Check out our new neighbor over in Port Angeles as of this morning! Waters are looking calm for now, but unfortunately the extended weekend weather forecast is looking glum. We have cancelled our scheduled Port Angeles departures for this weekend 10/30-11/01. We still have two available trips left on Saturday November 7th and 14th if you want to take part in viewing the best humpback show in the region!!

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Lots of Humpback Whales!

Port Angeles

Trip Highlights:

*Humpback Whales surfacing all over the place near Constance Bank
*Steller and California sea lions

We headed north again today to find humpback whales at Constance Bank.  As we arrived to watch our first couple of whales we could see other whales surfacing in the distance too.  We spent plenty of time watching a multitude of humpback whales surfacing in all directions today, and it was hard to keep track of exactly how many whales we saw in total.  Most of them were pretty generous in showing us their tail flukes on multiple occasions!  One of the highlights of the day came when we spotted a couple of humpback whales getting pretty active with some cartwheels (caudal peduncle throws)!  We saw four cartwheels before they finally calmed down.  Shortly following that action we headed over to check out all the Steller and California sea lions out on Race Rocks for a while.  After leaving the rocks we headed back out and got one more look at a few humpback whales to finish off a great day filled with lots of whales!  One of them turned out to be Gnarly, BCZ0131!  We watched at least 6 different humpback whales up close today (identified from photographs), and probably saw even more from a distance.  Naturalist Bart Rulon

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Triple-Header on the last weekend in Anacortes!

Anacortes

Wow! What a day we had on our tour from Anacortes! This day included sightings of so many different animals, it was just awesome!

-A great blue heron as we left the dock!
-Harbor seals on a dock just around the corner from our home port!
-Harbor porpoise everywhere!
-A minke whale feeding in an area with an amazing amount of bait fish!
-A humpback whale at McArthur Bank!
-Dall’s porpoise At Salmon Bank!
-K and LPod killer whales in the Strait of Juan de Fuca! Yes! Orcas in the area!
-A mature bald eagle and more seals at Blind Island!

Just an awesome day, and our encounter with the orcas was fantastic. We saw several adult males including K21 Cappuccino, K25 Scoter, K26 Lobo, and L85 Mystery. We also had a great look at L91 Muncher and the youngest member of the Southern Resident community, L122!

Great day! Last trip of the year from Anacortes is tomorrow!

I’ll post photos from this trip tomorrow, and you can order prints from the webpage. Contact me at:

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-Michael Colahan

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Orcas and Dall’s Porpoise Entertain Today!

Port Angeles

Trip Highlights:
*K and L pod orcas on the west side of San Juan Islands
*Dall’s porpoise entertained us for a long time today

We headed northward today knowing that resident orcas had been spotted on the west side of San Juan Island.  Along the way we cruised over the Rock Pile and Coyote Bank in hopes of finding a humpback whale along the way.  No humpbacks showed themselves so we continued on our way arriving just south of Lime Kiln Park.  Within a few miles of the park we spotted a pod of Dall’s porpoise that swam right over toward us and played at the front of the boat for about 15 minutes.  They were slashing back and forth at the bow giving everyone a thrill!  After being thoroughly entertained by these speedsters we peeled away to find the orcas.  When we arrived the first group of whales we spotted included L122, the newest calf in L-pod along with his mom, L91, Muncher, K16, Opus, and K13 Skagit!  We spent plenty of time with this group as they hunted for fish.  Before long we spotted K25, Scoter, swimming in from the other side of the boat, and our big pod of Dall’s porpoise was racing right toward him.  Play Time!!!  These porpoise seem to love playing around with single adult male orcas as they swim along.  They had Scoter surrounded and they slashed around back and forth on all sides of him.  When Scoter would take a deep dive it was always easy to figure out where he was going to surface next because the porpoise were always near him coming up for air.  Scoter seemed to swim along as if he wasn’t even paying attention to these speedy little bullets.  The porpoise continued to play around with Scoter for the rest of our visit, which lasted another 20-30 minutes!  As it was approaching time for us to leave K34, Cali, swam up to us, turned upside down, and did a big tail slap!  We spotted L87, Onyx, next and watched him swim by as we said goodbye to the orcas and the porpoise.  What a unique trip!  Naturalist Bart Rulon.

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Orcas, Humpbacks, and a flying Seal!!

