J pod orcas from the J22 and J17 subpods
Breaches and lots of fishing behavior
Gray whale 531
Bald eagle action
Steller sea lions pack together on a buoy
Wow, what a trip we had today! After leaving the dock and checking out an osprey and a bald eagle on Jetty Island we set our sights toward the southwest to look for whales. One of the ferry captains called to let us know they had seen some orcas pass by, so we had our binoculars trained toward Clinton. Sure enough, I spotted a few dorsal fins coming up within a few minutes. As we cruised over toward them we also spotted a gray whale surfacing just to the east! Decisions, decisions!! Well, we decided to start with the orcas which were spread out for a couple miles all the way from the Whidbey Island shoreline to mid channel. The first whale we identified was J38, Cookie, He was followed by J35, Tahlequah, and they had the ferry boat in the background right behind them as it pulled away from the dock! We could see orcas spread out over miles, some in front of us and some way behind us. We paralleled J38, and J35 for a while, and that turned out to be a great plan because Tahlequah decided to breach, upside-down 3 times in a row for us!! That was awesome!
After her acrobatics we decided to push forward to check out another group including J34, Doublestuf, traveling along with his mother, J22, Oreo. All these orcas were changing directions frequently displaying fishing behavior. Oreo turned on her side and did a big pec fin slap for us, as Doublestuf pushed toward the middle of the channel. Next J28, Polaris came swimming in with her new son, J54, right by her side.
After they passed by we decided maybe it was time to head over to take a look at the gray whale we passed up earlier. She was only about a quarter mile away, and we quickly figured out it was gray whale # 531. She gave us a few good tail fluke views and then in a surprise move she turned right around and swam right over toward our boat. I’ve never seen a more deliberate change of direction to come over and visit us. She was definitely doing a little people watching today!
After a great visit with 531 we headed toward Possession Point to catch back up with J-pod. As we spotted the whales again we also saw a bald eagle flying away over the water with a big fish that he eventually dropped because it was too big. He was being followed by other eagles and some gulls too. On our way to the orcas we stopped to look at a bunch of Steller sea lions hauled out on a buoy at Possesion Point. Talk about a bunch of sea lions, it looked like a clown car, with 5 sea lions packed tightly on the limited surface of the buoy. Some of the sea lions were even laying on top of each other. As we watched the sea lions wake up to take notice of us two orcas decided to divert our attention and surface right next to us!! J38, Cookie was in hot pursuit of a salmon at the surface! He was circling around like crazy and flying out of the water trying to catch his lunch. Eventually he must have caught it because he slowed down and continued to swim southward. We also spotted Doublestuf, and Tahlequah again, and they were finally reunited with J47, Notch bringing up the rear. We turned to head back toward the dock and, low and behold, we still had a few more orcas coming our way. It was J17, Princess Angeline, with her new calf, J53, who we just found out yesterday is a little girl! What an awesome day! Naturalist Bart Rulon