October 23, 2017
Rainbows lead you to.... whales!
[Naturalist Sarah – 10/22/2017 – M/V Sea Lion – 12:00pm]
Yesterday, we had a beautiful day avoiding the raindrops in the Salish Sea. Leaving Friday Harbor we elected to head north on a possible rumor of a humpback whale in the Canadian Gulf Islands. This time of year our reports often start as sightings from the public reaching out to company offices, or even from the commercial fishing fleet!
As we left Friday Harbor we found a pair of bald eagles up in the trees along the shore in the University of Washington Marine Laboratories property. These huge birds overwinter here in the San Juan Islands, and start their breeding-nesting season in early spring. This was clearly an adult pair, as both individuals exhibited adult plumage: white head and tail feathers with a chocolate body.
Pushing further north we made our way to the north end of San Juan Channel, an area with a lot of upwelling a beautiful nutrient cycling… the perfect place to look for feeding marine mammals. We were lucky enough to find two species of porpoise in the area: harbor as well as the less common Dall’s. Porpoises are small cetaceans that exhibit spatulate dentition, or flat spade shaped teeth, rather than the conical dentition found in dolphins. We were even treated to some bow-riding, surfing on the wave created by the boat, behavior from the group of zippy Dall’s porpoise.
Rainbows and Humpback Whale
We headed even further north into Canadian waters, briefly experiencing some showers warranting us to break out the bright yellow rain slickers on board as we crossed through Boundary Pass. Looking up over the islands, we had a couple of very bright, very vivid rainbows after the showers subsided. We followed the rainbows, and, lucky us, we found a humpback whale! This huge whale was circling around Enterprise Reef at the mouth to Active Pass, most likely feeding. We got awesome looks at the whale’s tail flukes, allowing us to identify the individual as MMY0024. After a great encounter with the humpback we started to meander our way back south towards the San Juan Islands and US waters.