April 14, 2019

Another day with T077A! Lone Male Killer Whale spotted around the San Juan Islands

T077A Male killer whale

[Sarah | 04/14/2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00pm]

Today was a stark difference to yesterday’s stormy weather. We had high clouds and some rain squalls rolling through the area, but the strong west wind had disappointed a bit. Leaving just some residual breeze. Captains Erick and Brian and I decided to head north of Friday Harbor towards Canadian waters to search for some wildlife. We shot north to put ourselves in prime position in nutrient-laden waters with other whale watching boats spread out all over the region. We communicate with all of the other companies in the region, so it gives us the best chances of finding all of the wildlife.

We decided to point up in the direction of Active Pass between Galiano and Manye Islands. We passed the huge cliffs on either side of the narrow pass and popped out into the Strait of Georgia. From a distance we caught a glimpse of a huge dorsal fin and exhale, or blow, of an orca! We found the lone male Bigg’s killer whale T077A “Saulitis” traveling along the Galiano shoreline slowly north. The whale zigged and zagged, changing direction frequently. All of a sudden there were more than a dozen gulls above where the whale had last surfaced. As the orca surfaced the birds, swooped in closer and closer to grab scarps of whatever he was eating… Bigg’s killer whales like T077A are marine mammal eaters, hunting seals, sea lions, other whales, and porpoises in the Salish Sea. More than likely this male had killed a harbor seal as the small pinnipeds make up about 60% of our local Bigg’s killer whales’ diets. We got to see some surface active behavior from the T077A, appearing to celebrate his meal, before we took off to look for other critters.

Captain Erick steered us through Georgeson Pass and back out of the Strait of Georgia into the placid inter-island waterways in the Canadian Gulf Islands. As we traversed the narrow stretch of water we noticed turkey vultures and bald eagles overhead, and as we entered Plumper Sound there were a few harbor porpoise who surfaced around our boat. As we crossed Boundary Pass and pointed back at the San Juan Islands we made the decision to stop at Green Point on Spieden Island to look for some Steller’s sea lions. These massive mammals love to haul out on the rocks at the point to nap and sun themselves. We got great looks at over a dozen of the huge beasts. Just as we were starting to work away from the rocks a huge adult bald eagle soared over the island as the cherry on top of a great day!