Port Angeles

Trip Highlights
*T69 pod of transient killer whales knock a seal at least 30 feet in the air
*7 Humpback whales
*Steller sea lions, California sea lions
*A bald eagle, common murres, rhinoceros auklets, common loons, red-necked grebes, horned grebes, black turnstones, harlequin ducks, and white-winged scoters

Today started out like any other day, but by the time it was over we had seen the stuff that belongs on the Discovery Channel.  We spotted our first whales just after crossing the border into Canada.  It was two humpback whales swimming side by side, and one of them was BCX1068, Split Fluke.  After seeing this duo raise their tail flukes for a deep dive, Split Fluke came shooting out of the water performing a cartwheel or caudal peduncle throw!  We also spotted two more humpback whales swimming nearby so we cruised over to check them out too.  We didn’t spend too much time with this second pair of whales because we got the call that a pod of transient killer whales had been spotted within a few miles of our location.

When we arrived the T69 pod was swimming in a pretty tight group, but after a long dive they disappeared for a long while, and when they came back up they had spread out into a hunting formation.  They were aiming right toward a huge flock of gulls feeding on a school of bait fish.  While we headed toward the birds we spotted a bald eagle flying around stirring up all the gulls.  Shortly after that, T69C, a big 20 year old male, swam into the birds and started chasing a harbor seal.  Suddenly turned upside down and slashed his tail flukes into the air spraying water everywhere.  He followed that up with a second, violent, upside down tail slash!  There was a moment of silence, oozing with anticipation, and then he exploded out of the water one last time.  The third time proved to be the charm, because he punted the seal straight up into the air with his tail flukes!!  That seal shot into the air at least 30 feet if not more!!  That punt had some serious hang time.  Everyone was stunned at what just happened, but none so much as the harbor seal I’m sure.  He was probably focused on chasing a bunch of schooling herring among the gulls when the monster killer whale surprised him.  The power of the ocean’s top predators is truly amazing!  Pretty soon the entire pod of transient orcas was swimming around in a circle eating their meal and we could see blood staining the water at their dinner table.  The gulls were hovering above trying to grab a scrap or two.  It didn’t take long before the meal was finished and the orcas continued to go on their way.

Figuring we had seen the highlight of the day we peeled off to take a look at the hundreds of sea lions at Race Rocks for a little variety.  Not long after visiting the rocks we managed to find 3 more humpback whales swimming right next to each other.  One of them was BCZ0131, Gnarly, who has very gnarly, wavy, and distinct tail flukes.  Another was BCZ0073 who has an almost completely white underside for his tail flukes.  We didn’t have too much time to spend with these three giants but they gave us plenty of surface time.  It made for the perfect finale when all three humpbacks raised their tail flukes for a deep dive!  What a unique and memorable day!  Naturalist Bart Rulon

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Perfect Fall Doubleheader!

Anacortes


Highlights
-harbor porpoise
-bald eagle on Blakely Island
-two humpback whales south of San Juan Island
-black-tail deer on Lopez
-minke whale in Rosario Strait






A special thank you to our season pass holder and friend, Sara, for her wonderful report today!


We set out today under sunny skies and the wildlife viewing started right off the bat with a great blue heron perched on the marina breakwater. Right out of the harbor we were treated to great views of harbor porpoise swimming in the current lines. As we pushed out of Guemes Channel we got beautiful views of the distant Olympic Mountains through different layers of fog. It was stunning! We took an inner island route today and the water was glass calm as we passed Willow Island and then turned down Upright Channel. 


As we left the inner islands through Cattle Pass we slowed down to view some Steller Sea Lions hauled out on Whale Rocks. We even heard a California Sea Lion barking. The two types of sea lions we get in the area can be easily told apart by their sounds. Stellers make a growling sort of noise whereas the California Sea Lions actually bark. We heard both today. From there we pushed south into the Strait of Juan de Fuca where we found some humongous bate balls! There were thousands of birds together feeding on bait fish. We saw a variety of gulls, cormorants, common murres and rhinoceros auklets in the mix. Even a couple of harbor seals! After a good look at these bait balls we kept heading on and it wasn’t long before we saw our first whales of the day—two humpback whales swimming together. This pair headed north over Salmon Bank and one of them even tail lobbed a couple of times! The two swam together for a good while before breaking off to swim apart, though both were headed in the same general direction. These two whales were very cooperative and gave us some great looks.

