June 28, 2020

A Trifecta! Bigg's Orcas, Minkes, and A Humpback Whale!

It is only the second day that we have taken M/V Kestrel out this season, and it was a great one. We headed out and took a quick peak at some Harbor Seals sunning themselves on rocks near Turn Island. They looked up at us as we passed by and we got to see their cute, fuzzy faces. After watching them for a while we got a report of some possible orcas just south of us. We traveled south and soon saw them rounding Long Island. They were Bigg’s Orcas! These are the type of orcas that we see in the Salish Sea that feed on marine mammals. This family group looked like they were on the hunt. They quickly rounded the island and headed towards Deadman Island. Here they made a kill. Most likely a Harbor Seal and ate together. WE got some great looks and they continued north into San Juan Channel.

Next, we went south towards Hein Bank and saw a blow in the distance. It was a Humpback Whale! This one was traveling north and just doing really short dives. We watched it for a while as this gentle giant swam by us letting us get some great looks. Humpbacks are different than orcas in that they have no teeth. Instead they feed by filtering water with tiny food like fish and krill in it. They filter the food using a substance called baleen that is like a rough brush that lets water through but nothing else! After getting some great looks we headed north again to go home but made one more stop at Salmon Bank to look at two Minke Whales! These are also baleen whales. There is a local population of Minkes here and it’s always great to see them feeding around. We watched these two whales lunge to fill their huge mouths with food. What a great day! We rarely get to see all three species in one trip! We headed north to go home and got to see the orcas one more time. This family was the T77s! It is a family of a matriarch with her younger children. We usually see them with an adult male who is an older brother. But he might have started going out on his own. This has happened with other adult males in this family before. This is a common behavior in male Bigg’s Orcas and we often see lone males traveling around. What a great day! Summer is here and we’re having a great time out on the water!

Naturalist Erick