June 21, 2020

Last Minute Bigg's Orcas on Father's Day! (T65A's & T37B's)

Bigg's Orcas

Sunday June 22, 2020

Happy Father’s Day to everyone! We know it is technically supposed to be summer these days but up here in the PNW summer seems to have a slow start. We left Friday Harbor on a little bit of an overcast day, but as we left and headed north the weather started to clear. We headed up towards Flattop Island where we got to see some sleepy Harbor Seals sunning themselves on the rocky coastline. As we passed them two Bald Eagles popped into view in one of the Douglas Firs towering over us on the cliffs above. We marveled at them for a while and the Pigeon Guillemots diving around the boat as another Bald Eagle soared above us. Next, we went up towards Boundary Pass and the Islands of Patos and Sucia. We saw tons more Harbor Seals there as well as a few small groups of Harbor Porpoises! They zipped and zapped through the swirling currents whipping around the sandstone islands. We circled around Patos and headed back west towards home when we got a report of some orcas on the west side of San Juan Island! We headed that direction and met up with them as they rounded Kellett Bluff on Henry Island which is just north of San Juan. It was two families of Biggs Orcas! Biggs Orcas means that they are the type of orca that we often see here on the west coast that exclusively eats marine mammals. They usually travel in smaller groups than the other type, The Southern Residents. These two families kept intermingling and socializing a little bit as they traveled quickly north with the flooding tide. IT was the T65As and the 37Bs which are both families that we often see here. We got some great looks of all the whales but especially of T65A and her youngest calf that was born in 2018 They stayed close to each other and a little apart from the rest of the group having some great mom and kid time. Even though it was Father’s Day, it was so nice to see these two moms and their families. All Orcas have dads, but males usually stick with their mothers their whole lives. So mating happens usually when two families meet and then the two whales go back to their respective groups. Males help raise calves, but the calves are their siblings or their nieces and nephews that still live in his mother’s family. Whichever type of orca we see it is always fun to observe their unique family dynamics. After seeing those orcas, it was time to head home after another magical day in the San Juans!

Naturalist Erick