June 11, 2009

Huffin' and Puffin!

Wow! After three days off what a comeback. I showed up at the office this morning to news of Orcas in the area, but they were different from those that we had been seeing. The excitement was palpable as our group of 25 guests, along with Capt. Nancy, Jeanette and I motored out into the great unknown. Would the whales stay in an area where we could see them, would there be as many as were reported, would Capt. Nancy remember Jeanette's name today? It was all a mystery and we wanted answers.

With the recent full moon we were riding a powerful ebb tide and we all urged the MV Sea Lion through the waters to the south end of San Juan Island. We instantly saw the other wildlife watching boats as we came around Cattle Point. We edged up and then waited for those beautiful black & whites to come to us. We only had to wait a minute before we spotted L41 "Mega" in the distance off of our port side. Soon there were whales everywhere! They were breaching and tail lobbing and blowing in every direction. Jeanette and the guests at the stern of the boat watched one individual spyhop three times in a row as well as one animal that rolled on its side and splashed in the water with its pectoral flipper. Off the bow was a juvenile that seemed to take great joy in vigorously slapping its tail on the water over and over. Capt. Nancy said later that this was the most active that she has ever seen the L12s, or Alexis's sub-group.

The trip back to port was the highlight of my day though. I am known for not being a screamer, but I squealed my heart out when we came around Hall Island, just east of Long Island and south of Lopez Island, and I spotted a Tufted Puffin. Ever since I wrote a report on puffins in elementary school I have wanted to see one in the wild and there it was. It was only about 12 feet from the boat so I and some of the guests could get a great look before it dove under and disappeared. Puffins used to nest on these islands, but due to disturbance, predation and food shortages they are rarely seen here now. This was a crowning jewel in my life list though and one more step in a hobby that I learned from my grandfather.

We were finally welcomed back to Friday Harbor by a rambunctious pod of Harbor Porpoises and were able to deliver our guests up for the 4:15 PM Washington State Ferry. As always, what a great day. Thank you to our lovely guests and you and we will...

See You In The Islands!
Tristen, Naturalist

Orca Whales and Wildlife Are Our Only Business. ©