August 25, 2019

The T36A's near Waldron Island!

Erin | M/V Sea Lion | 1:30PM | Sunday, August 25, 2019

What a lovely afternoon in the Salish Sea! We left the harbor with the knowledge that there was a pod of Bigg's killer whales fairly closeby to us! We headed in their general direction, searching for other wildlife along the way! We went to the southern shoreline of Spieden Island, and we almost immediately saw some wildlife! We first spotted some mouflon sheep, which are a non-native animal to the island. They were brought to the island in the 70's. They were scattered along the hillside and grazing on the vegetation. As we were watching them, a bald eagle flew right above us! Its 6 foot wingspan was breathtaking! We continued along the shoreline and saw lots of harbor seals resting along it. Although it was high tide, they had found small patches of rocks that they could haul out on to take a rest. We went around Spieden Island and saw another bald eagle perched in the treetops! We went toward John's Pass, where we saw lots of kelp beds. The prevailing kelp we have here is bull kelp, which can grow more than a foot in one day! After we went through John's Pass, we could see some whale watching boats in the distance. We travelled toward them in the hopes of being able to see some killer whales.

When we arrived to the area that they were in, the whales that were there were underwater on a dive, so we waited to see where they would resurface. They ended up coming up within a few minutes, and we were all excited to be in the presence of some killer whales! The whales didn't stay up for very long, and the next time they came back up, they did not come up where we expected them to. They were behind us and travelling toward another boat. The next time they came up, they were travelling toward Skipjack Island. The whales ended up doing almost two laps around Skipjack Island, most likely searching for harbor seals along the way. The pod of Bigg's killer whales were identified as the T36A's. The matriarch of the pod is 29 years old, and she was travelling with her 3 offspring. We eventually saw some birds start to follow the whales, so they probably ended up finding something to eat! 

After an incredible encounter with killer whales and other types of wildlife, we headed back toward Friday Harbor with excellent memories. We couldn't have asked for better weather or closer whales! Until next time, folks! 

Naturalist Erin