April 26, 2018

Bigg's Killer Whales and Wildlife Galore in the San Juan Islands (Wednesday, April 25, 2018)

Orca surfacing by Spieden Island

[Sarah – 04/25/2018 – M/V Sea Lion – 12:00pm]

Yesterday’s noon whale watch was perfection: full of tons of wildlife, b-e-a-utiful blue skies with sunshine, and of course, whales! Captain Brian, Erick, and I were excited to explore the Salish Sea with our group of intrepid guests.

Heading north around San Juan Island we decided to cut straight to the chase, and ducked into Haro Strait on the west side of San Juan to follow up on an early report of killer whales traveling north. We met u with the group of whales and some of the other whale watch boats from the fleet, and they turned out to be some old friends: Bigg’s killer whales known as the T101s, as well as T036 travelling with the T036Bs. This group of eight whales was ON THE MOVE north. We got several great looks with the whales and then decided to go on the search for some other wildlife, and possibly meet up with the whales again later on in the trip.

Crossing Haro Strait into Canadian waters we decided to weave through some of the smaller islets looking for other wildlife. Looking at Mandarte Island we had some awesome bird sightings! Glaucous-winged gulls, pigeon guillemots, pelagic cormorants, bald eagles, rhinoceros auklets…. The list went on! Many of these birds are in their breeding plumage, so they look pretty flashy this time of year. We continued on, looping back towards U.S. waters, stopping to take a peek at the geology of the Lover’s Leap cliff face on Stuart Island, as well as the gorgeous lighthouse on Turn Point. Captain Brian decided to take us around the north side of Stuart so that we could scan up and into Boundary Pass, before ducking through narrow John’s Pass.

As if we had planned it this way, the orcas were just on the other side of the pass! We had an amazing second encounter with the group of whales… the afternoon light was absolutely stunning as the black and white whales cruised the north side of Spieden Island. After a second great encounter with the T101s and the T036s we stopped to see some harbor seals and Steller’s sea lions before heading back to Friday Harbor.