March 18, 2019

Bigg's Orca family right outside Friday Harbor: The T2C's travel around

Bigg's orcas

Erick | Monday, March 18, 2019 | M/V Kestrel | 12:00 


Spring is here! On this warm and sunny day Captain Brian and I took a great small group out on Kestrel to see what wildlife was out enjoying the sunshine too. We headed out of Friday Harbor and almost saw blows immediately! They were right off the shore of Brown Island. We approached this group of whales and soon saw that they were Bigg’s Orcas. Orcas aka Killer Whales are divided into different ‘ecotypes’. These ecotypes are all technically the same species but no longer interbreed anymore. Researchers say this is most likely due to cultural differences since they no longer sound the same, have different prey species, and also have slightly different behaviors. Bigg’s Orcas (also known as Transients) live in B.C. and Washington state waters and prey on Marine Mammals. As this group approached Turn Rock we identified them as the T2C’s! This is a family group of five orcas. Family groups of orcas exist in a matriarchal social structure. So, it is usually a mother traveling with all of her offspring. This family is a common one that we see in these waters especially in this part of the year the past few years. We watched this family as they traveled in a resting pattern south in san Juan Channel This family is a regular one that we see here as well as a unique one. One of the younger ones in this family, T2C2 (aka Tumbo) has scoliosis. He is a teenager now and his family has taken care of him his whole life. His big brother, T2C1, is often seen lagging behind with him since Tumbo can’t swim as fast. Tumbo’s family is often seen waiting for Tumbo to catch up after they make a kill so Tumbo can come and eat as well. This family continued down San Juan Channel and we got some great views of them with Lopez Island and Mt. Baker in the background. They scooted in close to the San Juan shoreline and all group up and swam around each other before taking a little break to log just at the surface. It’s always so cool to see all these different behaviors in one trip. We decided to leave this group for a little bit to see some of the other wildlife in the area. We cruised down to Cattle pass where we stopped to see a small group of Harbor Porpoises swimming in the significant rip currents. We then went over to Whale Rocks where we saw three Bald Eagles and a huge group of Steller Sea Lions lounging on the rocks. After watching these sea lions growl at each other for awhile we headed back to Griffin Bay to see the T2C family of Orcas. They were still cruising close to the shore and we got some great final looks at them were the forested back drop of San Juan Island. After saying our farewells we made one final stop to see a group of Harbor Seals resting on the rocks near Pear Point. These cute fluffy guys managed to escape the Bigg’s Orcas this time.

Whale folks until next time,