August 13, 2022

Sea Otters and Bigg's Killer Whales in the Rosario

8/13/2022 

MV Kestrel

2pm

Helena

MV Kestrel departed Friday Harbor for our afternoon tour with a fantastic view of Mount Baker off of our bow. As members of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, we are in constant communication with both American and Canadian vessels throughout the Salish Sea in regards to reports of wildlife. As we entered into San Juan Channel, we got word of orcas traveling north up the Rosario Strait. They were moving with the flooding tide quickly so we held on to our hats and traveled north!

Within 30 minutes we encountered not one but two family groups of the marine mammal eating ecotype of killer whale, the Bigg’s Killer Whales. This included members from the T77 and T65A family pods whose matriarchs are T077 “Asja” b. ~1981 and T65A “Artemis” b. 1986. Formally known as the Transient ecotype, the Bigg’s killer whale population has grown exponentially in these waters over the past few decades. With an increase in their main food source harbor seals we have observed the Bigg’s becoming less transient through the Salish Sea. 

 

We observed this family hug the Guemes southeastern shoreline and even a few tail slaps! With so many whales on scene, it was a great opportunity to observe the varying sizes of these whales, especially four year old cutie “Callisto” (T065A) born in 2018! 

 

Our journey home included a personal first of stopping by Eagle Cliffs on the western shore of Cypress Island where we observed two bald eagles circling above!

 

To top it off, we got a great look at a solitary sea otter swimming amongst the bull kelp forest at Bird Rocks! What a great way to end a jam packed day!