May 23, 2017

Wind Won't Stop Us! Scoping Out Some Falcons and Eagles in the Salish Sea

So what if there were gale force wind warnings for this afternoon in Friday Harbor? Sea Lion wasn't going to be stopped! We're spoiled by the generally amazing weather and sea conditions here in the San Juan Islands, so even when there's gale force winds out here, it doesn't affect us too much. And, fortunately for us since we were leaving at noon, the wind wasn't supposed to pick up until later in the afternoon. So, with the sun above us and a light breeze behind us, we set off as the clock struck noon in search of whatever wildlife awaited us! There was no time to waste.

Today was one of those days where the whales were a little elusive. We didn't have any orca or humpback sightings, but our bird and pinniped sightings more than made up for the lack of cetaceans. That's the beauty of the Salish're always going to see something super cool out here. Captain Pete and I decided to head to East Point off Saturna Island (in the Canadian Gulf Islands) to check out some of our massive Stellar's Sea Lions and see if we could spot a Peregrine Falcon that often hangs out on a nearby cliffside. Sure enough, after we spotted our Stellar's, we zipped over to the cliff to see if we could spot the falcon. After a few fruitless minutes scanning the cliffside, a sharp-eyed passenger pointed out a small dot flying overhead...and it was the falcon!

These birds are AMAZING! Did you know that when they're attacking their prey (in a dramatic diving and swooping behavior called stooping), they can reach speeds of up to 200 mph? If only my superhuman abilities were that incredible, I would've crushed it in high school track. Needless to say, we were all so excited to see this amazing guy gracing the sky's above us. Did you know that these falcons used to be trained for hunting for over a thousand years? Their name translates into "pilgrim" or "wanderer" because they can be found all over the world, although in North America you'll mostly notice them breeding on cliffsides or on skyscrapers. They like these aerial vantage points for the added ease of spotting and attacking their prey - a wide variety of smaller birds. They also don't build nests. Rather, they lay their egg on a "nest ledge" that has been carefully selected to optimize safety and visibility.

After ogling over this incredible bird, we continued on our way through John's Pass, one of the most absolutely stunning passes in the San Juans, skirted the Cactus Islands, and circumnavigated Spieden Island on our way back to Friday Harbor. What an absolute treat of a day. No whales? No problem! We have Stellar's and Falcons to check out! Not to mention we spotted a dozen bald eagles, plenty of harbor porpoises, and lots of our harbor seal friends as well. 

And...we beat the wind. Score! It's always an adventure out here.