What a magnificent opening day we had in Port Angeles. The sun was shining , it was warm and the water was flat as glass. We had excellent views of the Olympic Mountains as we headed out of the harbor, passing by many different seabirds as we ventured out to the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Mount Baker was clearly visible in the distance. We headed east searching along the way seeing lots of Rhinocerous Auklets here for nesting season along with a myriad of Glaucous Winged Gulls. Harbor porpoise were spotted not too far out. We searched and continued eastward and we heard a report of whales feeding not too far away. A smattering of Common Murres were also seen.
When we arrived at our destination we found not one, not two , not three Minkes whales but at least six all zigzagging around as they fed on small baitfish. It was quite exciting as we never knew where they would pop up and many times they came right over and even under the boat. There were a few times we were even lucky to be able to see the white bands on their pectoral fins. Minkes are notorious for being quick and elusive but today they put on a spetacular show as they fed with 4 Minkes coming up together one right after the other next to each other. It is always great to see Minkes and help researchers to get idenitities of these elusive and little known species.
We spent a beautiful day with all the whales , tons of birds and baitballs , even having a harbor seal show up not far from the boat but eventually we had to say goodbye and we left them to their dinner. The wildlife sightings weren’t over as we had a Steller Sea Lion show up also chowing down on some hapless fishas gulls tried to snatch his meal.
Mount Rainier even made an appearance today .We took a swing by The New Dungeness Lighthouse in Sequim as we headed home and enjoyed the sunny afternoon out on the Salish Sea. A great way to Start our Port Angeles season.
The day started off spectacularly well as we left the dock in La Conner and headed down the channel. Our first wildlife came in the form of a turkey vulture soaring around Shelter bay, but it definitely was only the beginning of things to come. As we rounded the bend by “Hole in the wall” we came across a black tail deer swimming across the channel. Just as it was climbing out of the water a curious harbor seal swam by to investigate the deer. It was a phenomenal sight to see and had us all very excited on board the Island Explorer 4. Continuing down the channel we spotted many great blue herons, an osprey and even a few bald eagles. From there we headed north toward Deception pass and the Straight of Juan de Fuca. Before leaving the inside of Whidbey we dropped our research crab pot and then continued on our search. We headed from the pass, over to Lopez island for a nice slow cruise by castle rock and into McCardle bay. Here we had nice looks at an eagles nest and even had one fly by the boat as we left the bay. Our journey then took us to whale rocks where we got to see a nice group of Steller sea lions hauled out and warming up in the hot mid day sun. We then got a call from some friends to the south so Captain Tyler cruised down to Partridge bank where we got mugged by a group of lunge feeding minke whales!!!! It was so awesome to see these, typically calm giants, going gangbusters on all the bait balls forming around us. We got great looks at multiple minkes, as they were lunge feeding all around our boat!!! After a while the minkes and their food dispersed so we decided to continue onward. We did a nice search of Admiralty Inlet but came up empty handed and then turned north. We got to Smith Island and Minor Island and spotted a nice group of harbor seals on the beach. There were also two mature bald eagles on the old Lighthouse on Minor Island. We got a little treat just west of Smith Island; two tufted puffins were swimming around fishing a ways off the shoreline. We got great looks before heading back toward La Conner. Our crab pot turned out to have a decent catch in it and we gave our passengers a thrill as they were able to hold the crabs or pet them before we released them back into the wild. All in all in was a perfect day out on the water and everything seemed to line up perfectly!!!!
The day began as most beautiful days do, with a warm morning and the sun burning away much of the cloud coverage. After we left the marina we headed down Guemes channel and westward toward the San Juan’s. We turned north in Rosario and headed toward North Peapod rocks for our first slow up of the trip. As we traveled along in Rosario we were joined by the occasional group of harbor porpoise feeding in the fast currents of the ebb tide. When we got to north Peapod we found two mature bald eagles perched on a navigation marker. All around the island dozens of seabirds circled on the search for food and dozens of harbor seals were in the water doing the same. From there Captain Carl took us north on our search for the illusive whales. Passing through the Sister islands we saw a nice big group of harbor seals hauled out on the rocks. We got some great looks before continuing north. We began to head toward a possible report of some animals but a call from some friends had us change course for some orcas not far away. We joined up with the Orca whales at east point on Saturna island and it turned out to be a group of transient orca whales. They were in an area rich with Steller sea lions and we began to wonder what carnage may unfold should these whales get hungry. The whales did not seem to concerned with food as they did pass a few sea lions on a few longer dives, but soon things changed. A large group of seals was rafting out in a current line not paying attention to the orcas in the area. This gave the orcas a chance to sneak up on them and give them quite a scare. The whales surfaced only a few yards from the sea lions and when the Steller’s noticed the orcas they came over and hid right next to our boat!!!! It was amazing to see these animals so close as they were crawling all over each other to escape the orca whales. The whales however had some other plans at this time and continued northward away from the Steller sea lions. We moved back over to the orcas and bid our sea lion friends farewell. We end up getting some more great looks at the orcas as they were headed north but as always time ran out and so we had to head home. On our return trip, we enjoyed beautiful views of the outer islands and even found another bald eagle on the north-east side of Guemes island. It was a spectacular day today on the Salish sea, one that will stick with me for life!!!
/* Font Definitions */
panose-1:2 15 5 2 2 2 4 3 2 4;
mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;}
/* Style Definitions */
p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal
font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
margin:1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in;
We’re in our last week of Gray Whale trips here in Everett, but the whale activity hasn’t slowed a bit. We saw a total of five Grays on our trip this morning, and a whole array of behaviors from them. As we cruised past Jetty Island, we visited with one of the ospreys that was tending its nest, a few juvenile bald eagles perched upon the driftwood, a large number of terns scanning for fish around the boat, and a couple of the different species of cormorants that can be found here in the Salish Sea. It was an epic, wildlife start to the trip, and the action didn’t slow. First we came across two Grays cruising south of Hat Island. It was Patch and Little Patch. They crossed paths briefly, and continued on their own separate journeys. Little Patch offered us amazing views of his fluke repeatedly throughout the morning, and Patch surprised us by surfacing amazingly close to the boat, showing off his massive frame. We came across Lucyfer not long after. He left us sitting in a vile cloud of whale breath, and then showed us an example of typical foraging behavior. We left Lucy to see who/what else we could find, and stumbled upon Shackleton! He was making his way steadily south from Camano Head, never lifting his fluke as he zigzagged across the channel. As we made our way towards Camano Head to see if we could find any raptors, we came across ANOTHER WHALE. They must have wanted all the spotlight today. We cruised with #531 as she raced north up the west side of Camano at an impressive 6 knots an hour. She’d give us a powerful fluke shot and then resurface less than a minute after. She was easily traceable, as we could see the shadow of her full length beneath the surface throughout the encounter. It was an impressive display of power and strength.