller sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks of Ewing Island. We spotted another bald eagle on the southeastern tip of Guemes Island. What a day! Gorgeous weather! Flat calm waters! J pod!
Our trip today from Everett was filled with wildlife from start to finish, including four gray whales in our backyard! A harbor seal popped up to check us out as we boarded the Island Explorer 3. A mature bald eagle circled above us as we left the dock, and a California sea lion was hauled out on the marker next to the Naval station. This sea lion was sleeping pretty heavily and barely lifted his head to watch us pass. Fifteen minutes later we were on scene with our first whale. #53 Little Patch was just offshore of Gedney Island. He had some long down times as he may have been feeding in the area. We watched him surface for a few minutes until we moved on to two other whales that were just to the north. #22 and #383 were swimming southbound and at one point passed right by our boat! #22 showed her tail flukes repeatedly for us as well! After a nice, long visit with these two, we moved on to look for more whales in calmer waters. Capt. Carl spotted another whale near Camano Island. This whale had a seriously long down time, and we never got a good enough look to ID him. We traveled back toward the Snohomish River delta and found our first three whales as they swam in very shallow waters to feed. Several times we watched as they turned on their side and showed both there tails and pectoral fins. As we journeyed home we passed our sea lion buddy, who had not moved an inch in the last few hours! It’s been a great start to our season here in Everett, hope to see you soon!
We made our way into Canada in search of whales, and braved some rocky seas in the first hour of our trip today. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find any whales despite lots of hard searching. The highlights of our day happened mostly at Spieden Island where we spotted several bald eagles, a few of which were standing right on the ground. One beautiful adult eagle let us get very close to her since she was perched right on the edge of the shoreline, above the rocks. We also spotted a herd of mouflon sheep, and a bunch of Steller sea lions swimming around near Green Point. Our peaceful ride through the inner San Juan Islands was a nice contrast to the beginning of the trip when we had 3-4 foot seas. Other wildlife we spotted today included long-tailed ducks, surf scoters, white-winged scoters, rhinoceros auklets, cormorants, brant, and red-breasted mergansers. Our passengers will be able to ride along with us again for free since we did not find a whale. That’s our guarantee! Naturalist Bart Rulon
Another super trip from Everett today! A harbor seal greeted us again today as we prepped our guests for their adventure on the water. Two bald eagles were on Jetty Island as we got underway. Cruising west toward Whidbey Island we encountered three gray whales! The first two animals, #49 Patch, and #53 Little Patch, were swimming side-by-side as they traveled southbound in the calm seas. Soon, Capt. Carl had them lined up along the the Washington State ferry as it docked at the Clinton terminal. Both whales showed their tails for us and we spent quite a bit of time with these animals. They are two of our favorites! We got word of another whale just north of us and we turned to check out the scene. Gray whale #22 was in very, very shallow water along the Whidbey coast and she was turned over on her side and feeding! Gray whales feed on the bottom, turning on their side to dig into the mud and find small crustaceans. We could see both her pectoral fin and tail sticking out of the water at the same time as she attempted to feast, as indicated in the attached photo! Sweet! We had a ton of ‘whale time’ today under sunny skies, a real bonus! After leaving the whales we went on a search for more wildlife. Another bald eagle was perched on the Snohomish River delta marker, and we passed a huge group of western grebes. Brant geese and surf scoters flew past our boat as well. One of the highlights of the day came toward the end of our trip, as we approached the dock. 8-10 bald eagles were in a full skirmish at Jetty Island, all trying to steal some type of carnage from the other! A great way to cap of another awesome day! Make sure you get to Everett soon to come visit with our buddies ‘Patch’, ‘Little Patch’ and the rest of our regular gray whale friends that pass through here every spring!
-Captain and Naturalist Michael Colahan
Our first trip of the year from Anacortes started out with lots of wind from the southwest, forcing us to take a route that we might not have otherwise. We started out by stopping at Pointer Island to check out several harbor seals on the rocks there. Next we made our way through the inner San Juan Islands spotting several bald eagles along the way. At the east side of Spieden Island (Green Point) we stopped to watch a big group of Steller sea lions swimming together in a very tight knit group. This was a pretty cool experience to see all these sea lions lazily meandering around together as if they didn’t have a care in the world. Next we cruised the shoreline of Spieden Island and spotted tons of mouflon sheep, including several rams. At times the sheep would start sprinting up or down the hillsides! We also spotted more bald eagles and harbor seals along the shoreline. Captain Scott teamed up with other local captains to make the best search pattern possible and we eventually made our way up toward Sucia Island where we found more seals, and eagle, and a bunch of Steller sea lions hauled out on the rocks. A few of the grumpy creatures fought with each other for no apparent reason except wanting to have some space to themselves. We searched far and wide and as hard as we could today, but there just weren’t any whales to be found in the spots with calm seas today. The bird watchers were blessed with plenty of birds, besides the eagles, including long-tailed ducks, buffleheads, white-winged scoters, surf scoters, western grebes, eared grebes, red-breasted mergansers, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, common murres, common loons, a black oystercatcher, a great blue heron, and a belted kingfisher. We had tons of variety! Naturalist Bart Rulon
Today’s trip was a fantastic one, with so many cool things to see, and all packed into a three-hour trip from Everett! A harbor seal greeted our passengers as we talked at the top of the dock and prepared to board the Island Explorer 3. Two bald eagles were on the pilings at Jetty Island and two California sea lions were hauled out on the navigational marker next to the Naval station. The sea lions were lounging in the sun and looking very comfortable. We found our first whale of the trip within 15 minutes of leaving the dock, and we realized this one animal was actually three. It was gray whales #22, #383, and #53 Little Patch all swimming together toward the river delta. They all showed us their tails as they continued quickly into the shallow waters. Soon, they were way into the delta and we moved on to look for more. We spotted two more gray whales near the north end of Gedney Island. #723 Lucy, and #49 Patch were swimming together southbound toward a shallow portion off of the island. We stayed with them for awhile and enjoyed awesome looks at both whales. The water was glass calm and we had the whales lined up at times with the Olympic Mountains in the background. At one point they both surfaced right next to us as we had the engines shut down! We turned back toward the whales in the shallows of the Snohomish River delta. Two of the whales were on their sides, as gray whales feed in this manner, and we could see both their pectoral fins and their tails sticking out of the water. Two additional bald eagles were on a marker nearby. One of the whales, #383, came out of the shallow water and cruised right past our boat! It was incredible! We eventually turned back to port and passed the same two California sea lions hauled out on the marker again. It was a really nice day for us out of Everett!