July 4, 2015

Star Spangled Breaching

Today was amazing. We left Friday Harbor (both at 1:30 and 5:30) with confirmed whale reports for the west side of the island. We made our way and soon enough were among dozens of Southern resident killer whales. This included the K13s, the J19s, and many other matrilines. Although they were fairly spread out at times, we are confident that they were traveling together because orcas can communicate from a few miles away from each other. Nonetheless, if I didn't know any better, I would say that they knew it was Independence Day, and showed it with breach after breach after breach, in a way that was reminiscent of a firework display. But alas, it was just social behavior, one that seems to often follow a successful hunt--STILL AWESOME!

On the way out, we got a great look at about 20 harbor seals poking their heads out of the water just beyond Griffin Bay. If the tide is low enough, you're more likely to see harbor seals laying almost motionlessly on a rock, so it was quite a treat to see them in the water where they are so much more agile. A big difference between seals and see lions is the way they move both on land and in the water. On land, seals must inch along kind of like clumsy, chubby inch worms, but sea lions can tuck their back flippers underneath their hips, and use those and their front flippers to walk on all fours. In the water however, seals and sea lions are a much more even match, although still move differently. Sea lions will use their giant front flippers to propel themselves, while seals rely on their back flippers moving side to side to propel them through the water.

 

Naturalist Alex

M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris