June 19, 2021

Bigg’s Killer Whales Hunting off John’s Island

Bigg’s Killer Whale

Maxx K. | M/V Kestrel | 06/19/2021 | 9:30am

    Captain Brian and I started our morning without a ton of direction. However, a loose report of a few orca heading towards the US border from Canada a few hours prior was enough to send us left through the San Juan Channel, northbound. And I am glad we did! 

    Almost as soon as we arrived at the Cactus Islands north of Spieden we received reports of Orca less than a mile away off John’s Island.

    We weren’t sure who we were looking at initially: there were two whales here and both appeared to be either female or juvenile males. After a successful ID we were able to recognize these individuals as 15 year old Neftali (T077C) and their seven year old sibling Alcyon (T077D). These were the two middle children of Asja (T077) who was likely looking after five year old calf, Misneach.

    We watched these two whales for almost a half hour as they hunted in the Harbor of John’s Island, likely for Harbor seals. They then continued their journey eastward along the coast of John’s and through the Cactus Islands where we waved them goodbye. 

    Kestrel then looped back northward and around the north side of Stuart Island. After arriving at the Stuart Island Lighthouse we stopped to scan the Haro Strait for wildlife and soak in the beautiful morning. The silence was then interrupted by the call of a peregrine falcon along the cliffside ahead of us. 

    Peregrine falcons are some of the most widespread birds in the world and can be found on all the world’s continents sans Antarctica. This is a huge accomplishment considering their populations were severely depleted during the period of DDT poisoning in the mid 1900’s. Unfortunately, the effects of such prolonged use of DDT are persistent in our ecosystems today and known to work its way high into the trophic scale and remain stored in the tissues of top predators like our Killer Whales and predatory birds. 

    How lucky were we to see both of these predators within a few short minutes of one another?! That’s simply a testament to this dynamic and resilient ecosystem we are so fortunate to explore each and every day.