July 27, 2022

Southern Resident Killer Whale and Humpback whale near San Juan Island

Elle | M/V Kestrel | 7/27/2022 | 10:00 AM

This morning there were whispers of southern resident killer whales near San Juan Island. We set out on a cautious trek to see if we could view them from a respectful half-mile distance. After passing the north side of Speiden Island and spotting four bald eagles (likely two of our 154 mating pairs here), we saw a fin in the distance. Just north of Henry Island, we slowed our boat as we approached and got some cool views of a massive male Southern Resident orca whale. While we were too far away to be able to identify him, we could see that his dorsal fin stood nearly six feet tall and he had an open saddle patch, with black strips intruding into the light gray patch behind the dorsal fin. He picked up speed, likely to re-join the rest of J-Pod in the Haro Strait on the northwest side of San Juan Island. The Haro Strait is an historic foraging ground for Southern Resident Killer Whales because it is deep and formerly full of salmon. Now, there are far fewer salmon than there used to be here, so we try to leave Southern Residents alone to interfere as little as. possible with their foraging. We turned in the other direction to see what other wildlife we could find. South of San Juan Island, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we came across a single humpback whale foraging for small fish. The whale showed us the bottom of its fluke, which is like a fingerprint, used to identify individual whales. This individual had a solid gray fluke, with no white patterning, a rare coloration for humpbacks here in the Salish Sea. This was my first time seeing a southern resident orca from a boat instead of shore, and I always love a good humpback so this was a really special day for me!