July 6, 2009

4th of July with the Orcas!

What a great 4th of July! Friday Harbor is celebrating it's 100th Anniversary and we had a fabulous 4th of July parade to start the morning off! It was a hot sunny day....honestly I can't believe how warm it was...I almost could have jumped in our cool waters (temps in the low 50s) just to cool off! Well...maybe not.

Anyhow...once aboard the MV Sea Lion we were all comfortable with the cool air from the sea blowing in our face as we cruised around the south end of the island to meet up with the Killer Whales (Orcas). The whales were on the move northbound, and as it turns out we ended up circling the entire island on our quest to see them and then return to port. We met the Orcas off of the northwest side of San Juan Island. They were spread out moving in small groups...a little playing...one small calf breached (jumped) completely out of the water...twice!!

A few Orcas changed direction and foraged in the rips or currents where food (salmon) tends to collect. We experienced some of these currents ourselves as we went from flat calm waters to small 1-2 foot standing waves...the cause of this is the changing tides, and in some places the seas run opposite each other. Fascinating!

We continued north in order to sneak around the Orcas since time was short and we needed to get home. Unfortunately we had to witness one large private yacht violating the 100 yard rule while watching the whales. Here in Washington our 3 pods of Orcas are listed as Endangered, and one measure to help protect them is that all boats must stay at least 100 yards away from them at all times. That means no parking in their path, nor can you chase them from behind which this boat appeared to be doing. There are several stresses facing these whales and we do not want to further stress them or cause any changes in their usual behavior by crowding them. To learn more visit http://www.wdfw.wa.gov/ or the Whale Museum for details on boating around whales.

On our way back in we passed the Cactus Islands and we had the treat of seeing one of the first Harbor Seal pups of the season!! So cute! The little guy or girl was trying to scamper up on a slippery rock and couldn't quite climb up to mama. In the end the mother Harbor Seal slid into the water and the little pup climbed on her back! And in the tree above all this was a mature Bald Eagle! A double treat!

Just another fabulous day in the San Juans! Hope to see you here.

Jaclyn, naturalist

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