April 15, 2019

Bigg's Killer Whale Family, T65A's, Hunts in San Juan Channel!

Bigg's Orcas

Erick | Monday, April 15, 2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00


The Spring BLOOM has arrived! Noooo I don’t mean all the wildflowers blooming on all the prairies around the islands (well, they are blooming too). I’m talking about the phytoplankton and zooplankton! Every spring once daylight hours hit a certain threshold and there are enough nutrients floating around the phytoplankton re populate exponentially thereby feeding the zooplankton and eventually the whole ecosystem! Your can see all the life teeming in the waters as this first of the few annual blooms occurs! After seeing that fun stuff even before we left the dock we left our dock in Friday Harbor and headed south with our passengers.  Earlier this morning there had been a report from a passenger ferry about orcas near Lopez Island and we were following up on that. We headed into San Juan Channel in between San Juan Island and Lopez Island and soon saw blows in the distance. As we approached slowly, we saw that it was a family group of Bigg’s Orcas! This type of Orcas (aka Killer Whales) are also known as Transients. Unlike one of their name suggests, they spend a lot of their time in these waters and the islands are a very important part of their range. The Bigg’s Orcas are also the type that feed on marine mammals! Their main food source is Harbor Seals and Harbor porpoise in this area, but they will also feed on Minke Whales, Steller Sea Lions, Northern Elephant Seals, California Sea Lions, and Dall’s Porpoises. We identified this family as one of the common ones we see around here, the T65A’s! They are an awesome family to watch and now have 6 members. There is mom, T65A, her teenage son, T65A2, her other young ones, T65A3, T65A4, and T65A5, and the newest baby, T65A6! We watched this family as they hunted and soon caught something! There was a bunch of splashing, quick movements and then a large pool of blood in the water. They quickly ate whatever they caught and started socializing after. This involved a few tail slaps and some head stands where one whale is pushed by another and sticks their tail straight up into the air! My favorite part happened next. As we watched the youngest baby started mimicking all its older siblings and we got to witness the learning process in action. Orcas, much like humans, learn by copying what their family members show them and T65A, the mom, is a great teacher! This was so cool to witness and gave us a great connection with this amazing family. We next headed north to Spieden Island where we saw a bunch of Steller Sea Lions hauled out on Green Point roasting themselves in the sun. There also was a huge group that floated by us in the water. We watched this large group growl for awhile at each other as they jockeyed for the best tanning spot. We headed down the southern shoreline of Spieden Island and saw a few Mouflon Sheep and soon saw around 12 Bald Eagles scavenging on a dead sheep. As they fought for the best pieces there were some incredible aerial acrobatics which we usually don’t get to see from the last Bald Eagles! Well folks what another fantastic day out on the Salish Sea!


Until next time,


Bigg's Orcas
Bald Eagle