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!!!!