*J,K, and L pod Orcas near the Canadian border
*A minke whale
*A tufted puffin and marbled murrelets
*Thousands of common murres
*Harbor seals and harbor porpoise
We got our wildlife viewing started off at Colville Island today with a bunch of harbor seals and a black oystercatcher. Next we pushed offshore heading toward orcas that were milling around near the Canadian border, but a few passengers spotted a minke whale so we circled around and waited for it to surface again. We got a couple of good looks at this whale before it was time to head out for the orcas. When we arrived we started with a K pod group including K13, Skagit, K12, Sequim, and K43, Saturna. They swam right up next to us! We also spotted K37, Rainshadow swimming with a few more on the other side of the boat. Later we spotted J2, Granny, and shortly after we identified her she did a big spyhop to check us out! We could see a big group of whales gathering off in the distance and so we headed that way next. We saw 3 breaches as we approached the scene! This group included lots of whales mingling around in circles with each other. We saw J27, Blackberry, L41, Mega, L88, Wavewalker, L95, Nigel, L92, Crewser, J34, DoubleStuf, J28, Polaris, and many, many more. We even had the newest member of J pod, J52, swim right up to the back of our boat with his mom Alki, J36! That was exciting! Then, out of the blue K21, Cappuccino, swam right over toward us and gave everyone a fantastic look. I haven’t seen him in quite a while so it was great to see him on this trip! Eventually it was time to head back to the dock, but we did stop in at the south end of Lopez Island to find a beautiful tufted puffin, some. marbled murrelets and a belted kingfisher. The conditions were also as calm as could be today making for an ideal trip! Naturalist Bart Rulon.
Photos to come later
Lots of Seabirds all day
Occasional harbor porpoise
Flat calm water
Resident orcas south of the ODAS buoy
Humpback east of Race rocks
Lots of Steller and California sea lions at Race rocks
With a huge storm having just blown through on the evening of the 29th it was unclear what may still be moving around in the Salish sea. Winds had exceeded 30mph at times and the Salosh sea was not a place to be however as the sun rose on Port Angeles a calm drifted in from the east. Blue skies sat above as much of the rain from the night before had made its way further east. A light breeze danced through the air and by 9 am the temp store had already begun to sky rocket once again. It was quickly becoming a beautiful day, and a great day to be on the water.
As with most days we never know what to expect weather or wildlife wise but today as the Island Explorer 4 made its way out into the Salish sea, we could tell that Mother Nature was on our side. The waters lay still like glass and the sun beat down heavily burning up the little marine layer of fog that had come in with the morning. The IE4 headed out north from Ediz hook and began her search amongst the shallows in places like the rock pile and Coyote bank. Passing over the rock pile there were no whales sighted but the occasional harbor porpoise would surface giving the boat some great looks!!!
With that the IE4 continued north toward reports of orcas near the ODAS buoy. In no time whale watching boats were in view and soon the IE4 was on scene with 3 very large groups of southern resident orca whales!!!! It was members of both J and Lpod and they were very excited to see us. The activity immediately picked up as tails slapped at the surface and multiple spy hops were seen. Soon the whales were breaching out of the water and all around having a great time. It was a perfect show and the whales were giving us very close looks. The IE4 even got a chance to lower the hydrophone into the water and listen to some chatty orcas. It was an amazing show and there were so many orcas grouped up close together it was hard to get any I.D’s however it was clearly members of both J and L pod. Soon it was time to move on and so the IE4 ventured further west.
With Race rocks at her bow the IE4 searched hard for humpbacks and any other whales she might come across. Suddenly a sharp eyed passenger spotted a humpback way out in the distance and so the IE4 swung south to see who the whales was. As the IE4 got on scene the whale gave an awesome tail throw not far from the starboard side of the boat!!! The whale gave us many good close looks as it swam in toward the boat multiple times. It was a great show but it also came to an end and so the IE4 moved on to Race rocks.
Reaching race rocks the IE4 began spotting dozens of Steller and California sea lions hauled out of the water. Getting some great views at these animals and even getting some good whiffs of the local Race rocks air was more than enough to make folks smile and with that we headed back toward Port Angeles. It was a perfect day on the water only made better with the different whales we got to visit with today!!!!
