November 10, 2019

What a day! : Bigg's Orcas (T18's/T19's) and a Humpback (Heather) to boot!

Bigg's Orcas

Erick | Sunday, November 10, 2019 | M/V Sea Lion | Noon


                We’re quickly moving into November and soon it will be the last trip of the year! This Sunday, we received great sunny weather with a slight breeze as we headed out with Capt. Pete at the wheel as well as Sarah and myself along as Naturalists. We headed north towards reports of whales that Brain, the owner of San Juan Safaris and Sarah had found earlier this morning! As we approached Green Point on Spieden Island we spied our first one! It was a Humpback Whale. This one was feeding in the currents around Spieden and Flattop Islands. We got some great views of this giant baleen whale as it surfaced and fed along the tide lines and fluked a bunch showing us the bottom of its tail. The pattern that exists on the bottom on the flukes is how we identify individual whales. Sarah quickly identified this one as Heather (BCY0160)! This is a great whale! She has a pretty hooked dorsal fin and is the daughter of the first Humpback Whale that arrived back here in the Salish Sea, Big Mama! We watched her feed and fluke for a while and then headed further west.

                We made our next stop at Green Point where we saw a raft of Steller Sea Lions rolling in the water next to the kelp. This goof balls were just relaxing in the back eddy here. They do not like wind so when there is a breeze they spend most of there day floating sticking one flipper out at a time. This helps then thermoregulate, since they lose a lot of their heat through their flippers which do not have a lot of blubber. We watched as they floated and growled at each other and continued along the northern shoreline of Spieden Island where we saw four Bald Eagles. They all seemed to be perched on top of their favorite snags and we even got to see one take off and soar away!

                We continued along Spieden and headed towards the Gulf Islands and soon saw Orcas! They were swimming in Prevost Pass. With orcas you can identify them using their dorsal fins and saddle patches and we soon figured that these were the T18’s/T19’s. There are 4 individuals in this family, two females and two males. They are members of the Bigg’s population here. They are the ecotype that feeds exclusively on marine mammals in these waters. We watched this family for awhile and got great looks. The family members are a grandmother and mother and two sons. Even though the two sons are bigger than the females the females are in charge. As we continued to watch them we got to see something that we don’t often get to see – Kelping! This means they found a kelp forest and started pushing their faces through it showing their eye patches and heads above the water as they wrap kelp around their heads and fins! It must feel so good and is another example of orcas being very tactile creatures. After they finished their seaweed spa treatment they continued traveling north. What another magical day!

Until next time,