Orca Morning, Humpback Afternoon!!

Anacortes:
We traveled into Canada to watch J-pod orcas in the morning, and then we checked out 2 humpback whales closer to home in the afternoon.

AM:  We took a route through the inner San Juan Islands to start things off today to give us the most options since no animals had been spotted as of yet.  Luckily when we approached our decision point, Upright Head, we heard the call that a pod of orcas were spotted heading north in Canada.  Capt. Scott aimed us that way and we managed to reach them just after they passed Mouat Point on North Pender Island.  It was most of J-pod grouped up as if they were resting.  It was awesome to see so many dorsal fins coming out of the water at the same time!  Not all the orcas were fully asleep though.  J27, Blackberry, surprised us all by breaching way out in front of the rest of the pod.  We didn’t even know he was there until he exploded out of the water.  Then he proceeded to put the pedal to the medal as he raced way out ahead by himself, porpoising as he went!  He looked like a man on a mission, but we couldn’t tell why?  Shortly after that one of the orcas in the big group did a spyhop.  The next big thrill of the day came toward the end of our visit with J-pod when a float plane zoomed in for a landing.  The plane’s landing path crossed about 400-500 yards in front of J-pod’s path.  Half way through the plane’s touchdown and breaking process on the water, one of the big males, either L87 Onyx (honorary J-pod member) or J34, DoubleStuf, exploded out of the water with a huge breach! Then he followed it up with another big breach!  The breaches seemed to be a clear communication to the rest of the orcas to change their path, and they did take an immediate right turn.  Ironically they where now aiming right toward where the float plane had just tied up to a dock near shore.   As we aimed toward Navy Channel, J27 came swimming back southward toward his family and we let him pass in front of us before we picked up our speed to head back to the dock.

PM:  We headed north for our second trip, knowing that two humpback whales were spotted up near the northern end of the San Juan Islands.  The orcas we spotted earlier in the day traveled too far away for us to reach them this afternoon, but the humpback whales provided us with plenty of entertainment.  We were the only whale watching boat with the whales during our entire visit with them so that made things extra special.  When we arrived on scene the two humpbacks were swimming eastward toward the north end of Lummi Island.  They swam side by side during most of our time with them, and they were not shy about showing their tail flukes at the end of every series of breaths.  Eventually they turned around and headed back west.  One of the whales was Split Fluke, BCZ0298, but the other whale was not in our ID catalog.   After spending about an hour with them we peeled off to check out about a hundred or more harbor seals hauled out on Clements Reef and then we checked out a bald eagle perched in a tree on Ewing Island .  After that it was time to look for our humpback whales again.  We headed around the north end of Matia Island, and wouldn’t you know it the whales were secretly swimming around the south end of the island.  They zigged when we zagged.  We almost missed them if it hadn’t been for one of our sharp eyed regular passengers, Brian Goldberg!  We were about a mile past Matia Island, when Brian spotted the blows from behind us.  Nice Work!  So we turned around and headed back to watch them for another 20 minutes before saying goodbye.  Capt. Scott even managed to get both of the whales lined up with Mount Baker in the background right toward the end of our visit!  Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that the weather was so warm outside today that you really didn’t even need a jacket.  Fantastic day on the Water!  Naturalist Bart Rulon

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