August 22, 2009

The Sun Has Set

It was inevitable, but sad all of the same. Tonight was our last evening trip. We did not waste it though and we had a lovely group of guests out with us on the M/V Sea Lion. Even though there were no resident orcas tonight we still saw all kinds of wonderful wildlife.

As Capt. Pete toured us through the islands, we stopped time and again for harbor seals hauled out on rocks. Of course, there is always a method to Capt. Pete's madness and he was stopping at all of the places that a transient, or marine mammal eating orca, would hunt. The seals' cute faces watched us from the rocks and water as we glided by watching them. The pups are almost all weaned now and it is getting harder to tell the youngsters from the adults.

Bald eagles have had a good breeding season this year and all of our active nests have now fledged their chicks. With San Juan County having the highest density of bald eagles in the State of Washington, it is not surprising when you see them on each island that you pass. Ashley and I were kept busy spotting not only the adults, but the all brown juveniles as well. With the great evening lighting though, it was perfect for picking them out amongst the trees.

A loop out through Haro Strait unfortunately did not produce any Dall's porpoises, but the whole trip was heavily laden with sightings of harbor porpoises. Their little dark dorsal fins dotted the waters, especially anywhere that there were multiple currents mixing and churning. We did get a surprise though, when we came around the corner between the Cactus Islands and saw a Steller's sea lion. These guys are still supposed to be up in Alaska. This was probably a sub-adult male that just was not quite big enough or sexy enough to win any females. Hopefully next year will be better for him.

We closed out our evening with a cruise past Spieden Island. What an amazing way to end the most beautiful part of our season. The mouflon sheep, sika deer and fallow deer were out in herds. Every hillside and crevice was dotted with animals. They all mingled together, peacefully grazing on the dry summer grass. Several males from each species were out and the racks of antlers and horns were incredibly impressive. In our slow pass along the island, we also had chances to see the lion's mane jellyfish with it's blood red tentacles slowing sliding past the boat.

The sunset was a crowning glory to a last wonderful evening. So, from all of us at San Juan Safaris, to all of you that spent your evenings with us, thank you and we will...

See You In The Islands!
~Tristen, Naturalist

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