July 24, 2011

Sneaky Minke

Today we had a wonderful encounter with my old friend, the Minke whale.  We left the harbor and headed south.  Just before Cattle Point we noticed lots of splashing.  We moved toward the disturbance and saw two harbor seals acting very peculiarly.  One seal would lay, flat out, on the surface of the water.  The other seal would lunge at it, bite it, and then porpoise and slap its back flippers on the surface.  Over and over again we watched the same scene play out.  Perhaps a bit of courtship?

We moved on to give the seals some privacy.  We approached whale rocks to check out some seals that were hauled out.  We saw a massive brown head peek out from around the corner and moved in its direction.  It was a huge male Steller's sea lion!  When we got around the corner we saw that there were two of them!  They were the first I have seen in a couple of months.  They looked fat and happy and seemed to be enjoying the sunshine.  Next we moved south toward Salmon bank.  There were birds fishing everywhere.  Just a couple minutes of patience rewarded us with a Minke sighting a couple hundred yards away.  We watched the whale surface a couple more times and then noticed another a little farther away.  We watched as the little Minke repeatedly stole the fish out from under the feisty aggregation of sea birds.  It is always amusing to watch the sneaky little Minkes in action.

When we finally pulled away from the scene we were surprised as one last Minke surfaced just off our port side.  It was a great way to wrap up the trip.

I know people are focused on the Orcas when they come out here, but the Minkes are my secret favorite; kind of like the underdogs of the whale watching community.  They are stealthy, graceful, mysterious, and, in the height of the season, often overlooked.  Minkes need our love too.  I will always be happy to hang out with a Minke whale.

Laura, Naturalist, san juan safaris