July 24, 2017

Water Taxi Sees Transient Orcas in San Juan Islands

A transient killer whale and her calf surface in the San Juan Islands

[7/24/17- M/V Kittiwake- Kelsey, Naturalist- 11:30AM]

Today, we had a water taxi from Friday Harbor on San Juan Island to Orcas Island. What is so great about these is that the trips can be tailored to guests’ likings! For example, today we had whale reports in the area, so we made time to visit some whales and other awesome wildlife before heading over to the final destination. Flexibility made this trip pretty amazing!

We left Friday Harbor on M/V Kittiwake heading north. It wasn’t long before we came across some transient (or mammal-hunting) orcas near Flattop Island. This pod (or likely pods, plural) was quite large and dispersed, and there was a great mix of moms with babies, lingering adult females, and juvenile and adult males with ragged, notched dorsal fins. They were travelling south heading towards San Juan Channel past the south end of Orcas Island, and we continued on with them. Then they took a deep dive and long breath, disappeared for a while, and then popped up by our boat! The family members casually swam past us, loudly exhaling and skimming over the surface with ease. A female even rolled to her side and showed us her belly, then gave a big pec slap as if waving hello! We watched the tiny, quick-breathing babies pop to the surface along moms, and we were stunned by the large males with their staggeringly-tall dorsal fins. They moved on, but we were left in a humble, shocked, giddy fog as we processed what we just saw. These animals are huge and truly magnificent.

We were even able to see a TON of harbor seals at a low tide, lots of adult and juvenile bald eagles trilling and chirping and squawking at one another as they fought over a deceased harbor seal pup, and a big bald eagle’s nest with a parent and chick perched atop it. This trip was whatever the members of the group wanted it to be, and it turned out to be truly spectacular and stunning!