May 17, 2019

Kestrel Went Far and Saw Loads of Orcas! : T124C was in the Narrows and the T41's and the T100B's Were by Mandarte Is.

Bigg's male orca

Erick | Friday, May 17, 2019 | M/V Kestrel | 11:00AM

 

Captain Gabe and I had an early trip on this day. It started out as cloudy, but you could see some blue skies poking out up there as well. We left with a full boat and headed north to see what we could find. We made our first stop at Flattop Island to look at a bunch of Harbor Seals sunning themselves on the rocky shoreline. They were all huddled on the eastern side since it seems seals hate to be in the wind, so they avoid it at all costs even if it is a slight breeze. We watched these funny creatures for a while. Two male seals looked like they were having an argument and were wildly trying to scratch each other with their very short flippers. It was pretty comical. We continued our journey north and made it to East Point on Saturna Island. Here we got to see the larger cousin of the Harbor Seal, The Steller Sea Lion. There was around 30 on the rocks here and they, as usual, were all growling at each other as one of the biggest males I’ve seen crawled out of the water. Then one of the younger ones had to crawl over all the sea lions that were sleeping on the rocks causing each one of them to moan and short as the few hundred-pound juvenile clumsily climbed over them. These Steller Sea Lions are the biggest eared seals in the world, and they will soon all start their migration north to their breeding grounds and we won’t see them return until the fall. Gabe and I continued north and searched along the Belle Chain islets and through the beautiful Active Pass. We then headed around the southern end of Saltspring Island and headed north through another narrow pass called Sansum Narrows. We went about as far as we feasibly can and just when we were going to turn back one of our friends just a little further north found a lone male orca! We turned and went to go see this orca. It was a Bigg’s Orca. In this ecotype which is the type that preys on marine mammals it is more common to see lone males sometimes. This male, T124C, is a full adult male that sometimes does travel with his family but often is seen alone. He was traveling north with the tide and it was so cool to see his huge dorsal rise above the smooth waters of the Sansum Narrows. We watched him for a while and after being thoroughly amazed we turned back south to head home to Friday Harbor. We headed through the Gulf Islands but when we reached Mandarte Island there was another group of orcas! This was a whole group of Bigg’s Orcas. When we arrived, we saw them just finishing up a kill and the birds were going crazy over the left-overs! This group was actually two families traveling and hunting together and we got to watch them slowly pass as they continued on their way up north. It was the T41’s and the T100B’s which is a large group of mostly females and younger individuals. There was even a very small baby orca swimming too! So cute! After that we did in fact have to head home after a long but very fun day! Until next time!

 

Erick