July 29, 2019

Bigg's Killer Whales near Saturna Island!

Erin | M/V Kestrel | 11:00 AM | Monday, July 29, 2019

What an incredible day packed with wildlife in the Salish Sea! When we left Friday Harbor, the sun was shining and it was shaping up to be a gorgeous day. We headed north out of the harbor toward a report of orcas in Boundary Pass! The water was calm, and we were all excited to see wildlife. We stopped past White Rock, which is south of Waldron Island. It is an important wildlife refuge for pinnipeds and birds alike. We saw a lot of harbor seals hauled out on the rocks. They were taking advantage of the low tide at the time, which makes it easier for them to get onto the rocks. After seeing the seals, we headed towards the north side of Spieden Island and saw an adult bald eagle in a treetop! It had a white head and white tail feathers, which is how you can tell an adult from a juvenile. 

We then went toward the Cactus Islands and saw more harbor seals! They were resting on very small, exposed rocks, and it seemed like their whole bodies were floating on top of the water. We travelled through Johns Pass and then got a wonderful view of Mount Baker, which is an active volcano that also has glaciers on it! On our way into Boundary Pass to see the killer whales, we stopped and picked up a balloon that was floating at the surface. Balloons are very harmful to all types of marine life: birds, seals, and whales. It was a good reminder to never release balloons into the air. Soon we caught sight of some other whale watching boats, and we went over to see what all of the hype was about! 

There was a family pod of orcas in the area known as the T65A's. They are sometimes a group of 6 whales, but today there were only 5 of them. T65A2, who is a 15 year old male, occasionally likes to travel on his own or with other family groups. As we watched the whales, they travelled slowly northbound and at times it appeared as if they were hunting. A harbor porpoise and a harbor seal with her pup popped up in the area that the whales were in. It was incredible that the marine mammal eating orcas did not notice their prey up at the surface. They just continued swimming. This family pod has a new calf in it, and it was adorable to see it travelling along with its family. T65A, who is the matriarch, is a 33 year old female who has had 6 calves in her lifetime. It was amazing to be able to see a thriving group of orcas in the Salish Sea. On our way back to the harbor, we saw many harbor seals and harbor porpoises up at the surface. It was a wonderful day of whale watching. 

Naturalist Erin