September 21, 2019

A Wonderful Day with Southern Resident Orcas and a Humpback Whale!

Piper | Saturday, September 21, 2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00 PM

Captain Sarah, naturalist Olivia, and I left the docks with a really fun group today, to reports of both orcas and humpbacks swimming around the Salish Sea! We headed south down San Juan Channel, in the direction of Cattle Point Lighthouse. When we arrived in the area we stopped because there was a huge haul out of Steller’s sea lions on the small rocky outcroppings in the middle of the pass. The giant pinnipeds were resting and sunning in and amongst innumerable cormorants and gulls!

After a great look at the sea lions we headed around the southern tip of San Juan Island towards Haro Strait, where Southern Resident Killer Whales, members of both K and L Pods, were spread out foraging for Chinook (King) salmon! We watched as many K Pod males and females were surfacing in the distance, their giant black dorsal fins and impressive puffs of air rising above glassy seas. We chatted about the status of these critically endangered animals and looked on from afar, watching for half an hour before heading out to look for other critters.

We went eastward again towards Mc Arthur and Eastern Banks where a humpback whale was foraging for a tasty meal of, likely, bait fish! Now talk about an impressive lung-full! We also got nose-fulls of this humpback’s stinky breath! This humpback was identified as MMX0006, also known as Double Drop, a whale that has been taking advantage of the productive Salish Sea waters for the last couple weeks before it heads south for the winter!

After some really awesome looks we had to make our way back towards Friday Harbor, stopping to check out another seabird rookery after having some awesome sightings of red-necked phalaropes and white-winged scoters, as well as some common murres and grebes! What a great day for wildlife on the water!