September 4, 2021

Wildlife Bonanza in the Salish Sea including Bigg’s Killer Whales, T100’s!

T100's Biggs orcas traveling near San Juan Island

Haleigh | M/V Kestrel | September 4, 2021 | 10:00 am and 2:00 pm

 

Both our morning and afternoon adventure tour began cruising south through the San Juan Channel. One observant guest on our AM trip picked up a Minke Whale almost immediately with our guest spotting the elongated body and hooked dorsal fin poking up through the water. This Minke Whale surfaced a few times but seemed to be cruising northbound, so we said our goodbyes and continued the search. 

 

This took us towards Cattle pass where we first admired the abundance of birds around Goose Island! Cormorants and Gulls flock here for the ample nesting space and the abundance of critters found in the surrounding kelp beds. Just across the channel, the stench of our Salish Sea pinnipeds, including Harbor Seals and Steller’s Sea Lions, lured us over to get a closer look. These flippered fish-fiends were seen hauled out all over Whale Rocks escaping the rising tides sloshing in. We circumnavigated this little island to find little heads bobbing up and down disguised among the bull kelp. 

 

Off in the distance, our curiosities of a feeding frenzy of birds got the best of us. We slowly motored over to investigate with the goal to not “flush out” these feeding seabirds. Common Murres, California and Heerman’s Gulls, and Pelagic and Double-Crested Cormorants congregated above this school of baitfish while a Parasitic Jaeger swooped in to attack our feeding birds, force them to regurgitate their catch just to steal it literally from their mouths! It was a sight we were fortunate enough to witness! 

We had already seen so much when a report of Bigg’s Killer Whales pinged on our radio! Our captain responded swiftly and we were shortly underway. We arrived on scene with a family of four known as the T100’s. The family members included T100 Hutchins (F, <1979), and three of her kids known as T100C Laurel (M, 2002), T100E Tharaya (F, 2009), and T100F Estrella (2014). They made their way in from Victoria, B.C. during the morning, so by the afternoon they were already near San Juan island. The large male, Laurel, had a distinctly large, yet slender, dorsal fin that wobbled just a bit every time he surfaced. We admired this family for as long as we could before departing back towards Friday Harbor. All in all, it turned out to be an incredible wildlife day.