Transient and Resident Orcas in the Straits

Port Angeles

Highlights
harbor seals
pomerine jaeger
T49C
J,K, and L’s fishing

T49C

pomarine jaeger

buoy tender

T49C

T49C

T49C

T49C

T49C
T49C

common murres

L25 Ocean Sun

J27 Blackberry & J31 Tsuchi

L121 Windsong

L94 Calypso & L121 Windsong

J27 Blackberry 

J27 Blackberry & J31 Tsuchi

J27 Blackberry

J27 Blackberry 

steller sea lion

steller sea lion

steller sea lion

With the waters flat as glass and not a breeze in the air it promised to be a great day. As we glided out into the harbor all sorts of seabirds were everywhere. A big common loon was spotted still in breeding plumage.A dark morph pomarine jaeger surprised us in the harbor being an unusual sighting there. As we passed the fish farms we could see them harvesting some Atlantic salmon. The pilot boat was returning from picking up a pilot and lots of cargo ships were transversing the straits. Harbor seals were hauled out on Ediz Hook.With reports of orcas near the San Juans we headed northeast searching along the way for any wildlife. A big steller sea lion  was found finishing up his breakfast with lots of help from the gulls. As we traveled in the mirror like water harbor porpoise were occasionally spotted. Everyone was on the search and one eagle eyed passenger spotted our first whale of the day from quite a distance traveling along the current line. It was a lone orca!!! What a great find. We watched  this big  male who turned out to be T49C an 18 year old who  travels alone or with a companion named T77A who was nowhere to be seen on this day. He was cruising  at a good rate porpoising occasionally. We marveled at his size and power  and wondered if he was hunting some nearby porpoise but we didn’t see any  active hunting behavior though he changed directions on us constantly. We passed him off to one of our Canadian friends and continued in search of our southern resident orcas..As we traveled we enjoyed the beautiful blue skies  admiring the rainshadow effect around us. we had great looks at Vancouver Island and the San Juans as we got closer to our goal.We stopped as we started to encounter dorsal fins and the more we looked the more we saw spread out over a vast area many miles wide but with the flat seas were easy to pick out especially since there was a lot of splashing as they actively fished for salmon.We saw many large males  fishing  by themselves including 23 year old K26 Lobo and 25 year old K25 Scoter and 23 year old L80 Solstice.The male orcas were fishing and splashing doing  rapid direction changes as they powered after the fish. L25 Ocean Sun  the matriarch of the L pod was also fishing not far from us.A mom and calf pair surfaced  looking for lunch and they were identified as L94 Calypso and her son born in 2015 L121 Windsong. My is he getting big. L22 45 year old Spirit, mother  to L89 Solstice also came by in her search for food. Scoter’s mom 44 year old K13 Skagit was seen as all the orcas seemed busy working  finding and chasing salmon. J27 Blackberry now 25 was traveling with his sister J31 Tsuchi only 21. we had terrific views of this duo as they surfaced next to us keeping pace with us. So many orcas everywhere we looked all splashing and diving as far as the eye could see . It was an awesome sight and was hard to have to say goodbye to them when the time came but the dock was a long way off and we had spent some great quality time with members of all three pods. On our way home we kept up the search and harbor porpoise often popped up along the way. We even got to see some unusual sights like a giant ship that actually transports other large ships. We watched as the coast guard helicopter practiced maneuvers over a boat hovering not far above. A splendid day  for everyone out in the Salish Sea.
Naturalist – Lee

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