September 10, 2009

Well, the whales have done it again!

Leave it to wild animals to continually throw our conventional predictions about their behavior for a loop. Often I've heard myself and other naturalist speak of how the orcas "rarely pass through the San Juan Channel and prefer to travel and fish in the straits, like the Haro Strait." Well, the orcas have made me rethink this statement, at least for this summer. The orcas passing by Friday Harbor has become merely uncommon, and now no longer all that rare.

Today, for the third time this summer, members of the Southern Resident Community (some if not all of L Pod and likely K Pod, to be exact) travelled all the way through San Juan Channel. They then continued through the Speiden Channel, which is an even more uncommon behavior.

We travelled alongside L's and K's and many other boats. The boats, private and commercial alike, for the most part did an excellent job following the laws (the Southern Resident Community of orcas is an Endangered Species as of 2005 and there are a number of laws that exist about how any boats travel around them). We saw a young calf breach numerous times, many animals where cartwheeling, spy hopping, and breaching. For the most part, it didn't appear any fishing behavior was occurring. They travelled in a north/northwesterly direction for the duration of our time with them.

Having the orcas so close to home, we caught up with them in about 10 minutes! This provided us with ample time to views the whales and have some time to view other wildlife as well! We saw lots of exotic creatures (Sika deer, Fallow deer, and Mouflon Sheep) on Speiden Island. Off of Speiden Island I also saw the most Red-necked Phalaropes (dainty little shorebirds) than I have ever seen together before (50+). We also saw many harbor seals, both swimming and hauled out on rocks, at least four bald eagles, and a huge group of flying turkey vultures.

To top it all off, the weather was fantastic! The waters were sparkling mirror-calm blue, the sun was shining, as although there was a nip of autumn's approach, the temperature was very pleasant.

Until next time,
Ashley, Naturalist

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