October 8, 2011

Tail End of the Season

Headed south down the east side of San Juan Island.A single mature bald eagle was spotted up in a tree. We paused to view it, then off it went. We went a bit further south, then stopped a rock outcrop with TONS of Stellars Sea Lions. Lounging, posturing, snoozing, swimming. They where piled up with scads of  cormorants and a variety of gulls. You could smell that these animals were all fish eaters. (Hey, watch it, I kinda like that fragrance!) The boat sat with the engine off and twirled in the current. Pretty cool right at that spot in the water.

50/50 chance of seeing whales is what I gave it. BUT . . . It was a WHALE day for sure.  We were on the west side of San Juan Island south of Lime Kiln, north of False Bay, about a mile from shore. A single male resident orca surfaced. Solo. We could not see any other whales for quite some time.  The boat moved further north, then we began to see what looked like two females.  While sitting with the engine off, after about 20 mintues, a female off our bow start slapping her pectoral fin. Over and over.she slapped.  Almost as if waving to us.  She kept this up for several minutes. I am not sure just how many orcas there were. They were all very s p r e a d out. None were breaching. None were surfacing. It seemed like heavy duty prey finding.

There was a report of Humpback whales 3 miles from us -  closer to Canada. Off we went.  There were a few other boats already on scene. Two humpbacks were swimming side by side in sync with each others movements. Another whale was solo. I kept expecting a fluke. Sure enough, when I was not looking, Shelly saw the tail. We stayed with these whales about 20 minutes. Then we turned and started homeward - southish. The orcas were still in the same area. Stilled looked like fishing and eating mode to me.

What a great "Tail End of the Season tour this was!

Naturalist, Colleen Johansen