August 18, 2017
Transient Orcas (T30's) Coordinate Hunt Near Spencer Spit
[Naturalist Erick D., M/V Sea Lion, 8/17/17, 1:30PM]
The weather here in the San Juans has definitely changed for the better. A few days ago the wind shifted and blew the smoky haze away, it rained!, and the temperature cooled down again. On this beautiful, cool, and sunny day Captain Gabe, Rachel, and I all took a full boat on a search for some fun nature!
Today we took an inter-island route since there were some whale reports on the other side of the islands. We headed through Upright Channel and skirted between Lopez and Shaw Islands. Our first stop we made at Upright Head to take a look at a Bald Eagle and its enormous nest. Of course it shared this nest with another since Bald Eagles mate for life, but neither of them were currently in it. Due to the monogamy if these eagles each year they often re-use the same nest, so each year their nest often gets bigger and bigger, and it can reach the size that a full grown man can lay down inside it and still have room.
Next we headed further south to Thatcher Pass in between Decatur and Blakely Islands. That’s where we first saw Orcas! They were a family (matriline) of Transient (Bigg’s) Orcas! These are the ones that eat marine mammals and this family was the T030’s. It has a pretty old matriarch, T030, that is around 50 years old. She has three of her offspring with here – T030A, T030B, and T030C. T030B now has two calves – T030B1 and T030B2. T030B2 was born this year! That little nugget was goofing off next to its mom blowing bubbles out of its blowhole. What a hilarious baby. This family swam north and eventually stopped around Flower Island near Spencer Spit to start hunting. We watched them coordinate for awhile as the young ones were babysat by a juvenile. They were at it for a little bit, sneakily hunting around a rock covered with seals, but it looked like they lost interest and moved on. This family was great to watch just for the different ages and sexes of all the orcas in the family. There were so many different sizes! We stayed with this family for awhile but we had to leave eventually.
Harbor Seals & Phalaropes!
We made another stop to look at a few Harbor Seals, not being terrified by the orcas, lounging on the rocks near Turn Island. And we made one last final stop to look at another adult Bald Eagle perched on Shaw Island and two surprise Phalaropes (a super cool sea bird that eats plankton!)
Whale folks, I think that’s all we can fit into one afternoon.
Until next time,