May 12, 2018

Anacortes

With hardly a cloud in the sky, we left the dock in search of wildlife. Mount Baker was looming over the island waterways today, its snow-capped peak gleaming in the midday sun. We started our journey with a stop at Bird Rocks where we found two Steller sea lion bulls sunbathing, and a mature bald eagle perched. We continued south to Smith and Minor Islands. Two mature bald eagles towering over the nesting double-crested cormorants on Minor Island, and not far away a group of harbor seals were inching their way up the beach. We made our way down to Partridge Bank where we were in for quite a treat, a feeding frenzy of minke whales!!! We estimated that there were likely around ten different minkes present, an unusually large gathering for this solitary species of whale. They wowed us with up close looks as they lunge fed right off the bow of the boat. We also got a first-hand understanding of how they earned the nickname “stinky minkes”, as we traveled through clouds of their breath mid feeding session. We stayed with these whales for quite some time as they swam circles over the bank, taking out every bait ball in sight. Then it was time to head north. On the way, we stopped at the west side of Smith Island where we found some tufted puffins! Next, we stopped at Whale Rocks where some rowdy Steller sea lions were vying for position on the rocks, and then we cut through the inner islands until we reached the Peapods. Here we found many harbor seals perched high upon the exposed rocks, three more bald eagles, a great blue heron, and a flock of black oyster catchers. We rounded the east side of Cypress Island, passing the beautiful Cone Islands as we made our way back home.

Port Angeles

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.

La Conner

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!!!!

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#Repost @juliastitches with @get_repost ・・・ I had such a great time today 🐳 watching today! Thank you Zayda and Fred for bringing me! 🐳💗🐳💗 Wish my babies had been here to see (AND SMELL 😂😂😂) these amazing gray whales—I guess we’ll just have to come back someday!

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We just got word from our crew aboard Island Explorer 3 that they’re on scene with three gray whales, which means our 2018 Everett season is closing with a perfect record – whales on 75 of 75 tours! 💯🐳 We’d like to extend a huge thanks to the Port of Everett, all of our guests, and of course the wonderful whales for making the 2018 Everett season one for the record books! We’ll be wishing safe travels to our local grays and look forward to their return next spring!

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We’re just one week away from our Port Angeles season opener! Whale watching from the Olympic Peninsula is among the best in the world. We can’t wait to see what 2018 holds! 🐋🐋🐋 For more information on our guaranteed whale tours from Port Angeles, visit https://ift.tt/2HTRhu1.

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May 3, 2018

Anacortes

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!!!

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May 2, 2018

 Everett

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. 

 

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We have just a few tours remaining in our 2018 Everett gray whale season and spots are filling up quickly. If you want to see these gentle giants before they continue on to Alaska, you better act fast!😱 To see our Everett schedule, or to make a reservation, visit: https://ift.tt/2r7cNEA

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April 23, 2018

Anacortes

We departed Anacortes on a sunshine filled Monday. As we made our way out of the marina, we got a quick glance at a river otter and then a common loon just below Cap Sante lookout.

We headed north up bellingham channel towards some early morning reports that were coming in. As we headed north, we were treated to magnificent views of the cascade mountains in the background. On our way north, we stopped at the three sisters islands, where we found lots of harbor seals, a bald eagle, Bonaparte’s gulls, Canada geese, and pigeon guillemonts. Lots of wildlife out showing itself today!

We continued north, where we passed the border, and eventually just passed Point Roberts, we found a group of killer whales! It turned out to be the T36A family. Right as we were getting on scene, we got an awesome spyhop from one of the younger whales. We got a great show from the 36A’s, and at one point, it appeared they had some lunch. After this, we turned back to the south, where we aimed back for the United States. But not before, a short distance later, we found a humpback whale! Just like that, it was a doubleheader, we got some good looks at this whale, sending its flukes high up and out of the water multiple times.

After spending some time with the humpback, we continued to the south. We stopped at Ewing island, where we found lots of Steller sea lions hanging out. From here, we enjoyed a wonderful cruise back into Anacortes.

 

Everett

The sun was shining, and the wind mild as we left the dock this morning. It was such a peaceful morning out on the Sound, the water was glassy and the visibility remarkable, so spotting conditions were ideal. As we cruised by Jetty Island we stopped to visit with an osprey perched in its nest, we’re hoping to see a hatchling any day now. Just south of the osprey were two mature bald eagles perched beside each other on the driftwood. We spotted several juvenile bald eagles along the jetty as well. It was Raptors galore. Not sighting any activity around Hat Island, we made our way north up Saratoga Passage. A fellow captain had given us a heads up that a lone gray was traveling north, so we went to see who it was. It was none other than Dubnuck, one of the original Puget Sounders! He was blazing a steady trail northward, giving us beautiful looks of his fluke each time he sounded. He took us all the way up to the shallows of west Cameno Island, just south of Cameno Island State Park. This is where Dubnuck showed us just how remarkable the feeding strategies of the Puget Sounders can be. In only 10 feet of water, he proceeded to roll on his side, both fluke and left pec fin held high above the waterline as he stirred up the sediment looking for lunch. It was incredible to watch as he thrashed around, showing us not only fins but his round belly too! Being able to see the whales full length like we did, it drives home how big these mammals are. We were so wrapped up in this incredible encounter that we nearly lost track of time, so when we left Dubnuck to finish up his forage fest we booked it back to the dock, soaking up the sun on the gorgeous cruise home.

