May 30, 2015

Humpbacks in Boundary Pass

Today the Sea Lion ventured north under a sunny sky full of happy people and some happy naturalists: Mike and Tyler. We had some reports of Humpback whales up in Canadian waters so that is where we headed! Just outside the harbor we saw our first bald eagle fly overhead along with some rhinoceros auklets in the water. We headed towards White Rock, on which there were upwards of 20 harbor seals hauled out. Our harbor seals come in many colors: from white to black and all combinations of colors in between. After watching these yoga masters performing "Banana Pose" for a bit, we continued our journey to Java Rocks where we encountered a pair of young humpbacks blowing before showing off their sleek black backs.

These animals spend all summer long in the Pacific North West feeding on small fish like herring, capelin and sandlance by engorging their accordion-like mouths full of several thousand gallons of seawater and fish, then straining the seawater out through comb-like plates called baleen. This baleen, acting like a big strainer, allows the seawater to flow out of the mouth while the fish are retained. Humpback whales have been using this feeding method for so long that they are only able to swallow small fish as their throat is about the size of a grapefruit!

We observed these mighty yet gentle creatures as they swam west, dove, and surfaced several hundred yards to the east and repeated this pattern. This might have indicated a feeding technique that includes doing a loop under the water through a large school of fish. What a life to live!

After watching for a while, we began to meander back to Friday Harbor. We took the scenic route through the Cactus Isles and along the east side of Spiden Island to see some more harbor seals and watch an eagle circling right over the Sea Lion!

we returned to port not only with the same number of passengers as when we left, but a very happy group.

Another beautiful day full of wildlife in the San Juans!

Naturalist Mike J

M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris