Humpbacks in the wind!!!

Port Angeles

Highlights:
Bald eagles on Ediz hook and near Beecher bay
Surf scoters, common murres and Heermans gulls throughout the day
Two different humpback whales

Naturalist log:

In the morning as we left the marina, a dark ominous cloud slowly climbed over the Olympic mountains toward the Salish sea. We cruised down Ediz hook where we found two bald eagles. They were mature birds and they were both perched on radio towers at the end of the hook. As one took flight to go out and hunt we turned to the north and did the same. We headed up into Canadian waters and then continued west toward the Pacific Ocean. As we neared Sooke inlet we encountered our first humpback whale. In the beginning it was being very elusive as it was in travel mode. Soon the whale slowed down and went into a sleep pattern and we got some nice close looks at it as he kept swimming. We got a few good looks at the flukes and then turned east and headed to Race rocks. As we were headed to the light house a bald eagle passed off our stearn on its way into Canada. When we got to Race rocks we found dozens of California sea lions and Stellar sea lions sparring with each other all around the boat. As we cruised through Race pass we spotted a lone elephant seal sleeping up on the Race rocks boat launch, it was massive!!! After that we continued east until we encountered another humpback whale. It took a while to zero in on the whale but once the animal was comfortable with us it began to give a great show. Giving nice close surfacings and becoming very predictable. We arrived back at the dock just in time as it began to sprinkle just as the last guests departed the boat. All in all it was a great day out on the water!!

Naturalist Tyson

Photos to come

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The End of an Era!

Anacortes

Our last tour from Anacortes today was also a last trip for the Island Explorer 3 from this dock, as the boat will move to Port Angeles next year to run tours from the Olympic Peninsula. For ten seasons this vessel has been a workhorse, and I couldn’t personally think of a better office to work in, as she has been a fantastic platform for viewing animals and teaching so many people about our beautiful area. Today’s trip was a worthy send-off, with a really nice variety of animals and some beautiful sun breaks along the way. Common loons, belted kingfishers, and river otters were spotted as we left the marina. We saw several bald eagles fly right by us as we cruised through the San Juan Islands. At Whale Rocks the Steller sea lions were hauled out to rest. We had a treat today with several groups of Dall’s porpoise engaging with our bow wake. Watching these agile animals dart back and forth thrilled our guests for certain. We found two humpback whales near the Lime Kiln Lighthouse, and another humpback BCZ0470 near Henry Island. What a day on the water and a great wrap-up for our Anacortes season!

-Michael Colahan

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Lady Luck onboard today!!!

Port Angeles

Highlights:
Four different eagles throughout the trip
Three different humpbacks
LPod orca whales fishing
Sunny skies and calm seas

Naturalist log:

The morning started of cold and rainy, with dark clouds as far as your eyes could see. By the time we were leaving the marina the skies had lightened up a little but we’re still sending down the occasional drizzles of rain. When we got to the end of the hook we found a bald eagle sitting atop a radio antenna by the Coat guard base. While we watched the eagle multiple harbor seals popped up in the water just off shore. We got a minute before the seals went down and we started our search for whales. We searched north over a place called “The rock pile” but came up with nothing so we then cruised west to Race rocks. When we got there we discovered dozens of California and Stellar sea lions, it was pretty awesome to see them sparring and barking at each other. We also spotted two eagles on the rocks across from the light house. Now it was time to find a bigger animal and that we did. Just after picking up speed we quickly had to stop and turn around as a humpback popped up behind us. The whale quickly got comfortable with us and we began to enjoy seeing its flukes every few dives. Suddenly out of no where just off the port side the whale came flying out of the water!!! As it soared through the air it did a perfect rotation and crashed to the water on its back!!! It was so awesome that you could feel every heart on the boat stop.  After that show we continued on the search and not to long after we came across two more humpbacks. We watched them swimming side by side showing the occasional fluke. After a few surfacings one of the whales began get aggressive toward the other!!! It began slamming its tail on the surface and at one point we saw the whale push the other one up out of the water. This behavior continued even after we were leaving as the one whale just was not getting the hint. We headed east from there back toward Port Angeles. Not long after we were on step a call came through of some orca whales just ahead of us. It was the resident orcas specifically members of LPod!!! They were fishing like crazy and we were able to get some great views of ocean sun, Mega, and many others. It was a spectacular day on the water and toward the end the sun even came out and really warmed things up!!!

Naturalist Tyson
Photos to come

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WOW! What a day from Anacortes!

Anacortes Highlights:

Look at these shots of the Pacific White-Sided dolphins flying through the air!

What an amazing encounter with them as about 20 or so dolphins interacted with our boat and thrilled our guests!

We also saw two humpback whales, one of which who breach right next to us! And we saw pretty much all of LPod as the killer whales grouped up along side SJI!

   

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Pod of orcas at the end of the rainbow!!!

