– We find the orcas!
– All day with the incredibly active orcas!
A special thank you to our season pass holder and good friend, Sara, for her wonderful whale report from today’s trip!
Epic Whales Right in our Backyard!
August may be known at Fogust around here but today was definitely trying to give the previous month a run for its money. As we boarded the boat we saw our first wildlife of the day—a harbor seal–right in the marina! It was a promising start and we didn’t know it yet but there were big things in store for us!
Despite the fog we pushed north on the east side of Guemes Island passing by islands without being able to see them, the fog was so thick! But we pushed on and as we went we had some playful harbor porpoise surfing our stern wake. These normally shy cetaceans were certainly enjoying their day! We saw more as we neared Point Lawrence even if they were almost like ghosts in the fog. It was such a unique view that it made it that much more special. But we were on the search for bigger things and we didn’t have to go very far. As the fog burned off our sharp-eyed naturalist Brooke scanned the water to the east near Lummi Island and it’s a good thing too. There were orcas ahead!
As we got on scene it was obvious the whales had found something to eat and that, along with their unique dorsal fins, told us we had a family of marine mammal hunting whales. It was one of our favorite families, the T65As! This mom and her four kids were eating lunch and as we got on scene one of them spyhopped with prey in its mouth. They milled briefly and then it was play time! T65A’s oldest offspring is her eleven year old son, T65A2, and even at his young age he is huge! He showed us just how big he was with several cartwheels as his younger siblings breached and spyhopped and tail slapped. The whole family was rolling around with each other and pushing the youngest, one and a half year old T65A5, around when he wasn’t trying to roll on top of them. It was beyond cute to watch!
The whales were trending south but they weren’t going anywhere in a hurry. They changed directions frequently and on several occasions came right towards us as if to do some people watching! We were even able to drop the hydrophone and hear their calls as they played. The whole time we were with them they seemed to be socializing. As we prepared to head off it seemed like they found another snack but whatever it was was taken down quickly and out of sight and off they went still enjoying their play time.
We peeled off for a bit to check out some harbor seals hauled out on Pea Pod Rocks. These cute little guys were enjoying the sun and a good thing to. The waters nearby were no place for a harbor seals at the moment. That would be especially true as we met up with the whales one more time before we headed back home.
They had grouped up together and seemed to be getting serious about travelling and foraging. They surfaced along the Orcas Island shoreline moving south in a tight group before disappearing on their long dive. It was beautiful lighting, the water was a vibrant blue-green from the towering pine trees above, and we were in awe. But our encounter wasn’t over yet. Not by a long shot! The whales popped up again but there was an extra animal with them and this was no whale. It was a harbor seal and it was on the menu. The whales were using their tails and bodies to force the seal underwater and at one point one whale surfaced and grabbed the seal in its mouth before submerging. The whales finished off their meal and then grouped back up and continued south. The sun shined down and we could see the shadows of the whales as they swam below the surface. It was truly a beautiful last moment with them.
We headed back to the dock beneath sunny skies and I think we were all still so thrilled by the amazing day we’d had with this family of orcas right in our backyard.