May 18, 2019

Humpback and Minke Whales Sharing the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Piper | Saturday, May 18, 2019 | M/V Kestrel | 11:00 AM

Today was another beautiful sunny day in the San Juan Islands and we took full advantage of it with reports of rain the next few days. We had a nice full boat aboard Kestrel today and left the dock heading north in San Juan Channel. Our first stop was a couple Steller sea lions hanging out on Green Point on Spieden Island. These two stragglers looked to be the last of the Green Point colony remaining in the Salish Sea. We expect nearly all our Stellers to head off to Alaska soon for their breeding season and it was great to be able to see some today!

We continued north into Boundary Pass and along the south side of Saturna Island, scanning the whole way. We came across a bunch of harbor seals resting on Java Islets and as we motored down further we spotted a bald eagle perched atop the rocks!

While we were watching all this awesome wildlife up north, a humpback whale was spotted south of Lopez Island! We turned our boat south and passed through President Channel spotting a few sneaky harbor porpoises, we looped around Shaw Island looking for other cool things while we made our way to MacArthur Bank, where the humpback was last seen. When we arrived to the area there were no more boats with the animal so we had to slow our roll and scan the horizon to try to reacquire this humpback.

Captain Gabe spotted the blow off our bow about a mile away! We slowly made our way to the humpback and lined up with it as it surfaced for air. The boats that were with this animal identified it as Scratchy (MMY0079), a whale we’ve been finding south of Lopez a lot the last week! We had to trust the other boats for a while because Scratchy kept psyching us out on showing his/her flukes until the last two surfacing bouts when it moved to deeper water and went down further, flashing that beautiful tail in the air!

We went back into search mode and scanned more of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, eventually coming across a Minke whale south of Hein Bank! We got some really awesome views of this little Stinky Minke as it swam back and forth along the line of the bank. We even got to smell why these whales have been given that nickname. The wind blew the whale’s breath towards our boat and stunk up our noses for a moment. Poor whales and their chronic halitosis! We left that Minke and came across another briefly on our way back towards Friday Harbor. Motoring quickly towards Cattle Pass and San Juan Channel, Captain Gabe and I even spotted a phalarope fly from a chunk of algae and land in the water—a very early sighting for this tiny shorebird! Another wonderful day on the water!