June 16, 2009

Minke Whales, Seals, & Eagles!

It was a perfect day to spot and see marine mammals: no wind, calm seas, and overcast skies, so there was little glare on the water.

We left Friday Harbor with a report of Minke Whales to the south at Hein Bank. Hein Bank is a place where it gets shallow due to an underwater sea mount or bank...there's kelp growing here and plenty of places for smaller fish and animals to hide around. For this reason it tends to be a great place for marine birds, seals, and Minke whales to feed! There were plenty of Glaucous winged Gulls and Rhinoceros Auklets sitting on the surface of the water when we arrived. In fact the seas were so smooth and glassy that you could see seabirds all around! We had a couple of great views of at least 2 Minke whales, sporadically surfacing in different directions.

The Minke whale is one of the smallest baleen whales, no longer than 30 feet in length. It has no teeth, instead it uses baleen to filter the water for smaller fish and planktonic creatures. It will fill its mouth cavity with water (and hopefully dinner), then push the water through the baleen, which acts as a filter or sieve, leaving behind the smaller fish to swallow.

We were lucky enough to see these whales surface multiple times, although we never quite knew where to look next! They can be a little elusive since they have a random feeding pattern, zig-zagging in one direction and then another. We left Hein Bank with the beautiful snow capped Olympic Mountains behind us and made our way towards Lopez Island and San Juan Island to check on a few Bald Eagles and napping Harbor Seals before returning to Friday Harbor.

-Jaclyn, naturalist
Orca Whales and Wildlife Are Our Only Business. ©