Eventually we had to head back towards home again but our trip wasn’t over. Captain Carl spotted several Pacific Loons as we headed south; they are such neat looking birds! As we rounded the bottom of Lopez Island we caught a brief glimpse of another whale, but it dove deep and didn’t reappear so we left it to its own devices and cruised in to look at Castle Rock where we saw some deer along the Lopez Island shore. It was really a lovely sight. There was even a red tail hawk perched on a branch on Castle Rock!

Back out in Rosario Strait we found another whale! It was a minke whale feeding along with several harbor seals and more birds. This whale was much more cooperative than our mystery whale and gave us some great looks as it zig-zagged all over. But we were already running late and we had to bid our friend farewell as we headed back down Guemes Channel and towards home port. 

What a beautiful fall day out on the water!

Photos to come!

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Only 4 trips from Anacortes and 7 trips from Port Angeles left for the 2015 season!! This fall has brought us so many amazing sights. You do not want to miss out on some of these beautiful fall weather days and incredible wildlife moments out on the Salish Sea :D Photos courtesy of our 2015 Flickr photo contest contestants — Round #4 ends on October 31st!

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Double Header Day!

Port Angeles

Trip Highlights:
*5 humpback whales
*Harbor seal feeding in a bait ball
*Steller sea lions, and California sea lions at Race Rocks
*Minke whale
*Bald eagles, common loons, common murres, rhinoceros auklets, red-necked grebes, pink-footed shearwater, sooty shearwater, black turnstones

We had another amazing day of flat calm water and whales!  After checking out a great variety of birds inside Ediz Hook, including two bald eagles and several common loons, we headed north and found our first whale of the day right at the Canadian border.  It turned out to be a humpback whale we have seen before (temporary ID mmy0004) and he gave us plenty of great surface time near the boat showing his tail flukes on many occasions.  He even turned on his side a few times, did a bubble blast and appeared to do some feeding right next to the boat!  We spent plenty of good time with this whale before venturing off to check out a bait ball.  One of our season pass holders, Lee, mentioned that she was hoping to see a minke whale breach right through the bait ball.  Well, it didn’t breach, but a minke whale did pop up right under the birds!  How about that, now we have a double header day!  We watched this whale surface on the fringes of all the bird activity as all the birds fed like crazy!  Eventually we drifted right next to the bait ball!   Looking straight down we could see common murres mobbing the school of herring from underneath, and then a small harbor seal showed up right in the middle.  He was getting in on the action too, and judging by his size he was obviously just born earlier this year.

After leaving the feeding frenzy we aimed toward Race Rocks and managed to find 4 more humpback whales!  Two of them were swimming side by side, including our friend Split Fluke, BCX1068.  These two whales gave us the show of the day by swimming side by side the entire time and after one long dive they decided to surface right next to the boat!!  We were getting drenched in their exhalation blows and the sound was as loud as could be with the water so still!  After that amazing experience we continued toward Race Rocks to check out the sea lions!  What a great Day!  Naturalist Bart Rulon

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Humpback mom and calf steal the show!

Anacortes

Highlights
-humpback mother and playful calf right in our backyard
-harbor porpoise
-bald eagles on James Island
-South end of Lopez Island
-Energetic Dall’s porpoise

The forecast was wrong today and we didn’t even get one little drop of rain! In fact, the sun was peaking through the clouds! We left the dock on the search and as we took a turn up Rosario Strait, several of our passengers had spotted a tail quite close to the boat! It turned out to be a humpback calf’s tail and he/she was traveling alongside mom! We had some amazing looks as these two whales literally were swimming in circles. At one point, baby decided it was time to play, we saw tail lobs, a breach, and some rolling around resulting in seeing its pec fins! Mom even got in on the action and did a massive tail lob for us, as baby rolled around in the foreground! Incredible! We got some nice tail shots, but were not able to identify our humpback mom and calf pairing as returning animals! We decided we needed to push further to the south to see what else we could find, we had two mature bald eagles perched on James Island and some harbor porpoise enjoying the current lines of Rosario Strait. We meandered through the south end of Lopez Island and Castle Rock where we spotted a couple of great blue herons and a harbor seal. We continued out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca in search of more and we found some pretty energetic Dall’s porpoise! They didn’t engage with the boat, but continued darting all over the place! We had some fantastic looks at them! We began our trek back toward home port as the sun continued to break through the clouds. It was simply a picturesque day on the water with our humpback whale friends!

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