August 30, 2019

Southern Resident Killer Whales and Loads of Wildlife!

Piper | Friday, August 30, 2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 1:30 AM

The day started out very foggy but as the sun rose higher the fog burned off and cloudy blue skies prevailed! We had reports of Southern Resident killer whales near False Bay on the west side of San Juan Island, so Captain Erick, Naturalist Laura, and I headed south through San Juan Channel with our awesome group of folks. Just as we left the marina and got to Turn Island we spotted some harbor porpoises surfacing in the strong currents, their little dorsal fins peeking out above the water as they came up for air.

Making our way further south we reached Cattle Point Lighthouse and slowed to watch a swarm of birds attacking a ball of bait fish and we gently cruised towards Whale Rocks at the same time, checking out an awesome haul-out of Steller’s sea lions! These sea lions are the largest in the world and they were absolutely epic to see on this little island.

We looped around the southern tip of San Juan and made our way up the west coast, getting amazing views of a glassy Strait of Juan de Fuca on one side, with South Beach and American Camp on the other!

After a short drive up the island we slowed, arriving on scene with members of J Pod, part of the Southern Resident Killer Whale community! Throughout the sighting we got to see so many members of J Pod splashing about, including the J16s, J22s, and the J11s, which have the tiniest calf of the Southern Residents, J56!

It was such a great sighting of these critically endangered animals; we got to spend tons of time with our engine off, just floating around watching them as they moved up and down the Haro Strait, hopefully catching tons of salmon! We also dropped the hydrophone and got to listen to both echolocation clicks and communicative vocalizations as J31 (Tsuchi) and her calf swam by!

After about half an hour with these orcas we headed farther offshore and back around to the other side of the island and towards Friday Harbor!