Today’s trip was truly one for the books!! For the second to last trip of the season, we had one of the best wildlife shows of the year! The tour started while still in the harbor when we spotted a lone bald eagle keeping watch over the port angeles coast guard station. Nearby, we also spotted a few harbor seals swimming in the shallows. As we made our way into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we decided to head north until our naturalist spotted some peculiar splashing a few miles away in the direction of Mt. Baker. It didn’t take long to realize we were looking at very active transient killer whales!!! As we approached, we realized we showed up right in time for lunch! The whales were in serious hunting mode, with an unlucky little harbor seal in the mix. There were around a dozen whales circling, splashing, and tail slapping. It seemed like they were almost teaching their calves how to hunt because they toyed with the seal for so long and the calves got in on the action too. Eventually, the whales went underwater and it was pretty evident the seal had lost the battle because soon the birds were picking up the scraps of flesh from the surface. After the feast, one large male spyhopped right in front of us and we could see seal blubber still hanging out of his mouth! While trying to identify the whales we didn’t recognize several members which is actually very exciting because upon doing a bit of research, we found that some were visiting from California! CA166, CA172, CA173, and a new calf were among those we could identify. After this amazing show, we headed northwest toward the race rocks area where we could see the biggest flock of birds devouring a baitball that we’ve ever seen! Right in the middle of the action we spotted two humpback whales! The whales were also in feeding mode and doing some work on the ball of fish. The whales are doing shallow dives and we never got a look at the flukes to find out who the whales were. After getting some great looks at their dorsals, however, we headed to the race rocks lighthouse where we saw tons of stellar and California sea lions piled on the rocks, another pair of mature bald eagles, and perhaps a juvenile nearby. We also caught a look at Ollie the sea otter snoozing in the kelp! As we left race rocks, we were thrilled to come across another humpback whale who was ID’d as our friend bcx0915, Fallen Knight. After a nice look at the tail we made our way back to Port Angeles, appreciative of this once in a lifetime day!
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A very brisk day out as we made our way across the harbor though the water was amazingly flat. We headed northwest as reports came in of humpback whales over by Vancouver Island. We found our first humpback and he was doing a lot of fluking and we were able to identify him as one known as Mathematician. We watched him for a while and then two other humpbacks showed up not far off so we went over to check them out. They both looked like totally new whales and one had an unusual injury to his dorsal giving him the appearance of having two dorsals. We will be sending off photos to the researchers to document these animals, but they are not currently in the local catalog! Later reports came in of a fin whale near Secretary Island so we trekked over there with high hopes of getting to see a very rare whale for our area and the second longest whale in the world. A few boats were also there and we looked and searched and eventually had to give up as he never appeared. We had some great looks at a mature bald eagle, however, on the island and then a few Steller sea lions popped up and one even was chomping down on a salmon swallowing it whole. We headed back east and had a whale suddenly appear next to the boat and then disappear just as suddenly . From the descriptions some of the passengers gave we believe this may have been the elusive finback whale but alas it was such a sudden appearance and vanishing act that no pictures were gotten. With all the excitement over we turned our sights towards home and nice cups of hot chocolate to warm us up as we discussed the days events on board.
The sky was blanketed in grey as we left Cap Sante this morning. The wind was picking up as we cut down Rosario Strait and stopped off at Bird Rocks to see what we could find. Several harbor seals and two mature Steller sea lions were hauled out and dozing, flocks of double-crested cormorants amongst them. We continued south, rounding Lopez Island where we spotted a mature bald eagle perched along the coast. We watched as it took off, being harassed by crows and gulls mid-flight. It eventually landed in a tall cedar where another mature bald eagle was perched. Not ten minutes later we spied a third bald eagle perched on Swirl Rock. We continued west, cutting out into deeper water as we pointed towards Constance Bank. There we met up with FIVE humpback whales!!! Two pairs we coupled off. One pair demolished a bait ball, leaving us all in awe. Following the feast was a celebratory breach by one of the two. We broke away from them to visit with our other pair, they circled for a bit before showing us a mighty peduncle throw. All five, the two pairs plus a lone whale we met up with first, all lingered around Constance Bank, zigzagging back and forth. We took the inner island route home, stopping off at Whale Rocks to visit with a few dozen Stellers socializing, then cut north up San Juan Channel, following the ferry route back through Thatcher Pass to Anacortes.
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