April 28, 2019

J Pod Orcas Make an Early Season Appearance in Rosario Strait!

Piper | 04/28/2019 | M/V Sea Lion | Noon

I'm back for another season on San Juan Island and what a great day to kick off the summer aboard the M/V Sea Lion! Captain Pete and I were onboard with a great group of folks today, the sun was shining bright, and the wind had relaxed after a very breezy Saturday. We started off the day with a report of orcas near Sucia Island so when we left Friday Harbor we headed north through San Juan Channel. Just before entering President Channel we came across an awesome sight of a Steller sea lion thrashing about with what appeared to be a skate in its mouth! The sea lion was trying to rip off parts of the skate with its giant teeth and a flock of seagulls as well as a bald eagle were swooping in to see what pieces they could score! It was really quite a sight!

After the sea lion plunged back to the depths we carried on and cruised across the north side of Orcas Island (named not for the killer whales, but for Juan Vicente de Guemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, the Viceroy of Mexico in 1791 who sent an expedition of explorers to the islands) and down the east side into Rosario where we came across the trailing members of J Pod, part of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population! The orcas were traveling south along the coast of Orcas Island and when we first arrived they were spread all the way down the coast but once they rounded the southeast corner of the island they all grouped up and we got to really see just how many whales were there! They started socializing and displaying some surface activities; we got to see them rolling around at the surface, pec slapping, tail slapping, and even a couple breaches! This is only the second time we've seen J Pod this season and they absolutely did not disappoint. Towards the end of our time with them they swam past a few rocks that were holding some (likely startled) harbor seals and a majestic bald eagle. What a gorgeous trip we had today; I'm looking forward to many more fabulous days on the water this summer!