March 13, 2018

Close to Home: Bigg's Orca Whale Family, T2C's, Hunt Near Friday Harbor

Adult Male Bigg's Orca

[Sunday – 3/11/18 – 12:00 – M/V Sea Lion – Naturalist Erick]

            Today, we luckily got another super sunny day! It almost felt like summer, but it was still a little cool outside. Captain Mike, Piper, and I took a great group out with us as we went on another search for some whales and other fun creatures in our waters. Early this morning, most of our team was out on M/V Sea Lion to practice safety drills and saw some orcas then, so at noon we headed in that direction to try and find them again. We caught up to them around O’Neil Island off the northeastern coast of San Juan Island. It was the same orca family we saw yesterday, the T2C’s! This family has five orcas and the matriarch, T2C, is just super. My favorite part about this family though are the two brothers, T2C1 and T2C2.

T2C1 is a large adult male and his younger brother T2C2 has scoliosis so he cannot swim quickly or help in hunts so his family and most of the time his older brother work very hard to take care of him. T2C1 often swims back to make sure T2C2 is not falling behind and makes sure he gets food. It is always fascinating and pretty cool to see these traits we often only attribute to humans exhibited in other species that we share this planet with. This family was heading south super close to the rocky shore of San Juan Island. The shoreline here drops straight into the water, so it is pretty deep even right next to the shore. They were hunting Harbor Seals and we were lucky enough to watch them hunt, catch, and eat a few. It was amazing to see them coordinate their hunting and catch their prey, and of course it was great to see them socialize after eating a lot too. Party! The youngest baby orca started riding his mother’s rostrum (nose area), and a few of others got into flipping their tails out of the water.

After watching this family eat a few seals we continued down south to Cattle Pass. Here we saw a whole bunch of Steller Sea Lions roaring on Whale Rocks. There is always a large kerfuffle over their favorite spots on the rocks. There is lots of growling, posturing, and biting the air. After watching those giant swimming bears of the sea we headed over to some of the other small islands to see a group of Juvenile Bald Eagles, Adult Bald Eagles, and even a huge Bald Eagle nest! And last but certainly not least we stopped in between Deadman Island and Lopez Island to look at some Rock Sausages aka Harbor Seals resting on the rocks over there.

And finally, today we got extra lucky because when we headed back to Friday Harbor we encountered the T2C orca family one more time! They were right in front of the harbor and even swam into it for a little bit! That’s not something you see every day! Whale, you can’t beat a sunny day with orcas in the San Juans! Until next time!

Naturalist Erick

San Juan Safaris