August 22, 2017

Transient Orcas (T46B's) Travel & Murre-der Common Murres

Transient Orcas

[Naturalist Erick D., M/V Kestrel, 8/18/17, 2:00PM]


            For our second Friday trip, Captain Mike and I took a bunch of folks out. We started by going to see some of the Harbor Seals that like to hang out on the rocks and in the water around Flattop Island. Flattop Island is one of the smaller islands in the archipelago that is managed by the Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Fish and Wildlife that is preserved for wildlife and no humans are allowed on it. We saw at least thirty Harbor Seals hauled out tanning themselves, and even more seal pups swimming around and playing in the calm waters on the north side of the island. While watching these adorable pinnipeds we also got some great views of the Pigeon Guillemots paddling around. These birds look like floating oreo cookies with the brightest scarlet feet. We headed out after that and went north to the north side of Spieden Islands and around the Cactus Islands. This is another placid area filled with Harbor Seals resting among massive Bull Kelp beds and sea birds such as Harlequin Ducks, Common Murres, and Pigeon Guillemots swimming through the small tidal rips. We also saw a few majestic Bald Eagles perched in the trees here. One even took off and flew by us!

            Next we headed just a little bit further north past Battleship Island into Haro Strait. Here we saw a family of orcas! It was the T046B’s again! (This is the same orca family we saw on our morning trip.) They were still travelling very slowly. It was hard to tell if this was just the speed they wanted to go or if they were keeping it slow since there are two very young orcas in this family. WE watched them travel for a while, then they started socializing. The younger ones I don’t think could take the boring traveling an more so they stared playing around the adults. They were rolling over each other, tail slapping, and pectoral fin slapping. It was super fun to watch. T046B1 in this group broke off for a few moments and started terrorizing some Common Murres. I have only seen this behavior a few times. The Transient Orcas for whatever reason sometimes will sneak up on floating seabirds and drag them under or eventually chomp down on them. This time it got dramatic as she eventually jumped out of the water and gulped down a Common Murre trying to escape her jaws. Woah!

            We eventually left this group to continue their slow journey. We drove by the beautiful cliff sides around Turn Point on Stuart Island. Then we continued down Johns Pass and skirted one last time by Spieden Island to look at the exotic game left behind a previous owner who was so into exotic gam hunting that he stocked his island full of them. Whale folks, that was the end to another San Juanderful day here.


Until next time,

Erick Dowell

San Juan Safaris


Transient Orcas