May 23, 2012

Transients AND Residents!

From my experience, the best whale watching days occur in weather similar to today's: overcast and rainy. However, everyone was positive and optimistic that we would see whales. Well, not only did we see Orcas, we saw both ecotypes!

Our boat, the Sea Lion, headed north out of Friday Harbor towards East Point. Along the way we spotted some harbor seals as well as a juvenile bald eagle. Then, as we came across the north end of Orcas Island there was word that Transient killer whales, the marine mammal eating killer whales, were near Matia Island. We headed in that direction and saw spouts, followed by dorsal fins at 48° 44.32’ N 122° 48.76’ W. We counted at least 6-8 transients in a tight group, and watched as they passed with some of the smaller whales porpoising out of the water!

After spending some time with the transients and getting amazing views, Captain Mike decided to head to East Point where we initially intended to go. As we approached, we again saw the familiar blow and dorsal fins of more killer whales just as they passed in front of East Point, heading south. It was J-pod, the resident fish eating killer whales. But these whales were not alone, there were harbor seals and steller sea lions hauled out on the rocks, and the steller’s were being very vocal giving our guests the opportunity to hear sea lion speak. We turned off our engines to watch as the whales passed on either side of our boat. At one point we didn’t know which direction to look! Then one of the whales started lob-tailing! We watched for a while longer before having to make the trek back to San Juan Island.

Today was definitely the best day I’ve had this season! I’ve never been on a trip where both resident and transient killer whales were seen, and they were only about a fifteen minute ride apart from each other. This was truly a rare and spectacular day for whale watching in the Salish Sea!

~Kristen, Naturalist, San Juan Safaris