July 19, 2019

Hungry Humpbacks and Tail Slapping Transients!

Bigg's Killer Whales

Laura C. | 7/19/2019 | M/V Kestrel | 11:00am

Today was absolutely exquisite on M/V Kestrel!  We had such a great time observing all the diverse wildlife found in the Salish Sea!  Our Captain Gabe rounded the bend out of Friday Harbor and we already had our first sighting, a bald eagle!  This eagle looked like he/she was supervising the vessel traffic in and out of the harbor from above and took this job very seriously! 

On our way to find whales we stumbled across some harbor seals and their pups near Spieden Island!  We got great views of these adorable pups and even though my heart wanted to get closer I knew how important it is to respect the wildlife and give these animals their quiet time and space.

We headed north with gusto as there were already morning whale reports from other vessels out on the water.  We were so excited to first find a pair of humpback whales foraging north of Henry Island!  I enthusiastically explained that these whales were filter feeding!  Salt water poured out of the sides of these whales’ mouths as they surged through the surface!  Taking about 4-5 minute dives, this pair waved their flukes high into the air as they went below the water.  It was really cool to see the contrasting fluke patterns, as the whale sporting an all black fluke was in the lead and close to follow his/her comrade with a mostly white fluke!  These fluke patterns vary so much by each individual and it is similar to recognizing a human face.  I would love to be able to see their coordinating movements under the water as these two whales fed side-by-side! 

As hard as it was to leave this scene, we were also excited to check out more wildlife!  We continued north and found Bigg’s killer whales!  There were two families in the area today, consisting of nine in total!  They were identified as the 34s and 37s and it was fantastic to see them today!  Just as we approached the scene we were presented with spyhopping and tail slapping!  Spyhops are one of my favorite things to see as a naturalist, appreciating the stark contrast of white and black on the heads of these beautiful animals!  It is like these whales were people-watching just as much as we were whale-watching!  The surface activity continued with some flipper slapping and tail sloshing, a very rowdy family today!

We continued our journey along the back side of Spieden Island and found a plethora of Mouflan sheep!  These sheep were climbing down the rocks today to drink some fresh water and were cool to watch!  Bald eagles were seen throughout the trip with some other pelagic birds like double-crested cormorants and pigeon guillemots!  It was a beautiful and sunny day out on the water, filled with amazing wildlife and everyone left M/V Kestrel a happy camper!