Port Angeles

Highlights:
Stellar sea lion feeding in the harbor
Humpbacks south of Race rocks light house
Resident orcas in the western straits
Beautiful sunny weather and calm seas all day

Naturalist log:

We started the day with a gorgeous sunrise as the clouds to the east continued pushing away from us and a large bubble of blue sky began to open up above us. After leaving the marina it was a short cruise to our first wildlife encounter. We crossed paths with a large Stellar sea lion that was currently enjoying breakfast. The sea lion would pop up above the surface just long enough to shred apart the skate that was in its mouth. Soon the seal was done and moving on so we decided to do the same. In no time at all we were viewing a large group of harbor seals on the tip of Ediz hook. They were very fun to watch but soon it was time to move along and search for bigger animals. We headed west toward the middle of the Straight of Juan de Fuca. It was hear that we got a call from a Canadian coast guard vessel telling us of whales just ahead of our position, so without hesitation we headed that way. It wasn’t long before we had to massive humpback whales pop up just off our starboard bow!!! Giving us some amazing looks as they traveled west. After a few flukes we figured out that we were watching MMX0006 and BCY0523, swimming side by side with each other. In the distance to the west  a rainbow began to form and after viewing the humpbacks for quite sometime we continued toward the rainbow. Now just like the stories tell you, there was indeed gold at the end of it, or in our case a large group of resident orcas, in bound. We started our show with Tika and Sekiu swimming together with orcas all over in the distance. The next group we visited with had Mike in it and a few females that seemed to be doing a little foraging. After a great show from these whales and even a breach right next to the boat and many big spy hops we moved to the next group of orcas. It was the J16’s and like the other groups they were headed east but beau for very playful. At one point they even pushed one of the new calves up to the surface.it was quite a show to watch and was only better with the perfect lighting the day had brought!!!!  The show was phenomenal and the weather stayed spectacular all day, it was definitely a perfect trip!!!!
Naturalist ~ Tyson
Photos ~ Lee Leddy

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Humpbacks near and far!!!!

Port Angeles

Highlights:
Two eagles outside coast guard base
Multiple humpback whales through out the day
Dozens of California and Stellar sea lions at Race rocks lighthouse
An elephant seal swimming at Race rocks

common loon

bald eagle

Brant’s geese

BCX0470

steller sea lion and lunch

Olympic mountains

2 elephant seals (R) and steller sea lions

harbor seal

California sea lion

harlequin duck

Naturalist Log:

We left the marina this morning with a light breeze blowing through the area and the sun steadily trying to burn through the clouds. To the west, large dark clouds began to pile up but in no time had pushed their way north over Canada and the seas were pleasant other than some rollers moving through the area. We patrolled the shores of Ediz hook in search of wild life and as we reached the end we spotted two bald eagles perched high on some antennas searching for their breakfast. After some great looks we continued north into the waters of the Salish seas. We headed north toward Vancouver island where we encountered our first humpback whales of the day. We got some great looks at the whale before continuing west where we acquired yet another humpback. This whale was however on a mission and was not slowing down to wait for us. After many looks we headed east toward Race rocks, it was here that encountered dozens of Stellar sea lions and California sea lions on the rocks. Their ripe smell sifting through the air directly followed by their growls and barks. We even spotted a giant elephant seal on in the area with the sea lions, it was so big and so cool to see!!! We then left Race rocks and headed south toward Port Angeles where we found not just one whale, but seven whales spread around the area. A few of which were partnered up and all of which were giving us some amazing looks!!! After all these great shows we returned to the docks under nice weather which gave us a perfect ending for the day!!!!
Naturalist – Tyson
Photos – Lee Leddy

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We find humpbacks near Lopez Island!

Anacortes
Highlights

Our tour today kept us in nice conditions, with some sunshine and calm waters. We saw two common loons, some harbor seals and harbor porpoise right as we left the dock. More porpoise were spread throughout Rosario Strait. We turned the corner at Upright Head and Boom!-spotted two humpback whales traveling south along Lopez Island! It was BCY0160 aka ‘Heather’, and BCX1227. They gave us great looks for the next hour and we saw the whales bring their tails out of the water over and over. They were at the surface all day long, and eventually made their way into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We also stopped along side Whale Rocks to visit with some Steller sea lions. We saw a bald eagle on the navigational marker in Guemes Channel to round out a great trip!

-Michael Colahan

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J and KPod Orcas!!!

Anacortes

Highlights
Orcas near Port Townsend
Bald Eagles
Harbor Seals

We had beautiful October weather today, and enjoyed an awesome trip from Anacortes! We traveled south into Admiralty Inlet and found both J and KPod Orcas pointed north! We first spent time with K12 Sequim and K37 Rainshadow foraging. Rainshadow breached right next to the boat! K33 Tika was close by as well, and we had an awesome pass from J41 Eclipse and her young calf, traveling with K27 Deadhead and K44 Ripple. Soon, a large group of whales was nearby. J2 Granny, L87 Onyx, K21 Cappuccino, K26 Lobo, J27 Blackberry and many others were resting as they entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca. After leaving the killer whales we slowed along Minor Island, where well over a hundred harbor seals were hauled out. At Burrows Island, a mature bald eagle was perched near the lighthouse. We also saw a great blue heron, some surf and white-winged scoters, common murres and common loons. A great day!

-Michael Colahan

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Humpbacks and Rainbows

Port Angeles

Highlights
Pilot boarding cargo ship
7 Humpbacks including BCY1215 Orion aka CS354
Race Rocks Lighthouse
Steller and California Sea Lions
Harbor Seals
Cormorants and Heermann’s Gulls

Rain threatened to make it a wet day and as luck would have it cleared out by the time we left the dock. The new snow on the Olympics was visible through the clouds as we cruised through the harbor.Atlantic salmon were being harvested from one of the fish farm pens as we passed by. Heading into the Straits of Juan de Fuca we angled to the northwest heading into the wind and waves. We watched as the pilot boat pulled next to a cargo ship headed for Tacoma and dropped off a pilot to guide the vessel safely through our inland waterways.It wasn’t long into our trip that Capt. Carl spotted our first whale, a single Humpback. With some whitecaps and chop the exhalations didn’t linger long but we got to see some great flukes as we watched this whale feed in the depths. Not far of another pair of Humpbacks was spotted so we made our way over to them and enjoyed their company for awhile before moving on to another single Humpback. All our Humpbacks were being cooperative with showing us their flukes and down times were not very long. We moved further west and found another pair of Humpbacks that were new to our area and looking like a possible mom and calf. We were able to get some good looks at a black and a white fluke side by side for comparison. With Race Rocks not far off we headed over there to check out the lighthouse and wildlife. Never a disappointment we got to see and hear California Sea Lions lounging and barking under the rocks near the lighthouse. A huge flock of cormorants were sharing a rock with some Harbor Seals. Steller Sea Lions were in abundance lined up sleeping in huge numbers on the rocks with some playing in the kelp beds. Heermann’s Gulls flocked by in preparation for their migration back to Mexico. We had some good views of Hurricane Ridge through the Elwha Valley and some beautiful rainbows appeared over Vancouver Island. As we headed back across the straits some action caught our eye and we went to check it out. We found a trio of Humpbacks with one of the three being an old friend we know as BCX1215 Orion aka CS354. We know that he is at least 7 years old this year. He seemed to having fum flinging his flukes around the other two Humpbacks but they were heading west and we had to make the turn back to the southeast eventually so we had to say our goodbyes and head for home. It was a really wonderful fall day out on the Salish Sea with lots of waves , whales, and rainbows.

Naturalist ~ Lee

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Post Storm Humpbacks

Port Angeles

Highlights
Harbor Seals
Shearwater
Red Necked Phalaropes
6 Humpbacks outside of Port Angeles
Coast guard drills

What an amazing day to go out on the water considering just the other day a massive storm blew through here. We could still see the aftermaths scattered in the water in the form of driftlogs and bull kelp everywhere from the harbor out into the straits. Large tankers were moored inside the harbor and salmon were being harvested in the fish farms. The Olympics peaked out from the clouds showing us a new blanket of snow picturesque as could be. Harbor seals popped in and out of the surface as we exited the marina but no worries there for those that missed them as a big group was hauled out on the log rafts. We set off out into the straits going northwest and not knowing what the day would bring. We thought after the big blow the searching might be hard and the whales a little more scattered but that goes to show you whales will always surprise you and do the unexpected. Not to far from Port Angeles and with the Canadian whale watch boats just getting under way one of our passengers spotted the first whale in the distance making our whale the first whale of the day to be found!!!. Off to a great start we watched this Humpback whale as he traveled east doing shallow dives but only surfacing for a few breaths. Even so we had ample time to photograph his flukes as he showed them to us often. Meanwhile a few more exhalations were seen a little closer to Port Angeles so we decided to pass this whale on the the other whale watch boats as we checked out the next 2 Humpbacks. This pair traveled side by side and one was a little fluke shy but the other one could be identified as BCX0470. As we watched these two we had some glimpses of red necked phalaropes and a pelagic seabird called a shearwater that had been blown inland with the storm. The scenery around us was ever changing as a brief rainstorm blew through and with its passing dry skies ahead and flat calm waters. This pair headed westward taking us pass the Elwha river Valley and we eventually left them to check out our fourth humpback. While watching him we found 2 more a little further west and they looked like they were heading towards each other. Once again we found ourselves with 2 more humpbacks making a total of 6 we had seen and all of them very cooperative surfacing close enough to the boat we could hear their exhalations. So many Humpbacks and all so close to Port Angeles that we had an awesome amount of whale time!! With all that time we got some good looks at flukes but only one could be identified in our catalogs. A few of the whales had been seen this summer but have not yet been cataloged being new to our area. Always exciting to have new whales to add to our catalogs. When time came to head home we headed back southeast enjoying the rainshadow effect knowing when we got into port some liquid sunshine awaited us and enjoying the beautiful vistas the Olympic Mountains were providing. As a finale the coast guard was putting on a show with 2 of their helicopters doing some drills right outside the harbor.

Naturalist ~ Lee

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