September 19, 2020

Southern Resident Killer Whales J Pod on West Side of San Juan Island!

Laura | M/V Kestrel | 9/19/2020 | 14:00


This afternoon was a voyage out in wavy seas on the west side of San Juan Island!  We headed south in San Juan Channel on M/V Kestrel with gusto!  The seas were choppy so we were all practicing our balance skills on this reliable zodiac.  We stopped along Whale Rocks to see some very active Steller Sea lions and harbor seals!  Birds were also in abundance, including cormorants, common murres and even some oystercatchers!  The sea lions were quite rowdy today, as there was some discrepancy over which rock belonged to which animal.  We watched some extreme fighting and vocalizations with amusement, and the brawl dissipated just as quickly as it began.  We continued on, moving off shore towards J Pod, our southern resident killer whales.  Today this family was very spread out and actively foraging, popping up quickly everywhere in wavy seas.  Two research vessels were in the area, as some of the other boats saw two killer whales chasing harbor porpoises!  I have personally never seen this bizarre behavior, as porpoises are certainly not a threat or a prey item for any southern resident.  Their torment on these porpoises seem to be more cultural, perhaps to mimic hunting for a young orca or to practice their methods.  More behavioral research on this community is much needed in order to protect them more effectively.  So it was great to see research being collected right in front of us today!  We all had some great looks at members of J Pod as we had whales around our boat on all sides!  At one point a pair of orcas came in quickly to the area and we could see their chins as they cruised through the choppy water, aimed towards us from our port side.  There was also some breaching activity in the distance, which was so fun to see!  Everyone was thrilled to have had the opportunity for this once in a lifetime orca encounter.  After spending some time with about 15 members of J Pod, we started to make our way towards home.  We cruised close to Lopez Island in San Juan Channel to check out some more harbor seals and birds in the area.  These little nooks and crannies around small rocky islands are some of my favorite places to visit.  The water tends to be so peaceful and calm, creating a beautiful ecosystem that is quietly tucked away but full of its own wildlife.  Thank you all for sharing this day with us on Kestrel, it was a most memorable experience with J Pod!