May 27, 2011

Possible post-hunt transients milling about off Saturna Island

After a night of rain, I woke up this morning to still more rain, as it sometimes goes here in Washington.  But as the day progressed, the weather got better and better.  By the time our departure time rolled around, it was looking pretty good and sunny out here in the San Juan Islands.  From Friday Harbor, we headed north with word and hope of possible whales up in Canada by Active Pass.

After an hour of searching and a pass by a few Stellar sea lions, we started to see vessels off the east side of Saturna Island.  Not far from those vessels were... five black dorsal fins belonging to five transient orca whales!  As we observed this pod, we noticed that all of the dorsal fins were crescent-moon shaped, each belonging to either a female or a juvenile (male or female) and one of these dorsal fins belonged to a very small orca: a baby.  Upon our first approach, we noticed several gulls circling overhead.  Had the pod just taken a harbor seal or Stellar sea lion, with the gulls scavenging for scraps?  We were still not certain.  The transient group began heading south and then north and then random circles, moving rapidly at first and then slowly.  The calf had a little fit of acting up somewhat with fluke up dives, head stands and a semi-spy hop with its head clearing the water.  As we ran out of time, the pod was still milling about and Bald Eagles were circling overhead.  The pod was identified by another vessel as the transient 100s.

On our return to the harbor, we had a little bit of time to stop by and see some Stellar sea lions and harbor seals hauled out basking themselves on the rocks.  A good day to dry off and warm up!  One large male was sitting up regally and vocalizing at a swimming sea lion and two more were play fighting in the water.  The harbor seals were napping and could not be bothered with the noisy gulls and sea lions.  If only they knew transients were in the area, would they be so content?


Serena, Naturalist

San Juan Safaris