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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