April 29, 2009

A Beautiful Wildlife-filled Spring Day!

Although there is still an early spring nip to the weather, it was a glorious day out on the water. After hearing word of a few Minke whales off of Cattle Point, towards Hein Bank, we headed south to catch some glipses of one of the true whales that inhabit the waters of the San Juan Islands (Orcas aren't actually whales, they are the largest dolphin!). Minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whale, around thirty feet long. They feed upon krill and small fish. We had some great glipses of at least three Minkes! Also we spotted a great example of a bait ball, we saw a huge flock of birds (Gulls, Rhinoceros Auklets, Pelagic Cormorants) feeding upon a school of small fish. Diving birds, like Rhinoceros Auklets, will dive below the surface and drive small schooling fish to the surface, which is like backing a person against a wall (the fish have no where to go). After the bait ball is formed birds will eat at the ball from all angles. This is actually a good situation in which to see a Minke whale.

After spending some times with the Minkes, we headed to Kelp Reef and saw three Stellar Sea Lions, one which was resting upon a marker waiting for the tide to come back up, so it could return to the water. We also had a brief encounter with some bow-riding Dall's Porpoises and saw a few elusive Harbor Porpoises. To end our day on crystal clear waters, we rode past Speiden and checked out the exotic Speiden creatures.

It was a gorgeous crystal blue day out viewing wildlife around the San Juan Islands!

Ashley, Naturalist