March 10, 2020

J Pod Leaping through Swanson Channel!!

J Pod in Swanson Channel

Laura | M/V Sea Lion | 3/10/2020 | 12:00pm

Today was such a fun day to be out on the water!  M/V Sea Lion left the dock of Friday Harbor and headed north.  Moments after we left the dock a large common loon came right by our boat and surprised all the passengers!  He was sporting some gorgeous spring breeding plumage and this sighting was the closest I have ever been to a loon!

We continued through the San Juan Channel and stopped at Flattop Island to watch a juvenile bald eagle take flight!  It was a windy day so the eagle caught a wind current and just held position overhead, giving us the perfect opportunity to check him/her out from below.  A cluster of harbor seals were swimming in the small beach area on the east side of the island, which made it look like a seal jacuzzi.  Several other individuals were hauled out around them, estimating about thirty seals altogether!  We found even more seals by Waldron Island and the Cactus Islands.  We continued past Sandy Point and into Boundary Pass, scoping the area for any large exhalations that could have emerged at any moment.  After searching through the channel, we rounded back down to Turn Point and had great views of the lighthouse.  As we were moving south along the west side of Stewart, we heard of an unconfirmed whale sighting in Swanson Channel headed towards Active Pass!

Captain Pete immediately changed course and we cruised through surrounding Canadian Islands, intently scanning for any sign of life.  Just as we were starting to approach the north end of Swanson Channel, Captain Pete saw a breach followed by an exhalation of a killer whale!  We then started noticing more blows and dorsal fins emerging in a spread out fashion along the channel.  As we slowed our speed and assessed the scene, it was clear these were Southern Residents!!  J Pod members moved through the area in groups of 1-4 in a generalized northern direction.  Individuals easily demonstrated how limber their bodies are as they flawlessly conducted back breaches, lobtails and a few flipper slaps!  It was so amazing to see J Pod in this element, moving as a large family unit and enjoying each other’s company.  Some ID’s included the J11’s: Blackberry. Tsuchi and new 2019 calf Tofino, and Mako.  There were others in the area all around us, totally at least 15 individuals.  We had a long journey today and covered so much ground!  A Canadian adventure to remember with J Pod!