April 5, 2018

Bigg's Orca Family T2C's Hunting in Spieden Channel

Bigg's Orcas

[Sunday, 4/1/18 – 12:00 – M/V Sea Lion – Naturalist Erick]


            On Sunday, we went on another fun search for wonderful wildlife in the San Juan Islands! We headed north towards Spieden Island. We made a quick stop just south of Point Caution because there were four Bald Eagles fighting over some carcass right next to shore. They were super active and kept dive bombing each other with talons open! After they flew away we continued northward. We headed through Spieden Channel and pretty close to Battleship Island we saw a group of orcas! It was a family of Transient (Bigg’s) Orcas hunting in the rocky reefs around the northern part of San Juan Island. This family was the T2C’s which is one that we see around the islands a lot. It is always great to see them especially since they are such a dynamic family. There is the matriarch (aka Mom), T2C, her oldest son T2C1, her second oldest son T2C2, Tumbo who has scoliosis, and two younger calves. They hunted around Battleship Island and definitely killed and ate a few Harbor Seals. For Transient Orcas, their prey is marine mammals, and in this area their main food source is Harbor Seals. While hunting you can see them twist and turn and do a lot of dives in the same place as they drown their prey and share it after it is dead. We watched this amazing family as they traveled west along the Henry Island coastline. The young ones were having a great time swimming in and out of their tight family group and would often surface well out of the water, so you could see their eye patches and their white chins. As they traveled west we eventually had to leave this wonderful local transient orca family. We headed back east and made a stop at Sentinel Rocks. Here we usually watch Harbor Seals rest and perform some antics, but today there were several Steller Sea Lions here instead. They seemed to be pushing the seals out of their normal real estate. We watched those goofy sea lions and the seals swimming in the waters around their normal haul out for a while. We continued out and traveled along the shoreline of Spieden Island and saw tons of the Mouflon Sheep, Fallow Deer, and Sika Deer frolicking along the grassy hills on the island. This place used to be an exotic-game hunting ranch and these nonnative animals are not from this area. We watched them all and then went to Green Point to see the colony of Steller Sea Lions that rest there. They, as always, were growling and fighting over their favorite rocks. What another superb day! Whale folks, that’s all for today!


Until Next time,

Naturalist Erick

San Juan Safaris