June 13, 2018

Bigg's Orcas Jumping, Humpback Whale Fluking, & Sea Otter Swimming!

Bigg's Orcas

[Wednesday, 6/13/18 - M/V Kestrel - 10:00AM - Naturalist Erick]

Today we had another ‘June-ary’ day as the morning started out with rain but broke to a delightful sunny day. Captain Mike and I took a smaller group of folks out to search for all the fun morning critters out in the Salish Sea. We headed north through San Juan and Spieden Channels until we made it to the other side of Boundary Pass near South Pender Island. Here there was a large group of Bigg’s Orcas feeding and jumping around. The Bigg’s Orcas are a specific type of orca in this area the only feeds on marine mammals so when they hunt and eat it’s a show.

As they were flipping and one of the younger ones kept doing chin slaps on the water we identified them as the T37’s, the T77’s and the T34’s. Each of these is family of orcas and families of orcas are made up of a head matriarch and usually her children and often grandchildren as well! This large group was so fun to watch. We watched them jump and play and splash! As they finished eating they started heading west continuing in the pass and we decided to leave them to it at that point. We next headed along the west coast of San Juan Island until we reached Cattle Pass.

Here as the tidal currents quickly surged through the pass we saw a giant Humpback Whale swimming towards us! This large baleen whale was swimming through Cattle Pass. It passed us and raised its huge tail before going on a deeper dive. We watched it do this a few times, noting its mostly white underside of its flukes. There’s a pretty good chance that it was Heather, the whale, but I’m not 100% sure. After that behemoth we moved on to Whale Rocks were there was both a huge Steller Sea Lion colony and a large Harbor Seal colony tanning themselves on the rocks. The Steller Sea Lions look like giant bears with flippers that are constantly growling at each other.

\As we traveled around the rocks we also saw something else in the water besides the sea lions...It was a Sea Otter! Yay! Sea Otters were hunted out of this area by westerners pretty quickly and have been gone ever since. They have slowly been returning throughout the west coast and there are otters that live on the outside coast of Washington and British Columbia and even a few that live right outside Victoria but this little guy is one of the few that has made the swimmover to San Juan Island. If you have never seen a Sea Otter they are dangerously cute. This one was poking its head straight up out of the water and taking a look at us as it crossed its front paws. It could not have gotten ayn cuter and neither could our trip.

Whale folks that’s it for today.

Naturalist Erick

San Juan Safaris