July 15, 2019

Two different baleen whales in the Salish Sea!

Erin | M/V Kestrel | Sunday, July 14, 2019 | 3:00 PM

What a lovely trip aboard the M/V Kestrel this afternoon. We began our trip going north out of Friday Harbor because we heard that there was a gray whale travelling along the shoreline of Shaw Island! We were barely ten minutes into our trip when we saw a beautiful blow up at the surface. It was indeed a gray whale. The whale was travelling very quickly, but we saw it take 2-3 breaths at the surface and then go back down for 3-5 minute dives. It showed its fluke almost every time, and it was always exciting to see if it was going to show it or not, since the gray whale has a less predictable dive pattern than other baleen whales. It was a lovely first encounter. We then headed toward Canada, because we heard that there was a humpback whale in the Strait of Georgia! 

On our way, we stopped past White Rock, which is an important bird sanctuary and a popular place for harbor seals to haul out of the water! We saw about 20 harbor seals, and one of them was a pup! Sometimes, harbor seal pups can be seen riding on the backs of their mothers during their first few weeks of life. We didn't see that, but it was still adorable! We went north toward Active Pass, and while we went through, we got a nice view of the Vancouver skyline, and even Mt. Baker was attempting to show itself. Soon after going through Active Pass, we caught sight of a blow! This blow was from a humpback whale, which is about the same size as a gray whale, just slightly more heavy. The humpback whale was doing a circling behavior, so perhaps it was trying to corral some krill or small, schooling fish in the area. We were unable to identify the humpback whale, but we were able to pick out some of its unique features, such as some white on its dorsal fin and a mostly black fluke. After getting some great looks at the humpback whale, we headed back toward Friday Harbor, but this time we took a different route around East Point and along the east side of Waldron Island. On our way back, we saw lots of harbor seals and harbor porpoises popping up. We also got to stop and look at a baitball that gulls and rhinocerus auklets were taking part in! It was a beautiful afternoon in the Salish Sea! 

Naturalist Erin