June 13, 2018
Welcome home to the Southern Residents!
[Naturalist Sarah – 06/11/2018 – M/V Sea Lion – 12:00pm]
Monday was just another day that put a smile on my face that stayed through dinner. After a long absence from the inland waters we enjoyed a delightful encounter with members of our Southern Resident killer whale population.
Today Captain Pete, Naturalist Jordan, and I departed Friday Harbor with a boatful of curious and excited guests! Right off the bat, as we turned left and headed north out of the harbor, we got some excellent questions! It is always so nice to have engaged guests on board, as naturalists we really appreciate chatting with inquisitive people!
As we cruised through San Juan Channel we caught glimpses of harbor seals and some beautiful seabirds. Perhaps the highlight of the transit through San Juan Channel was a few groups of harbor porpoise cruising through the glassy waters. These small cetaceans are some of our most common marine mammals here in the Salish Sea. We also got great views of bald eagles swooping overhead.
As we cruised out into northern Haro Strait, near Henry Island, we soon found ourselves surrounded by tall, black dorsal fins and blows: Southern Resident Killer Whales! This was the first time that they had been spotted in our waters in nine weeks! We were lucky to be watching members of J Pod spread out, traveling towards Canadian waters, and frolicking in tight family groupings. Perhaps our best look of the day was with the J16 matriline, lead by J16 “Slick.” She was surrounded by three of her kiddos, J26 “Mike,” J42 “Echo,” and J50 “Scarlet.” It was so nice to see their rounded dorsal fins and open saddle patches after so much time away. We followed the whales all the way to Turn Point on Stuart Island, delighting in the tail slaps and raucous surface behavior along the way.