June 4, 2012

Sea Life on Salmon Bank

Salmon Bank was the place to be today. We headed south out of Friday Harbor, prepared for rain but pleasantly surprised that it stopped just as we left our boat slip. Along our way we stopped to view a large group of harbor seals hauled out. A few gave us a demonstration of how phocids, true seals, move around on land without being able to rotate their hind flippers under their body by scooting off the rocks into the water. Continuing south, we slowed by Goose Island to watch and learn about the pelagic cormorant. Then, as we reached Salmon Bank, it took only a few minutes to spot a minke whale in the distance. As we slowed, we noticed that there was more than one minke around. Two surfaced at the same time, giving us an amazing look of their blowholes and bodies. But the minke whales weren't alone. There were harbor seals all around! They would poke their heads out of the water then dive back down. Also in the area were lots of harbor porpoise! We saw their small fins break the water surface in every direction off the boat. Sea birds were around too; gulls, cormorants, rhinoceros auklets, common murres, and even a pacific loon!

After watching the minkes surface one last time we circumnavigated San Juan Island. At Lime Kiln a large, male California sea lion was foraging in the water and a bald flew behind our stern on its way to land. At Spieden Island the mouflon sheep and sika deer were everywhere, even on the rocky shoreline. Finally, before getting back into Friday Harbor we saw four more bald eagles perched at the top of trees; two on Spieden Island and two more on Cactus Island. Truly a spectacular day!

~Kristen, naturalist, San Juan Safaris