July 5, 2020

Southern Residents AND Bigg's Killer Whales Surround SJI!!

Killer Whales Surround San Juan Island!

Laura | M/V Kestrel | 7/5/2020 | 2:00 PM

The Adventure Whale Watch and Wildlife Tour on M/V Kestrel was OUTSTANDING!  I am so excited to report that we found Bigg’s killer whales just minutes from Friday Harbor, traveling southbound from Spieden Island in San Juan Channel!  They turned out to be one of my favorite family groups, the T65As!  This family consists of 5 members, and T65A2 is a large male who is quite distinguishable in size from his younger siblings!  We had awesome close looks at the family as we shut down our engine and they just cruised right by us!  We could hear the power behind their exhalations as they surfaced from below in synchrony.  This encounter was undoubtedly a sight to remember!

Our day was far from over!  Captain Brian cruised northbound through San Juan Channel and into the Haro Strait.  We noticed a research vessel from the University of Washington trailing behind some orcas, collecting whale scat! Witnessing science in the making is one of my favorite sights to see, as we need more research and information on these beloved whales to aid in their survival.  We were thrilled to find members of J Pod, including J56 (Tofino), J31 (Tsuchi), J27 (Blackberry), and J39 (Mako)!  This was such a special sighting as J56 was only born last May!  This is the first offspring of J31 and she seems to be doing a diligent job as a new mom thus far!  We had one great moment when J39 flipped over on his back right in front of our bow and seemed to be doing the backstroke!  J27 was right next to him and it was just such a cool surfacing to have witnessed!  Passengers watched as orientation between family members changed.  Initially J31 and J56 seemed to be traveling alone but then we noticed two larger whales in the distance moving our way, and it turned out to be the rest of the J11s!  They all started heading south down the west side of San Juan Island and we decided it was time to say goodbye for now to this beautiful family and head out in search of other wildlife.

Flattop Island was found to be bursting with life today!  We saw several bald eagles perched up in the treetops, and an abundance of harbor seals that were too numerous to count!  These adorable animals had a lot of pups recently, and several of them were swimming in the water around some kelp and laying out on the shallow rocks next to mom.  Passengers were delighted to see such activity on this little island, acting as its own mini ecosystem.  Then, we all noticed some river otters scurrying up to the wooded area above the water line.  These feisty and charismatic critters were such a treat to see today!  We certainly were lucky to have passed by Flattop at the right moment to get a good look at them!  It was simply a beautiful, fun day out on M/V Kestrel and everyone was thrilled to see such a thriving Salish Sea!