The rain stopped just as we were leaving the dock today and the sun even peeked out at times during our trip today. A storm rolled in today bringing winds and some much needed rain to our area. High winds kept us from being able to travel into the area where we spotted whales yesterday but we made our way into the inner San Juan Islands and out on the northwestern corner looking for whales. We spotted several harbor porpoise in a few different spots, and we stopped at the north end of Orcas Island to look at a bald eagle perched in the trees. Near Lopez Island we stopped to take a look at some harbor seals hauled out on a reef island. On our way back toward the dock we spotted another bald eagle on Shaw Island. Unfortunately, we were not able to spot any whales today, so our passengers will be able to come back for free with a “Fluke Pass” until they get to see a whale or whales with us in the future! By the end of our trip power outages had spread all throughout western Washington and because of a power outage I will have to add photos from the trip at a later time. Naturalist Bart Rulon
-Steller sea lion
-superpod of orcas
We started on our trip today and headed to the west down Rosario Strait. We found harbor porpoise enjoying the current lines as we continued to the south. At MacArthur Bank, we found two humpbacks, one of them was a good friend BCZ0298 (Split Fin). We saw them fluke a couple of times before we moved further to the west on our search. Captain Carl also found us a Steller sea lion swimming in the water, but it went down on a deep dive. It wasn’t long before we came upon some fish eating orcas they were all grouped up and swimming towards San Juan Island. As they approach the island they began to spread out. We also spotted another humpback in the same area as the orcas. We were never able to get an ID of this animal, as it never showed it’s fluke. We hung out with J27 (Blackberry), J34 (Doublestuf), J38 (Cookie), K20 (Spock), K25 (Scoter) and K38 (Comet). As they spread out, we watched them engage in fishing behavior. Eventually, we had to move back toward homeport but not before we slow down to the south end of Lopez Island and Castle Rock. We found another Steller sea lion (or it could have been the same one) swimming in between Swirl Rocks and Castle Rock. We spotted a couple of harbor seals hauled out and a great blue heron perched on the rocks. We cruised home with calm waters as the sun continued to break through the clouds.
Photos to come!
*Humpback Whale, MMZ0004, swimming east of Rock pile area.
*SuperPod of Resident Orcas near Rock Pile and the South end of Coyote Bank.
*Family with L121 calf came right over towards the boat.
*Beautiful views of the New Dungeness Light Station at the end of Dungeness Spit.
*Photos credit to Lee Leddy*
Nature was on our side for our wildlife viewing. The rain had stopped after a night of drizzle and the waters remained calm. We passed the tip of Ediz Hook and entered the open waters. A large container ship crossed our path and we got close views of the containers soon to be delivered to a nearby port. We continued passed the ships and searched the waters for wildlife.
It didn’t take long before a large exhalation was spotted. It was a Humpback Whale. It remained at the surface for multiple breaths before arching down into a deep dive. With the arch came up the flukes, showing off the white underside. The pattern of the white told us that we were enjoying the sights of MMZ0004. After a few sights, we left MMZ0004 to continue on its way.
We headed North of the Humpback Whale and discovered many more fins. The dorsal fins belonged to Resident Orcas! They were grouped together nice and tight, suggesting a resting pattern. There were so many dorsal fins, it was difficult to focus on the saddle patches. Eventually, we got enough glimpses at some of the males. It was mostly members of the L-Pod. We enjoyed those sights, but noticed another large group swimming closely together further ahead. So, we headed over. What a treat. These Orcas turned out to be members of the J-Pod, with a few members from K-Pod. As we watched the tightly grouped travelers, we noticed some small dorsal fins mixed in. It was two of the calves of the J-Pod family, likely J50 & J52. We continued watching and noticed another exciting individual. It was J2 “Granny” in the mix. Always a special treat to see the oldest living Orca! We eventually left the J & K pod group and headed back towards the L Pod grouping. By this time the large L-Pod travelers had split into 3 groups. One of those groups began to head towards the boat. What Luck, it was the family group including the L-Pod calf L121. They swam along the port side of the boat, with uncle L41 “Mega” closest to us. The big dorsal fin of “Mega” was an impressive sight. After they cruised by, we departed from the whales wishing them sweet travels and happy dreams.
We decided to go check out the Dungeness Spit. The Lighthouse is always a special treat to see, especially since most people have to hike the five and a half mile walk to see it. The Dungenes spit did not disappoint as we enjoyed views of Harbor Seals, Cormorants and various Gulls.
The waters remained calm throughout our whole trip and the wildlife was a special treat. What a great day.
*Great Blue Heron flying over during the meet and greet of passengers
*Harbor Seals hauled out on tip of Ediz Hook
*Several Harbor Porpoise spotted at Coyote Bank
*Several groups of Resident Orcas L-Pod seen just North of Middle Bank traveling towards San Juan Island. Great Looks at L47’s “Marina”‘s family group.
*Humpback Whale MMY0004 seen at the south end of Hein Bank. Great short deep dives and several looks at its tail
*Transient Orcas, T137’s family and others, putting on the show of a lifetime. They headed right towards the boat and circled underneath us several times.
