September 19, 2017

Taking Haro Strait to Orcas: An Autumn Bigg's Mammal Hunting Orca Encounter

Mammal Hunting Orca Traveling Southwest of San Juan Island

 M/V Sea Lion: Sunday 9/17 @ 12pm

An Early Autumn Afternoon

We started our whale watching trip on a gorgeous, cool and crisp early autumn afternoon.  Our enthusiastic group wasn’t going to let a few sprinkles of rain put a damper on our excitement for what was to come!  We loaded onto M/V Sea Lion- our trusty vessel for the trip- and departed on our adventure.  The crew offered fashionable rain slickers and blankets to anyone who wanted to ensure they keep dry, but mother nature ended up being on our side for this trip, as after a few minutes, upon entering the San Juan Channel the rain began to clear, and we commenced our journey to see what wildlife we could find!


Whale Rocks

Our first stop on our trip was at Whale Rocks were we were graced with the presence of many happy and sturdy Steller sea lions who had recently come back down south from a summer up in Alaska.  This bear appearing, lion sounding group was happily hauled out onto Whale Rocks where many were relaxing on the rocks or asserting their dominance amongst the group.   Most were still recouping from their roughly 2,000 mile journey back from Alaska, and were enjoying a nice nap on the comfy island.


Bigg's Orcas Encounter

We then crossed into Haro Strait, where we headed… Strait for the Orcas!  Our group was lucky enough to encounter Biggs orcas on this trip!  Biggs orcas are also referred to as Transient Orcas, and our group got to see first hand what sets these orcas apart!  That’s right- they were on the hunt! These Transient Orcas eat small marine mammals, including seals and sea lions.

Upon arriving, our Transients were exhibiting quintessential hunting behaviors, and were intentionally keeping a low profile, while limiting their surface disturbance, as this would be the equivalent of jumping up and down, waving one’s arms, and saying: “Here I come little seal!”  This group was very intentional about being in sync and the precise choreography of their breathing was an incredible experience to see! 


Circumnavigating San Juan Island

Another exceptionally exciting thing about this trip was that we were able to fully circumnavigate San Juan Island!  This means that while on this trip we were able to see every perimeter of the San Juan Island coastline!  As we began circling the north end of San Juan Island, we stopped at Spieden Island and saw eagles as well as Fallow deer.  These encounters were the icing on the cake to a great day out on the water!  To top off the incredible trip, as we were disembarking the sun continued to peak through and a gorgeous rainbow appeared!  It was truly a memorable day!

Cheers! -Naturalist Alexandria