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April 22, 2018

Anacortes

 We got some much needed vitamin D today. The sun was shining and the wind mild. As we turned the corner at Cap Sante lookout, Captain Carl spotted six Turkey vultures gathered on the rockside! There must have been food in the area to see so many concentrated like that. With no reports to begin the trip with, we tried our luck and turned north up Rosario Strait. We stopped at the Peapods to see what we could find. Sure enough, harbor seals were hauled out in droves, a Canada goose was foraging in the water, a great blue heron took flight over the islands, and two bald eagles perched high upon the rocks. We continued northward, cruising by a massive gathering of Bonaparte gulls diving into a bait ball at the eastern most point of Orcas Island. We stopped at Sucia Island to check out the brawling Steller sealions hauled out on the coastline. A bald eagle was perched high in the treetops above them. We continued north up the Strait of Georgia and met up with humpback whale “Zigzag” (BCX1193) north of Tumbo Island. This whale was aptly named, zigzagging all over the strait in a rather erratic fashion. We got some beautiful looks at its fluke and dorsal fin as it sounded. In the midst of all the whale action, we were all given even more reason to celebrate as a proposal took place on the bow! She said yes! It seemed that Zigzag felt like celebrating too because just as we were turning to depart, it started pec slapping over and over and over again! Truly, it just kept going, there must have been at least 20 slaps before it would stop to breath and then continue again. Unreal. A memorable trip indeed. 

Everett  

Morning –– 10 AM

The day started off beautifully with blue skies and the sun warming the area quickly. We left the dock and headed up Jetty island to check out a local Osprey nest. The ospreys were home and we got some amazing looks at them as we made the turn to head around Jetty island. As we cruised back down Jetty island we found a bald eagle on one of the pilings before continuing out to open water. We found our first whales just off the south end of Hat island and we got some amazing looks as the whales socialized in the area. The whales turned out to be 383 and 49 Patch and we got a great show from them both. 383 was more than happy to show us his flukes and just before we departed the scene even Patch showed his flukes to us. From there we headed up in Port Susan and found another bald eagle perched along the hillside waiting for some fish. We left the eagle to it’s hunting and traveled down around Camano Head. We headed up Saratoga Passage and just a little north of Langley we found a gray whale feeding in the shallows. This whale put on a great show with multiple feedings and after some close looks we were able to determine it was 723 Lucifer. Time unfortunately ran out and we had to head back but all and all it was an amazing adventure on the water this morning.

Afternoon –– 2 PM

This evenings weather was absolutely stunning. As we left the dock a slight breeze kicked up and brought in a slight chill but it soon died off leaving behind gorgeous blue skies. We left the dock and went north up Jetty island to investigate our local Osprey. Both birds were home in the nest and gave us some great looks at a mating display. It didn’t last long as a bald eagle came into the area and one Osprey moved off to defend its territory. The ordeal didn’t last long before the Osprey went and landed on a piling to rest. Continuing down Jetty island we found another bald eagle having issues with the local birds. It was an immature eagle and it was being heavily harassed by a small bird. It was a great start and from there we continued out into the open waters. As we traveled along our trip took us north in search of whales and it didn’t take long until Captain Nate found our first one. It was 383 and he was headed north in Saratoga passage very quickly. We moved on scene and began getting some great looks as he travelled along and was showing off some great flukes. We followed him just a ways north of Camano Head and got some amazing looks before Nate found us a second whale. It turned out to be CR185 and it was traveling north very close to shore. As we got on scene 185 moved off shore and came out to visit us. We got some amazing looks and the whale even began logging at the surface for a while. Time ran short again and so we traveled back to the south. As we passed between Camano Island and Hat island some splashing caught our eye and we went to investigate. It was a large California sea lion tear apart a small dog fish. It didn’t take long as the sea lion was thrashing heavily back and forth and really going at it with the dog fish. Once the sea lion realized we were watching he quickly swallowed the rest of the dogfish whole!!! After that captain Nate came in clutch one more time for us and spotted the blows of another whale. When we got on scene we got some very great looks at what turned out to be two whales. The whales were 53 and 22 and we got some very close views and even got to enjoy a few good WiFi’s of whale breath. Once again time ran short and we had to return to the dock. It was a perfect day on the water and a magnificent experience with all the wild life in the area!!!

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