April 2, 2018

Return of the J Pod: J Pod Killer Whales travel and forage in Haro Strait

Seattle Orca Whale Watching on San Juan Island

[Saturday, 3/31/18 – 12:00 – M/V Sea Lion – Naturalist Erick]


Happy end of March and Passover!


On Saturday it was so beautiful and there were so many folks that were interested in coming out with us that we had to take two trips out to see our wonderful wildlife! Captain Mike, Piper, and I took a great group of folks out. It was sunny and calm, and we couldn’t ask for a more perfect spring day. We headed south through San Juan Channel, passed through Cattle Pass and traveled along the western side of San Juan Island in Haro Strait.

As we passed False Bay we got surprised by a single Dall’s Porpoise! These are a rarer occurrence in the southern waters of the Salish Sea. It popped up and we watched this funny looking animal for a little bit. They are black and white and pretty chunky, but still one of the fastest mammals in the ocean. They are super interesting animals and if you want to learn more you should go here. We soon moved on and when we started approaching around Lime Kiln State Park on the west side of San Juan Island we started to see blows in the distance.

As we got closer we saw that it was J pod! J pod was back! J pod is one of the three pods that make up the Southern Resident Killer Whale Community. They are the killer whale (orcas) that often travel and live in this area that most people are familiar with. They are also the ones that primarily feed on Chinook Salmon, so we usually see them in the summer and early fall when the largest schools of Chinook Salmon pass through here. As we approached their very spread out group the first whale that we saw close up was J28! This is J22’s son and he is still sprouting. Sprouting is kind of like male orca puberty. He’s growing very fast and this is when the male orcas’ fins get very large very quickly. It also means their fins are extra floppy. We watched him for a while and it looked like Nova, J51, a calf that is only a few years old swam over and started copying and playing with him. So cute! We next moved to another group, the J17’s and the J11 family! As we watched them and looked farther up the strait we saw even more whales and what was most likely the rest of J pod! Before we left a bunch of them started pectoral slapping and tail slapping! So cool!

We watched them forage for a little bit longer but eventually we had to start heading back. We took the northern route, so we could circumnavigate San Juan Island. We rounded the ‘top’ and made some stops around Sentinel and Spieden Islands to look at the large colonies of Harbor Seals and the even large group of Steller Sea Lions all sunning themselves on this bright day! These guys were taking a day off since only the fish-eating resident orcas were around and the sea lion and seals’ main predators, the Transient Orcas, hadn’t been spotted…yet.

Whale folks, that’s all for this trip we headed back and got ready for our sunset cruise!


Until next time,

Naturalist Erick

San Juan Safaris