J and K Pods!

Anacortes

Highlights:
*J and K pod orcas
*Harbor seals and harbor porpoise
*Multiple bald eagles and a bald eagle nest
*Osprey at their nest
*Black oystercatchers, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, cormorants, and lots of gulls

We headed through the inner San Juan Islands today in order to meet up with resident orcas coming in from Canada.  Our first stop was at Blakely Island where we checked out two bald eagles perched in trees near their nest.  Our next stop was for orcas swimming northward near Henry Island.  They were pretty spread out and traveling at a good clip.  The first few whales we spotted included J14, Samish, and K26, Lobo.  Lobo swam right over toward us and we got some fantastic views of his tall dorsal fin!  Next we spotted J19, Shachi, and her family, Eclipse, J41, and the new calf, J51.  The three of them congregated for a minute near our boat to chase a fish near the surface!  After letting them go by we moved up a bit and took a good look at J40, Suttles, who gave us some of the best views of the day!  Just as they were nearing Stuart Island suddenly every one of the orcas turned right around and they started heading toward Johns Island – an unusual place to see these resident orcas.  They must have been finding some fish because they continued to circle as if chasing salmon as they went.  We saw K14, Lea, with K42, Kelp, and Lobo again.  Right as we departed J2, Granny, showed up right behind us.  Its always great to see her!  Shortly after leaving the orcas we stopped at a small rock pile and checked out some harbor seals and a couple of black oystercatchers.  Later, we stopped to look at the osprey nest on Crane Island on the way back to the dock.  Naturalist Bart Rulon

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Epic Transient Day Part 2!

Anacortes:

Highlights:
Transient orcas chase and catch a harbor seal again today!  Bald eagles, harbor seals, harbor porpoise, pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets, cormorants, great blue herons, and lots of gulls.

What are the chances we would have two of our very best trips of the year back to back!!  Well, I would say the chances are pretty good if you were on our trip today.  The transient orcas we watched yesterday were spotted again today in President’s Channel, and we headed straight there hoping for a repeat of yesterday’s afternoon trip.  Well, we timed it perfectly again today.  Right as we were arriving T75B’s family was circling around as if they had something they were following underneath.  It was T75B, T75C, T75B1, and the two calves again.  We saw some porpoise nearby, but their hunting technique didn’t seem to suggest a high speed chase after them.  What were they going after?  Well it became pretty obvious when a seal popped up right in the middle of the circling pod.  It looked as if the adults were letting the young whales learn a bit about the whole process of the hunt.  The whales tail slapped the seal, and they slashed around back and forth on either side of the seal.  Then once in a while an orca would come ripping in and grab the seal in her mouth, but then let it go again.  This drama went on for quite a while until the seal eventually disappeared.  For a while we couldn’t tell if they had eaten the seal or if they were still playing with it.  Eventually it became obvious that they probably had their meal once they decided to start swimming off and the orca breachfest began.  The adult females started breaching one after another, after another as they swam northward!  It was an amazing celebration and we were so lucky to witness it.  After the acrobatics the pod started to settle down and go into a resting/traveling mode.  We decided that it would be hard to beat what we had already seen and it was time to peel off to take a look at more wildlife.  We found an eagle and some harbor seals near Sucia Island as a nice finale.  The eagle even managed to fly out and do some maneuvers with Mt. Baker right behind him!  What an awesome trip!!  More high fives from the crew!!  Naturalist Bart Rulon

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Humpback Whale with Calf

Port Angeles.

Highlights:
*Harbor Seal eating a fish.
*Humpback Whales near Victoria, B.C. Whales seen included BCY0160 “Heather” and her calf swimming along side BCX01057.
*Tern flying over the boat.

Naturalist Log;
As the Island Explorer 4 entered the Juan de Fuca Strait, the waters were flat and calm. The glassy flat waters allowed wildlife to be easily seen, including Harbor Porpoise and Harbor Seals. One of the Harbor Seals was enjoying a meal, a big fish. We headed across the Juan de Fuca Strait towards Victoria, B.C. Shortly after we passed over Constance Bank, the first whale blows of the day were spotted. It was a Humpback Whale, identity still to be confirmed! We spent almost an hour enjoying the views of the whale. As we made our way to explore Race Rocks Island, more exhalations caught our attention. We could easily see that there was 2 big Humpback whales swimming together. As we got closer, we noticed that there was also a small calf swimming along side on of the whales. It was BCY0160 “Heather” and her calf swimming along with BCX01057. They gave us great looks, including some close to the boat. While we watched BCX01057 & BCY0160 “Heather” with her calf, a Tern bird flew overhead, close enough for us to see its pointy wings and black cap head. After many looks at the whales, we said our goodbyes. Before heading straight back for Port Angeles, we traveled through the Race Rocks area and enjoyed some looks at Harbor Seals hauled out on the rocks.
~Tamara
*Photo Credit to Lee Leddy*

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EPIC DAY!!!

Anacortes: 
What an amazing day on the water!!!  Check in later for more detailed trip descriptions!  Here are a few pictures as teasers from one of the most unique orca shows we have ever seen!!  There were so many awesome pictures in the afternoon that it was difficult to narrow them down to 10!   Naturalist Bart Rulon.
Afternoon Trip Highlights
Amazing transient killer whale action playing with a seal, over and over again!!!!  Harbor porpoise, harbor seals, bald eagles. 

