Humpbacks in the Heatwave

Port Angeles.

Highlights:
*Great Blue Heron on floating logs across the dock
*Harbor Seals at the end of Ediz Hook
*2 Humpback Whales seen near VF navigational buoy, 1 identified as MMZ0004
*Large herd of Steller Sea Lions not far from the Humpback Whales
*Race Rocks Lighthouse with Harbor Seals, Steller Sea Lions, California Sea Lions and a Sea Otter
*Another Humpback Whale near VG navigational buoy, BCZ0298 “Split Fin”

(photo credit: Lee Leddy)

Trip Log:
A heatwave has come to the Olympic Peninsula making us all happy to be spending our day out on the water. As passengers boarded the Island Explorer 4, a Great Blue Heron was there to greet them. It was standing tall on the logs across from our dock, looking ready to strike on the juvenile herring swimming in the waters. We exited the marina to enjoy the sights along Ediz Hook. At the end of Ediz Hook, several Harbor Seals were hauled out along the shoreline enjoying the heat from the sun. We entered the open waters of the Juan de Fuca Strait and pick dup speed, heading in a northwest direction. It did not take long before Harbor Porpoise began being spotted. Their triangle dorsal fins were spotted on both sides of the boat. As we neared the VF navigational buoy, our first whale was spotted. It was MMZ0004, easily identified due to the unique markings on the underside of its flukes. While watching MMZ0004, we quickly realized that it was not alone. Another Humpback Whale was close by. The second whale is one that has been seen, but is not located in the id book, so its identity remains anonymous. We enjoyed the sights of the two humpback whales, luckily enough to see many flukes come up out of the water. Eventually, we decided to say goodbye and explore the area around Race Rocks. Before we could arrive, we were detoured by a herd of Steller Sea Lions. 5 or 6 individuals were swimming closely together creating quite a splash. They were fun to watch because it seemed like they were watching us as well. As they swam, they often lifted their heads looking right at our direction. What a blast! We eventually made it to the Race Rocks area to see an up close look at the tall Race Rock Lighthouse and the surrounding rocky islands. The islands were full of wildlife. Harbor Seals, Steller Sea Lions, and California Sea Lions were hauled out on the rocks with a few swimming in the water. Also, spotted in the water among the Kelp bed was a Sea Otter. The Otter was grooming its fur – an important behavior to keeping the Sea Otter warm. As we departed the Race Rocks area, a report of another Humpback was heard over the radio. So, we headed to the VG navigational buoy. There we spotted Humpback Whale BCZ0298 aka Split Fin. Split Fin is easy to recognize due to its unique dorsal fin, but we were able to also see its beautiful white flukes as they were raised above the water. After some great looks at Split Fin, we said our goodbyes and headed back to Port Angeles.
~Tamara

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