September 10, 2019

Bond, Whale Bond. Humpback Whale 'Bond' (MMX0007) feeds around Spieden Channel

Humpback Whale

Erick | Tuesday, September 10, 2019 | M/V Sea Lion | Noon


Today, Captain Pete and I took a fantastic group of passengers out on a noon trip to search the Salish Sea for some fun critters. It was another beautiful day that was the perfect fall temperature. It started out very foggy and dripping and by the afternoon was warm and sunny. Capt. Pete and I went north and immediately saw a how bunch of Harbor Porpoises hunting in the strong currents around Point Caution! As we journeyed further north, we saw more and more of these tiny cetaceans.

                Porpoises look very much like dolphins but are in a different branch in the family. The major differences between the dolphins and porpoises are in their teeth. Porpoises have spatulated teeth while dolphins have conically shaped teeth. We continued our trip north and just around Spieden Channel we saw a large blow! It was from a Humpback Whale! AS we approached the whale it looked like it was busy feeding in the significant currents around Center Reef. We saw it fluke up and waited a few minutes until it came up again. Then suddenly it popped up pretty near us and kind of surprised us! We could see its blowholes and its tubercles! Tubercles are the little bumps that cover the face of a Humpback Whale. They are hairs that are surrounded by nerves. This sensitive beard allows them to feel food and currents around their faces. So cool! We watched this amazing, giant animal for a while. One time when it fluked up, we saw the bottom of its flukes! This is where we look to identify individual whales. We identified this one as the one we saw yesterday, MMX0007! We also call it, Bond, for short!

                Every year we see more and more Humpback Whales as they become more and more numerous and come closer to the islands! It is so cool to see them recover from being heavily hunted worldwide! We next moved on and went along the shoreline of Spieden Island. We saw some of the funny exotic animals that were brought there by entrepreneurial brothers a few decades ago. These two brothers wanted customers to pay them to hunt exotic animals that they brought there and then they would charge them to taxidermy them. After their business venture failed, they sold the island leaving three species on it – Mouflon Sheep, Fallow Deer, and Sika Deer. Today we saw Fallow Deer with huge antlers, and Mouflon Sheep. Also, as we cruised along the shoreline we saw a Bald Eagle and bunch of Harbor Seals! We next crossed and went over to Mandarte Island where we saw some kelp forests and a huge bird colony of Pelagic Cormorants, Gulls, and Pigeon Guillemots. We cruised back around Turn Pt., saw the lighthouse and then one of the biggest bait balls I have ever seen! Bait Balls are what we call when small schooling fish underneath the surface attract loads of birds! This one was almost a half mile wide and filled with gulls, auklets, and Common Murres! All the Common Murres these day are the fathers and their nearly adult children. So cute! We headed back along the Stewart shoreline towards home and got a few more looks at Bond the Humpback Whale around Flattop Island! What another spectacular day in the San Juans!


Naturalist Erick

San Juan Safaris


Humpback Whale dorsal
Humpback Whale flukes