June 19, 2022

Wildlife of the Gulf Islands

June 19th, 2022

Helena Wiatrowski

2pm Kestrel


What an afternoon the Kestrel crew had! Today the sun was on our side, allowing for great visibility of a variety of wildlife and flora along the rocky coastlines of the San Juans. We jetted north out of Friday Harbor past Boundary Pass and found a Bigg’s Killer Whale family pod, the T123’s, along the southernmost tip of South Pender Island. This family consists of four individuals:

  • Sidney (T123; F; b.~1985)
  • Stanley (T123A; M; b. 2000)
  • Darcy (T123B; F; b. 2012)
  • Lucky  (T123C; F; b. 2018)

Upon our arrival, it appeared the group had just completed a hunt. In celebration we watched youngster Darcy belly roll on the surface! But the fun didn’t end there.


We continued our adventure up Swanson Channel, then east through Active Pass into the Strait of Georgia where we encountered two humpbacks traveling off the coast of Mayne Island. The duo, Divot and Orion, has been seen together frequently throughout the last few weeks here in the Salish Sea. We got awesome looks at their beautiful flukes and timed their 6-ish minute dives. Our time at this area where Active Pass meets the Strait of Georgia was also an opportune moment to notice the dramatic clashing of currents, illustrating that upwelling that makes the Salish Sea so productive.


On our ride back to Friday Harbor we spotted several bald eagles (including a juvenile, identifiable by a speckled brown feather coloration), some deer along the shore line and gave a final wave to the T123s who were continuing their circumnavigation of South Pender Island in Plumber Sound. This was the northern most trip I have had yet in the Salish Sea and it did not disappoint!