*Photo credits to season pass holder Lee Leddy*
The day seemed destined for a great adventure. During the meet and greet at the top of the dock, a beautiful Great Blue Heron flew by, showing off its possibly 6 foot wing span. We took a pause to watch it soar over the water and eventual land near our dock. It was a great omen for our day. As we departed the dock, other birds were spotted on the waters. We came to the tip of Ediz Hook and paused for a glimpse at the Harbor Seals hauled out on the sandy beach. We also noticed a few in the water. After a few great looks, we continued our way into the open waters.
Our eyes continued to search the waters for wildlife. The calm seas allowed us to spot the Harbor Porpoise and jumping Salmon with ease as we crossed the Juan de Fuca Strait. The day remained beautiful as we crossed the Strait towards the San Juan Islands. We passed over Middle Bank and the dark dorsal fins appeared. They belonged to resident Orcas from the L-Pod. They were scattered throughout the waters. The first pod we approached was the family group of L47 “Marina”, including L83 “Moonlight”, L91 “Muncher”, L115 “Mystic”, and L110 “Midnight”. The group entertained us with the fluke slapping, pectoral slaps and close views along the back of the boat. After that great visit, we headed over to other groups of Orcas, including a quick swim by L72 “Racer” and L105 “Fluke”. A large male was spotted splashing around. He turned quickly, perhaps chasing a fish? As the saddle patch came into view, we could see that it was L95 “Nigel” catching our attention. Time had come for us to start our turn back across the Strait. We made the turn but continued to view a few more dorsal fins on our way. As the dorsal fins faded from view behind us, we explored another area of water, Hein Bank.
Hein Bank is one of the great shallow water zones of the Strait, often a good wildlife viewing spot. As we approached the south end of the Bank, a tall exhalation was seen. It was a Humpback Whale! The whale spent a lot of time at the surface, but eventually dove deep and brought up it flukes. It was MMY0004. Lucky for us, the deep dive was short timed and we were pleased to see the whale at the surface. It was neat to have the opportunity to compare the baleen whale to the toothed whales. After several looks at the Humpback Whale, we departed and continued on our way.
We traveled south-east from the Humpback Whale. Suddenly, Captain Scott noticed more Orcas, but these ones were transient Orcas! There were a few pods of transient orcas spread out, but one group turned right towards the boat. On the port side of the boat, the orcas took turns spy hopping looking right at us. The looks must have gotten the Orcas curious as they headed right under the boat. They circled the boat several times, so close we all had to look down from the rails. After a few circles around the boat, the Orcas headed away from us and we all tried to catch our breaths. It was amazing!
We watched as the Orcas continued to travel west and eventually said goodbye. The transient orca time caused us to be a little late to the dock – but no one minded.
Our tour took us to the south today with a ton of harbor porpoise in Rosario Strait and a stop at Colville Island to watch some harbor seals and a mature bald eagle. The waters were flat-calm for us throughout the entire day. We were soon on scene with LPod orcas along the southwest shoreline of San Juan Island! We had great early looks at L41 Mega as he passed close by our port side! His sisters, L77 Matia, L94 Calypso, and their calves were not far inshore of him. We then a great pass from L55 Nugget, L82 Kasatka, and little L116 Finn on our starboard side. The real star of the tour today was L95 Nigel, as he threw a huge cartwheel close by! The killer whales spread out and began to forage, on the search for fish in the area. After a nice visit, we cruised back to the east to look for more. We spotted some large exhalations to the south, humpback whales in sight! This was our buddy Splitfin and his/her traveling companion whom we have seen quite often in the last two weeks! Awesome! Our guests were thrilled and we made our way back home with fond memories from the morning trip.
We had a great group on tonight, which included an awesome former employee Jessica and her fiancee, Nolan. They had a big wedding party on board, as they are getting hitched this weekend! They sure brought the good wildlife karma with them, as we saw so many cool things tonight. Animals spotted include harbor porpoise, harbor seals, bald eagles, tufted puffins, Steller sea lions, a minke whale, and two families of marine mammal eating orcas! Holy Smokes! The weather was fantastic throughout the evening and we spent a ton of time with the killer whales as they took us around the western side of Lopez Island! This was the T65A and T37A families, and the young calves were very playful for a chunk of the time we spent with them. After saying goodbye to the orcas we spent time with the sea lions and found some puffins near Iceberg Point. After that a very friendly minke popped up right next to us! We saw a mated pair of bald eagles and some more harbor seals near Castle Rock as well! What a night!