August 14, 2019

Whales Filter Feeding in the Haro Strait!

Laura C. | M/V Kestrel | 8/14/2019 | 11:00am

This morning’s adventure whale watch and wildlife tour was simply outstanding!  Captain Gabe directed our vessel, Kestrel, southbound towards Hein Bank.  This area is a great spot for wildlife viewing!  There are a few shallow banks south of San Juan Island, rising above the deeper sea floor to about 50 feet.  These areas tend to congregate dense amounts of small schooling fish along the ledges of the bank, where they prefer to reside near drastic changes in depth.  This area is one of my favorite places to visit, as there is normally a lot of commotion at the surface! Birds are constantly provoked by the bait balls rising to the top of the waters surface and are a key element to the feeding frenzy!

Passengers were thrilled to get their first whale sighting of a minke whale surging through this active bait ball!  We could see the saltwater pouring out of the sides of his/her mouth as this whale continued filter feeding in the area.  Minke whales are hard to spot but are very impressive whales to view when they feed close to the surface. This minke whale was very generous today and we were all so happy to have such amazing looks at this beautiful leviathan!

Our vessel continued towards Victoria, B. C, and we saw a humpback whale in the Haro Strait!  This humpback whale was taking six-minute dives and majestically fluking after the final inhalation before going back under the water.  This humpback had a mostly all black fluke with a minute amount of white on the left side of his/her tail.  The theme of the day was feeding, as this whale was also zeroed in on the abundance of fish in the area to feast on!  We had a wonderful time watching this humpback and we were able to sneak in a few looks at a second minke whale feeding as we headed back towards San Juan Island!

Our last pit stop included an array of pelagic birds and tons of Steller sea lions along a cluster of rocks near Cattle Point!  “Tons” is not an exaggeration.  These are massive animals, with the the males reaching 2,400lbs!  Steller sea lions were named in the 1700’s after Wilhelm Steller, who first described this species while aboard a shipwrecked Russian ship Vitus Bering at Bering Island in 1742.  Today the males were very rowdy and territorial, which was awesome to view as a wildlife observer!  One large male hoisted himself from the water onto a rock in a slow, dramatic fashion.  Apparently, he was and unwelcomed member on this basking site as all the other sea lions started vocalizing and waving their muzzles around in retaliation!  This started a short-lived brawl between six sea lions in all and it was so exciting to witness nature at its best!  It ended by this male awkwardly shifting to a nearby rock, prompting the entire gang to settle down for an impending nap in the sun!