September 7, 2017

Humpbacks in Rosario - Summer's Drawing to a Close, But There Are Whales Galore!

[Lauren Fritz, M/V Sea Lion, 09/07/17, 1:00 pm Private Charter]

It's a big deal every year right after labor day in Roche Harbor - Ranger Tug Rendezvous is happening! Lots of these beautiful boats are docked in the harbor right now, and dealers and enthusiasts alike are wandering the docks, sharing their stories, talking about the boats, and enjoying the beauty of San Juan Island. Naturalist Piper, Captain Pete, and I had the chance to take some of these wonderful folks out on a whale watch today, and we had an amazing time out on the water.

Although the smoke hasn't cleared away yet, we had sweeping views of the surrounding islands, glimpses of porpoises and seals, and plenty of time to learn more about the Salish Sea ecosystem and the biodiversity we are able to experience here. Captain Pete made sure to bring us by one of our favorite bald eagle nests on Upright Head, near the Lopez Island ferry terminal. And, as luck would have it, there were reports of two humpback whales out in Rosario Strait - right where we were headed!

Once we made it through Thatcher Pass, we kept our eyes peeled for these amazing humpback whales. Because of their size, they're fairly easy to spot when they're at the surface, so we scanned for blows and tale flukes. Sure enough, a few moments later, a large tower of mist broke the surface of the water, followed by a long gray back and a lumpy dorsal fin. A second humpback surfaced nearby. We excitedly navigated a bit closer, staying within the 200 yard approach limit but allowing our viewers to get a feel for the sheer size and amazing power of these creatures. We saw several fluke up dives from one of the whales, and plenty of beautiful surfacings, before it was time for us to head back to Roche Harbor.

What a great day on the water! We had a wonderful group of folks out with us, plenty of amazing wildlife sightings, and it was also Captain Pete's last day for the season. He'll be back next year, so make sure to come visit us again next summer and see what's different around here!

Naturalist Lauren, San Juan Safaris