Rare Transient Orcas and new Humpbacks

Port Angeles

highlights
 harbor seals
 2 unknown humpbacks
Mt Baker
Race Rocks Lighthouse
Steller and California Sea lions
T038 Family

The day was gorgeous and the water was as flat as it could get.Wildlife sighting started as soon as we left the marina with harbor seals hauled out on the raft logs. Salmon were being harvested in the fish pens as we ambled by and the pilot boats were active  with all the tanker traffic. Even the coast guard had helicopters buzzing about. We headed out into the straights towards the rockpile with the  idea of checking for humpbacks and heading east towards a report of some eastbound orcas. On the way a steller sea lion popped up just finishing off his breakfast with the help of some hungry gulls. Not long after that some of our passengers spotted two flukes so we headed over to where they saw them and sure enough  2 humpbacks appeared in a bit. We watched as they cruised not far from our boat traveling eastward and fluking enough to get ID pictures. It is always exciting to see new humpbacks in our waters and we can add these two to the list that need to get ID’s. After a bit another call came through telling us there were transient orcas  closer to us and to the west. We said our goodbyes to the humpbacks and headed north and west taking us towards Race Rocksand the orcas. Mt Bakers was in full glory today and we even had a flyby from the coast guard helicopter. When we caught up to the orcas we were east of Race rocks where we found the T038 family of orcas just finishing up a meal. T038 36 year old mom with her four calves 16 year old T038A, 13 year old T038B, 8 year old T038C and the youngest T038D at 4 years old. We spent some quality time with them as they leisurely traveled eastward somtimes on one side or the other of the boat occasionally popping up close by. It was a truly one of a kind day with perfect water, sunshine and cooperative orcas. As our time grew short we left the family to their travels and headed west back to go through race rocks admiring the lighthouse and enjoying the wildlife there. The California and Steller sea lions were out in force barking and growling and sparring with one another or snoozing in the sun. Cormorants dotted the rocks along with gulls. The harbor seals were nearer the waters edge staying out of the way of the massive Stellers.We had such a good time  we even turned and went through again admiring a big ham of a Stellar perched on his rock posing for us. Alas the time had come to head back across the straits with the occasional harbor porpoise breaking the surface. Steller sea lions seemed to be everywhere as we stopped to watch  for one that had been eating  but apparently he was through and another group  popped up not far away.  Onward we went and 2 more Stellers were resting on a navigational buoy but decided to get down before we got there.  Not a bit shy they checked us out as they decided if they should get back up on the buoy. With the water so calm and clear we could watch as they dove down in the water and played around. Okay this time we really had to get going and we set off for the harbor again with grand views of the Olympics and Mt Baker under sunny skies. What a magnificent day this was to be out in the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
Naturalist ~ Lee

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