May 14, 2018

Chainsaw and the T36 Family of Bigg's Orcas Hunt in Boundary Pass

Chainsaw the Bigg's Orca

[Sunday, 5/13/18 - M/V Kestrel - 1:00PM - Naturalist Erick]


Happy Mothers’ Day!


This Sunday, Captain Brian and I left Friday Harbor looking for all the wonderful whales and wildlife out here. We started out by going north through San Juan Channel and made our first stop at Green Point on Spieden Island to check out the remaining Steller Sea Lions resting on the point. There were a group of about 20 adult male Steller Sea Lions wrestling and growling at each other. These amazing animals are super fuzzy and about the size of a Fiat and one of my favorite animals out here. It’s incredible to watch them flip around in the water and growl on the shoreline. Pretty soon they’ll all make their way up north towards Alaska where they mate and breed in the summer months. Next we headed up towards Boundary Pass to look for more amazing wildlife. We arrived at East Point off of Saturna Island to look at this amazing place. Here is where three larger bodies of water meet so this area is a dynamic place that concentrates nutrients and draws in scores of birds, seals, and sea lions. Today we could see the distinct line between the dark green waters of the Salish Sea and the light brown of the wash from the Fraser River. The Fraser River Valley has experienced flooding in the last few weeks and you can really tell in the waters as we motor closer to Canada. Here we saw a ton of birds like Bonaparte’s Gulls, Long-tailed Ducks, and Rhinoceros Auklets. Here there were also a ton of Steller Sea Lions and Harbor Seals hauled out and tanning themselves. Next we ended up turning back south due to a report of some whales on the south side of Saturna Island. We headed over and just around Monarch Head. Here there was a family group of Bigg’s Orcas (aka Transient Orcas). These are the ones that prey upon marine mammals and when we arrived they were definitely chowing down on something. They were splashing around and causing a commotion indicating that they were actively eating. Their most common prey in our area are Harbor Seals. After they were done chowing down on whatever that was they headed east along the Saturna Island shoreline. After watching them for a little bit we identified them as the T36A’s along with a local favorite, Chainsaw, T63. He has two large nicks in his huge dorsal fin so it is easy to identify him. The T36’s are an amazing family. T36 is a super successful whale since she has two daughters and each of them have at least 2 each of their own offspring. They continued traveling east towards East Point and it was super fun to watch them with the backdrop of the cliffs of Saturna Island behind them. We watched them as they traveled towards the Strait of Georgia. It was my first time seeing Chainsaw this year and it was so cool! We followed them a little further as they traveled in the Strait up north. As we left them we saw a pretty large group of Harbor Porpoises swimming in the rip current flowing off of East Point too. These tiny porpoises are definitely on the menu for the Transient Orcas we just watched but it looks like they escaped today. By this time it was time to head back so we wound our way back through the many tiny islands in the San Juans to Friday Harbor.


Whale Folks until next time,

Naturalist Erick

San Juan Safaris