April 24, 2022

A True Wildlife Bonanza

Maxx K. | M/V Kestrel | 04/24/2022 | 1:30pm

    Today was crazy. Now, every day is of course, special out here- you never really know what you’re gonna get, much like a box of chocolates. But something truly wild happened on our journey today. 

    Kestrel rounded itself up and over the north side of San Juan Island and into the Haro Strait. We continued across the strait and over the US/Canadian border towards a Gray Whale that foraged off Sydney Island. This massive 45 foot whale surfaced what seemed to be only a few meters off the shoreline, alerting us with its massive 15 foot heart-shaped blow. The whale remained at the surface for a few more breaths before diving once again, flashing its fluke, and continuing its forage along the seafloor. We stayed with this whale for several more surfacings, preparing ourselves for a six minute wait between each new sighting. We stayed for a few more minutes and continued onward, north past the town of Sydney and searching for new wildlife. 

    This is when things got wild. We rounded through various small canadian islands before we turned right and came into sight of a bob of seals hauled out on the eastern shoreline of Brethour Island. Approximately 30 seals lounged on the rocks while several swam beneath them, their little heads just breaking the surface of the water. A Bald eagle sat just to the left of them, with a massive fish in its talons. 

(Our scene so far: harbor seals and a bald eagle with fish.)

    The eagle took off, calling out to its partner which, sure enough, rounded the north side of the island to feast. Only this eagle was joined by a second, a turkey vulture. The battle started here: the two eagles narrowly escaping the thieving talons of the turkey vulture that flanked them from each side! They continued this battle for what felt like ages when I spotted movement on the shore line: a family of North American river otters emerged from the water and bounded up the rocky beach towards a collection of large boulders. No one knew where to look! Between the harbor seals at our bow, the eagles battling off our port and the otters stuttering along the beach at our stern, there was almost too much going on. 

    The vulture and eagle then collided along the hillside, and like something out of Planet Earth, began to tumble down the slope! Wing over wing they fell until just about the last moment when they were able to position themselves right way up. 

    Now all of this commotion must’ve made quite some noise as a startled herd of otherwise unnoticed deer bounded from the hillside of the fighting birds and off into the forest behind. So now we’re surrounded by harbor seals, battling birds of prey, a family of river otters and now a massive herd of deer. WHAT IS GOING ON!?

Mind you, Brethour island is tiny- only appearing to be one square quarter mile big! How did all of these (30+ animals) deer get here?! Perhaps a couple of deer swam from island to island and decided to settle on Brethour. Honestly, given this experience there I can understand why! What a wild place. 

We eventually carried on, absolutely flabbergasted. We stopped briefly at Mandarte island to check out the variety of pelagic birds that occupied it. 

From there we motored home, stopping one final time to meet a cluster of Steller sea lions that rested on the eastern shore of Spieden Island. 

This tour is going to be hard to forget as that was perhaps the most random yet magical sequence of events I’ve had working out here on the Salish Sea. What a tour! Thanks for coming out and sharing the wildness with me!