March 20, 2016

Spring Orca Whales - J Pod near San Juan Island

Orca whale tale slap near San Juan Island - San Juan Safaris

Captain Mike and I had the pleasure of taking out a private Whale Watch and Wildlife Tour today for the first day of spring.  With early rumors of whales, we were all hopeful for a sighting.  Captain Mike, communicating with other member of the Pacific Whale Watch Association was able to track down J Pod off the west side of San Juan Island, in Haro Strait, near Vancouver Island.  It was a beautiful calm day on the water and we were able to get many great looks at the group of Southern Resident Killer Whales. 

This time of year it is uncommon to see the Southern Resident Killer Whales, as they are typically found off the coast of Oregon and Washington in the winter months.  As salmon eaters, there is not enough food inside the Salish Sea during the winter to sustain the population of orcas, but every now and then, they will come through the area to see what conditions are like.  J Pod is most frequently seen during the winter months, but will usually quickly pass by San Juan Island and head toward British Columbia waters.  Last week, J Pod came into the Salish Sea and everyone was wondering when they would make their way out again.  Today, the whales were headed south west, likely back to the Pacific Ocean. 

After an excellent encounter with J Pod, we pointed back toward San Juan Island and went in search of other wildlife.  We were soon excited to find a nice haul out of Sea Lions at Whale Rocks on the south end of San Juan.  There was a very large group of Steller sea lions, and even a lone female California sea lion!  Not only were there about 30 sea lions hanging out, but at least 10 bald eagles!  Both juvenile and adult eagles were perched on the rocks.  During the early spring it is common to see many juvenile eagles.  We have encountered as many as 40 eagles in one trip!

Spring trips can have unpredictable weather, but the wildlife cannot be beat!  With a few sprinkles in the air and calm seas, we had a great day out on the water!