July 28, 2019

Abundant Wildlife in the San Juan Channel and Boundary Pass

Erin | M/V Sea Lion | Saturday, July 27, 2019 | 5:30 PM

It was a lovely evening of viewing wildlife around the Salish Sea. The Salish Sea attracts so many different types of wildlife because of the amount of productivity that occurs. This productivity creates phytoplankton and allows for the whole food chain to be present, especially throughout the summer months. Our first wildlife sighting was at Flattop Island. Flattop Island is northeast of Spieden Island, and it is designated as a wildlife refuge. When we pulled up to the island, we saw a sign stating that it was a wildlife refuge, and on top of the sign there was a majestic bald eagle! It was perched on top of the sign and we could really get a sense of how tall it was. Bald eagles can be about 3 feet tall! When we went around the corner, we began to see harbor seals hauled out all along the shoreline of the island. There were also many of them swimming around in the water. There were some seal pups, which are typically darker when they are born, and they are much smaller than their mothers. On the northern tip of Flattop Island, we saw lots of pigeon guillemots, which are members of the alcid family. They are related to penguins, and they can dive to depths of 100 feet or more! We saw many of them in the water, but we also saw them nesting on the cliffside right above where they were gathered in the water. It is neat to see how birds can utilize small spaces for their nests. 

After this amazing start to our trip, we headed toward Boundary Pass to continue searching for whales and to see what else was out there. We saw many harbor porpoises, and we got some really good looks at a few of them. They are about the same size as harbor seals, but they spend their whole lives in the water. They also feed on small schooling fish just like the seals can! We travelled toward a point on Saturna Island called Monarch Head, and we got amazing looks at the cliffside that has been carved out by glaciers and has some honeycomb weathering patterns on it. We travelled back toward the U.S. and went through John's Pass. We then went to Spieden Island, where there are some non-native animals running around. We saw Mouflon sheep spread out all along the south side of Spieden Island. A few of them were climbing down the cliffs to get to the freshwater springs near the water's level. After a lovely evening of viewing wildlife, we headed back toward the harbor with a beautiful sunset behind us. 

Naturalist Erin