March 24, 2019

Bigg's Orca Whales Hunt and Party in Boundary Pass: The T49A's Breach like Crazy!

young Bigg's Orca breaches

Erick | Sunday, March 24, 2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00 

Listen to the Bigg's Orca Vocals we recorded this day here



Yet another day of beautiful sunny weather today. Captain Mike and I took a pretty large group of folks out on M/V Sea Lin to look for some marine wildlife in the San Juan Islands. We left Friday Harbor and headed north towards the northern edge of the islands. We made our first stop at Flattop Island. This whole island is a nature preserve and it is a perfect spot to see Harbor Seals sprawled out on the rocky shoreline. There was a whole bunch of them here watching us back and even more on White Rock along with a Bald Eagle! We enjoyed the wildlife around these two islets for awhile. We saw bunches of seals swimming around as well as tons of cormorants! We next headed further north towards Boundary Pass and passed by a huge group of Harbor Porpoises scooting south. These porpoises are definitely our smallest and most common cetaceans. We soon saw why they were scooting so fast. We quickly noticed some blows in the distance. It was a group of Bigg’s Orcas! They were currently finishing chowing down on something. This type of Orca (they are also known as Transients) prey only on marine mammals so they were probably eating one of those porpoises. This family of orcas were the T49A’s. Families of orcas are matriarchal so they consist most often of a mother and all her offspring. T49A, this matriarch, had four children traveling with her all of different ages. There were three younger ones and an adult male orca. They quickly finished eating and moved into playing. We don’t often get to see this much activity out of this ecotype of orca because they are usually focused on silently hunting their intelligent mammalian prey. These orcas were jumping all over the place. At One time we had a triple breach in succession. This is how they learn. The younger ones will copy the actions of the older siblings. A large tanker came by and the adult son, T49A1 did two large breaches over its massive wake.  After watching them tail slap, back flop, and breach for quite some time it was time to leave, but not before we got to record some amazing echolocation clicks and vocalizations from our hydrophone onboard. We cruised back around Turn Point past the lighthouse there and took one last stop at Spieden Island to see a group of Steller Sea Lions swimming just off the point. What another unique and amazing day here in the San Juans. Hope to see you all soon!