April 19, 2018

Spring is Abloom and the Wildlife is Wonderful

Steller Sea Lions

[Tuesday, 4/17/18 – M/V Sea Lion – 12:00 – Naturalist Erick]

Another day goes by as the season of spring boldly brings us into a season of unpredictable weather, beautiful flowers and northward migration. Captain Mike and I took some folks out on this wonderful April day to go find some great wildlife. Our first stop was at Green Point on the eastern tip of Spieden Island. It was a little bit of a breezy day so all the sea lions that normally cover the rocky shore here were all in the water. They were rafting in the many back-eddies off of the point. They dipped up and under the waves many times yet keeping one eye on us the whole time. These giant Steller Sea Lions are massive and always make me laugh, because no matter how big they are or how much like a grizzly bear they look like they always startle so easily. They flip, and they flop, and they love to pretend to be sharks in the water. They float on their side and raise one flipper above the water that looks like a dark shark fin. Spoiler alert, they aren’t actually pretending to be sharks…or are they? They are actually thermoregulating. Just like you and me their “hands” and “feet” get cold the fastest because they have the least amount of insulation there. They stick their flipper out of the water to warm it up in the sun while still staying a comfortable temperature in the cold waters of the northwest. Next, we continued along the southern shore of Spieden Island. This side of the island is mostly grassy hills with sparse trees that are usually topped by Bald Eagles surveying the waters surrounding the island. A few of the trees grow right out of the shoreline so the eagles are pretty close to eye level when we pass them. After passing those majestic creatures we continued along the shoreline. Here we saw a few herds of exotic animals. This island used to be an exotic game hunting ranch, so a lot of different animals were brought there over the years and when the owner finally sold it he left some of them on the island. Today we saw large herds of Mouflon Sheep and Fallow Deer which both are from Europe.  They are always fun to see and still look so odd in this Pacific Northwest environment. Next, we continued north into Boundary Pass and got to see a bunch of Harbor Seals lying out on Java Rocks. These little rock sausages are related to those giant Steller Sea Lions that we saw earlier but are about a third of the size. After we watched those blubbery boys for a little bit we headed east to East Point on Saturna Island. Here at a place called boiling reef is where three large bodies of water – Rosario Strait, Strait of Georgia, and Boundary Pass – meet. The water is always moving and swirling and concentrating plankton where scores of birds, porpoises, seals, and sea lions hang out and hunt. It’s always a bustle with activity. We started our way back while still searching. We passed by Patos Island, the tall cliffs and narrow passes of Sucia Island, and then back through Presidents Channel to home and encountered a few groups of playful Harbor Porpoises too! Whale folks that's all until next time.



Naturalist Erick

San Juan Safaris