June 14, 2021

Fluking Humpback Whale and Lunging Minke Whale All in the Salish Sea

Humpback Whale showing tail before diving for food

It was an awesome wildlife day in the Salish Sea! After a smooth exit out of Friday Harbor, we began our search for wildlife southbound in San Juan Channel. Our first stop was at Whale Rocks to look at two kinds of Pinnipeds: Steller Sea Lions and Harbor Seals! While the Harbor Seals were peacefully hauled out, the hefty Steller Sea Lions splashed around the shallow waters and roared fiercely. Observing pinnipeds cohabitating helped us distinguish their differences in size, morphology, and behavior. 

 

As our search for wildlife continued past Cattle Point, we came across a flock of feeding seabirds and a Minke Whale surfacing within! Minke Whales are a species of Baleen Whales, distinguished for the baleen plates in their mouth that allow them to filter out water from small, schooling bait fish they capture. We witnessed this Minke Whale lunge out of the surface by propelling itself into a bait ball, startling the Gulls and Pigeon Guillemots resting on the water. A few more surfacings of this Minke breathing, and we were off again to find a reported Humpback Whale traveling on the west side of San Juan Island. 

 

We found our Humpback Whale near Kanaka Bay -- our second baleen whale for the day! Identified as BCX 0084 “Scuttles”, this humpback was traveling tight along the coast going South at first and then rerouting to move northbound. We admired the smooth surfacings, in awe of the deep exhale we could hear from our .25-mile away distance. Guests took their last looks at Scuttles fluking before we peeled away to return to Friday Harbor. The sun warmed us as we re-entered the harbor, perfectly ending our excursion.