May 27, 2021

Two Bigg's Killer Whale Families Mingle in Haro Strait

Transient Orca in Haro Strait

Olivia | M/V Sea Lion | May 27th, 2021 | 13:00 

Leaving the dock today, we had one of the lowest tides I have ever seen with the Super [Blood] moon in full effect this week. With mud flats extending below the pier and lots of crabs and critters making their debut, we set out in search of whales and wildlife. We also had the pleasure of leaving he dock with some reported orcas in the area. To give our guests the best chances of seeing these whales, we immediately started heading south through San Juan Channel passing lots of Rhinoceros Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots, Harbor Porpoise, even some hauled out Pinnipeds.

Rounding Cattle Point Lighthouse and extending north, we started seeing black dorsal fins and spouts of evaporated air above the surface of the water right outside of False Bay on San Juan Island’s western coastline. There were TWO family groups of Bigg’s Killer Whales all grouped together [totaling around 8 individuals] slowly traveling north in the direction of Lime Kiln Lighthouse. These Transient Orcas were identified as the T65A’s accompanied by T77 and T77E.

The T65A’s are one of my favorite families of Bigg’s Killer Whales. They are comprised of six individuals: a mum [Artemis] and her 5 kiddos – including Ooxja, a large17 year old male teenager whose still-growing dorsal fin towers over the rest! It is fun to see this mammal eating ecotype socializing with another family as they come to the Salish Sea to feed on Harbor Seals and Harbor Porpoise as they start to give birth during the summer months.

Continuing on our search, we slowly drifted away from these orcas over half a mile from Lime Kiln Lighthouse. We headed north past Henry Island and found ourselves at Spieden Island- the historically famous “Safari Island”. We were able to see lots of Harbor Seals (a big contributing factor to our lush population of Bigg’s Killer Whales!), as well as Bald Eagles, an active Bald Eagle’s nest, Mouflon Sheep, Fallow Deer, and even a few remaining Steller’s Sea Lions!

This trip was filled with so many whales, wildlife, cliché PNW rain and lots of great conversations with guests. Some of my favorite topics from todays trip: salmon restoration, cultural differences between whale ecotypes, killer whale history in the Salish Sea, evolution, current research projects in the San Juan Islands, around the world whale ecotypes’ present day behavioral evolution, and much more! Come see for yourself and experience the wonder of these waters.