April 24, 2021

Gray Whale Feeding and Fluking in the Rosario Strait!

Laura | M/V Kestrel | 4/24/2021 | 2:00PM

Today was a most adventurous day on M/V Kestrel!  The skies were quite cloudy with scattered showers, but the seas were glass calm.  Skies like these can increase the possibility of seeing whales, as the darker skies lift whale blows against a backdrop that really makes them pop!  Sometimes the glare from the sun can make it difficult to stare out looking for dorsal fins or exhalations so I was excited to start looking for whales today.  Passengers were excited as well and handled the elements quite well, with wet hair and full smiles on their faces!

A passenger pointed out the first whale sightings of the day not too far south of Friday Harbor.  There was a group of harbor porpoises foraging in San Juan Channel, an estimated 25-30 individuals!  It is so tricky to spot these animals that look so small from a boat but weigh a few hundred pounds each!  We stopped our vessel near these porpoises and watched them for a little bit while our Captain Brian planned our course.  We decided to go through Upright Channel and into the Rosario Strait.  There was a report of a gray whale in the area!  As we approached the scene, I spotted an exhalation, and we slowed our vessel.  After looking at this animal it was a different gray whale from the one reported near this same location earlier in the week.  He/she was traveling in a zone around 160 feet deep, which is a nice area for benthic invertebrates.  It is a great indication that this spring gray whales seem to be finding food to eat in this part of the Rosario, between Fidalgo Head and Lopez Island.  This beautiful animal was slightly larger than the male gray whale seen earlier this week, which may mean that it was either an adult or possibly female.  All baleen females are larger in size than the males, but it is opposite for any toothed whales.  Our orca males tower over females with their dorsal fins and are much larger in appearance.  After watching several flukes from this gray whale, we continued our way to check out more wildlife near McArthur Bank.  We scanned after arriving in an area with great visibility, and did not see any blows, but found a few more porpoises and cool pelagic birds!  Whale Rocks was also booming with Steller sea lions and we got a great up-close and personal look from a young harbor seal that wanted to investigate our boat!  Harbor Porpoises were certainly in abundance today and we continued to view them popping up in the distance as we made our way back to Friday Harbor.  Today was definitely a chilly wet day on the water but everyone enjoyed their time along a beautiful landscape of the San Juan Islands in the mist.  Thank you all for coming out with us today!