June 24, 2019

Bigg's Orcas, T65As, in Rosario Strait!

Piper | Monday, June 24, 2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 1:30 PM

On today’s afternoon trip Captain Erick, Erin, and I headed out into the Salish Sea with some really cool guests and we got to circumnavigate Lopez Island checking out all sorts of wildlife! Typically, when we leave the docks we either head up north or down south through San Juan Channel but today we got to go interisland, cutting across the channel and heading between Shaw and Lopez! We kept going and turned south into Lopez Sound, coming out into Rosario Strait through Lopez Pass. Just a bit after entering the strait we slowed our boat to seven knots as we arrived on scene with a group of Bigg’s killer whales!

These were the T65A’s, a family we are becoming very familiar with here in the Salish Sea. This is a group of six orcas led by the 33-year-old matriarch and mom of five, T65A, also known as Fingers! Her oldest son, T65A2 is a 15-year-old and the rest of them are 12, eight, five, and one! We watched as they swam south through the Strait, cutting across towards the shore of Lopez Island, where they were likely scanning the waters near the shore with their echolocation to find some yummy seals!

As they reached the southeastern tip of Lopez Island we broke away from the group to see if we could find some other wildlife! Our search didn’t last long as there was a bald eagle perched atop a channel marker, looking out for its own meal!

We kept going and as we reached the entrance to San Juan Channel, known as Cattle Pass, we came upon Whale Rocks which were covered in Steller sea lions! The Whale Rocks Stellers are always the last to leave, but I’m pretty surprised to see these animals still hanging out in the Salish Sea! They spend their winters here and then generally head off to Alaska for their summer breeding season, but this year a large amount of juveniles are sticking around, possibly not feeling up to the migration since they might be too small and young to establish a harem up north. A couple of them were sparring along the shores but for the most part these massive sea lions were just relaxing on the rocks.

We continued our trip back towards Friday Harbor, but didn’t reach the marina before seeing a colony of harbor seals hauled out on some small rocks south of Turn Island! It was a fantastic trip today and we really got to see a lot of awesome wildlife!!