July 3, 2019

Sunsets and Steller's Sea Lions in the Salish Sea

Steller's Sea Lions Around San Juan Island

Olivia | June 29, 2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 5:30pm

Sunset tours are always favored by the staff, and for good reason! Calm seas, gorgeous, golden sunset over the water, and Cattle Point Lighthouse silhouetted in the background- what’s not to love? We started off the tour heading south towards Salmon Bank where there were potential wildlife sightings. We saw heaps of Pigeon Guillemots, Auklets, Gulls, and Bald Eagles as we traveled down the San Juan Channel. We even saw a juvenile Bald Eagle! This is extra exciting for me because I’ve been only seeing adults, and the juveniles lack that “bald” head, white tail feathers and have a more spotted look to them.

I love viewing Cattle Point from the water since Mount Finlayson/ Jakle’s Lagoon is my absolute favorite hike on the island, and South Beach is one of the best places to have a fire and watch the sunset. Since I view the water and lighthouse from shore frequently, it is fun reversing that perspective; I often suggest our passengers to do the same! As we passed Whale Rocks, we saw Steller’s Sea Lions! This was sincerely the highlight because we haven’t been viewing them for a couple weeks now. These ginormous Sea Lions are a migratory species and head north to Alaska this time of year to breed with the females who are starting to give birth. They are a personal favorite by being the largest Sea Lions in the world and have dinosaur like bellows that encompass the surrounding area.

After that delightful surprise we voyaged down towards Hein Bank where the water has a depth of only about 13 feet! As we circled back, we saw many Harbor Porpoises swimming around. Specifically swimming within the warm light of the sunset as it blazed on the water; talk about picturesque. We trekked back past the southern end of Lopez where we were able to see a large Eagles nest in the pines. Bald Eagles are considered monogamous because they return to the same nest with the same mate every year to raise their clutch of 2 eggs. This means the nests are consistently being added to where they can reach depths of about 6 feet and weigh a whopping 2,000 pounds!

Like I previously mentioned, sunset trips are a staff favorite. Not only for the wildlife, but the peacefulness the Salish Sea provides at this hour after a busy day. Come join us on M/V Sea Lion to experience this for yourself and chat with our many Naturalists on staff. Shout out to Captain Erick and Co-Naturalist Laura on being amazing coworkers!