September 9, 2020

Trip to Deception Pass and Watching the T37A Bigg's Orcas Hunt!

Bigg's Orcas

Erick | M/V Kestrel | Wednesday, September 9, 2020 | 2:00PM


September is here! This is one of my favorite months here. Things slow down quickly after Labor Day and the weather seemingly steels itself for the coming autumn. Captain Brian and I took a group out on M/V Kestrel on this warm and calm Wednesday. We headed inter-island to head towards a report of Orcas in between Whidbey Island and the mainland. We cruised in between Lopez and Blakely Islands, crossed Rosario Strait and headed into Deception Pass. Deception Pass is one of the most spectacular places in the state of Washington. It is a very skinny channel bordered by enormous cliffs. A bridge spans the channels that wrap around the island stacks that rise up in the already tight waterway. It is pretty impressive to see from the bridge, but even more impressive to travel through on a boat. It was created by the old fault line that runs from the current pass to the southern end of Lopez island and up the western side of San Juan Island. It still gives us a good shake every now and then. We quickly marveled at the pass and headed further south into Skagit Bay. Here we started to see some blows in the distance. It was a group of Orcas! This was a family of Bigg’s (formerly known as Transient) Orcas. They are one of the ecotypes of orcas we see here. They are the type that preys on marine mammals. We identified this family as the T37A’s. They are one of the Bigg’s Families that we see quite often in the Salish Sea from down in the bottom of Puget Sound up into the Islands. We also sometimes see the rest of their extended family too! This family is made up of a matriarch and her 5 offspring. They were traveling back up north and we soon got some great looks at them as they started to socialize. It looked like they had recently eaten so were having a little party. The younger ones were playing around, by jumping, splashing, doing headstands, and lifting their tails out of the water. They also would push each other on the forward part of their heads, called their rostrum. After they were done with that they quickly switched to the other side of the channel and started hunting around a bouy! It was amazing to watch them all work together take down some prey! They quickly hunted and ate a seal and moved on to playing again until they reached Seal Rocks, and harassed the seals that wree resting on the rocks! It was so incredible to see them so active here. We soon heade back towards Friday Harbor and made one more stop at Whale Rocks in Cattle Pass to look at the massive Steller Sea Lions that were sunning there! You could also see a few Harbor Seals kind of dwarfed in the background. It was another amazing day out here!


Stay Whale,