Morning Highlights
K-pod orcas then transient killer whales!   Bald eagles, harbor seals, and harbor porpoise.

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Humpback-A-Palooza

Port Angeles.

Highlights:
*Harbor Porpoise easily spotted among the calm seas just past Ediz Hook.
*At least 5 Humpback whales just East of Race Rocks Island. Humpback whale group included individuals MMZ004, BCX1068 “Split Fluke”, and MMY0006 “Windy”.
*Humpback Whale BCY0324 “Big Mama” traveling just in front of Beecher Bay.
*Harbor Seals hanging out on rocks near Race Rocks Island.

Naturalist Log:
The sunshine and calm seas made for a great day out on the water. Shortly after entering the waters of Juan de Fuca Strait, many passengers spotted the short dorsal fins of Harbor Porpoise surfacing. It seemed like they were in every direction as we headed North across the strait. As we entered Canadian waters and neared Race Rocks Island, the first blows were spotted. They were seen just East of Race Rocks. Captain Tom got us closer for some great views. Our first humpback was MMZ0004. During our viewings of MMZ0004, we noticed several more exhalations of Humpback Whales around us. There was at least 5 whales close by! After getting lots of looks at MMZ0004, we headed towards a pair of humpbacks that were hanging out together. It was BCX1068 “Split Fluke” & MMY0006 “Windy”! They showed off their flukes and “Windy” even cart-wheeled bringing its pectoral flipper above the surface. Amazing looks. After spending over an hour with the Humpback whales, we decided to say goodbye and explore more areas of water. We started our continued exploration heading west and passing by Race Rocks Island. Many Harbor Seals were seen hauled out on the rocks and swimming in the near by waters. Shortly after passing Race Rocks Island, another exhalation was seen ahead. It was another humpback whale, BCY0324 “Big Mama”! She brought up her flukes for each deep dive, giving us all great looks. We finally had to make our turn back towards Port Angeles. We crossed the Juan de Fuca Strait, and enjoyed views of many birds, including Cormorants, and Harbor Seals while we followed the Olympic Peninsula Coastline back to Port Angeles. What a wonderful day out on the water!
~Tamara
*photo credit to season pass holder Lee Leddy*

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3 Babies In A Row!!!!

Port Angeles

Highlights
Heermann’s gulls on Ediz hook
Rhinoceros auklets throughout the day
Members of Jpod including all 3 new calves
Harbor seals by the end Ediz hook on return trip

Naturalist Log

Today started off much different than any of the days this week. During the night a dark and murky fog had made its way into the Salish sea. It stretched across the Straits of Juan de Fuca clean over to Vancouver island. A light westerly breeze had decided to accompany the fog and together they battled the now rising sun. It was unclear whether the skies would open up or not but suddenly as the IE4 exited the harbor of Port Angeles, the fog began to part and a clearing appeared, leading north toward the San Juan’s!!!!

Captain Scott seized the moment and plunged the IE4 north into the unknown seas. Passing many sea gulls and rhinoceros auklets as he it went the IE4 was soon surrounded by blue skies and calmer seas. The fog had burned away and the days weather was beginning to clear up very nicely. As the IE4 approached San Juan island it joined in with other whale watching boats that were currently on scene. Suddenly a large dorsal fin rose out of the water just off the bow of the IE4, it was our old friend Onyx, hanging outside the pod again fishing in some serious currents!!!!! After following him a short while the IE4 turned and headed down island to greet another whale.

The next whale the IE4 encountered was Doublestuff, his large dorsal fin shimmering in the sun light as he zigzagged back and forth through the rough waters. Suddenly he slammed on the brakes and headed in shore in pursuit of lunch before heading up island and so again it was time to find another group. This didn’t take long and in minutes the IE4 was being passed by J16(Slick) and her baby J50!!!!  They gave some amazing looks and continued along with Onyx and Doublestuff.

Next it was J41(Eclipse) and J51’s turn to show off to the boat. They swam by the starboard side of the boat doing a little splashing as they passed. J51 was coming high out of the water in order to stay caught up with its mom. Suddenly an orca came flying out of the water just off the stern of the IE4, after the second breach it was time to investigate!!!! When the IE4 got back to the excited whale it turned out to be Alki and she was not alone!!!! Swimming just inside her right peck fin was her new baby J52!!!! It was amazing the last of the three babies.

As the whales continued with the current times began to run short and it was time to once again head south back to port, however, Alki wasn’t done yet. She suddenly turned and with her baby began to fight against the current staying right in line with the IE4. Though she continued this for another 20 minutes neither her nor the IE4 cover more than 100 yards due to the current ripping through the area. As she took a deeper dive the IE 4 waved goodbye and watched San Juan and the orcas shrink away into the distance.

Arriving back to the peninsula side of the straits and rounding the end of Ediz hook the IE4 spotted many harbor seals playing in the water. Large groups of seagulls covered the beach and waters had laid down nicely from their bumpier mode in the straits. The trip ended up being amazing with both the whales and the weather working out perfectly in the end!!!! Definitely can’t beat seeing the future of Jpod swimming wild and young in the beautiful San Juan islands!!!!

T.R.

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