Captain Gabe and I took another group of wonderful folks out on the M/V Kestrel yesterday, and for me it was the perfect weather conditions for Kestrel. Most of the water was pretty flat with some areas getting a little bumpy as the south wind and strong tidal currents hit each other. We went north first and check out some wildlife around Spieden and Sentinel Islands. The southern half of the islands are a Garry Oak Prairie ecosystem, so there is a lot of grass with a few towering oak trees interspersed so it is easy to see any wildlife wandering on land. We first saw a few Bald Eagles perched in some of the trees and on the steep slopes of Spieden Island. We then cruised to Sentinel Rocks where there were a ton of Harbor Seals both hauled out on the rocks and swimming among the kelp forest. These little guys need to dry off and warm off in the sun intermittently in between hunting forays to prevent from becoming hypothermic. They are also adorable when they skooch around on the rocks. They are also pretty at home in the water. They can dive for incredibly long times by storing oxygen in their blood stream and muscles and slowing their heart rate –pretty cool right!
Next we continued west to Kellett Bluffs on Henry Island. There we saw our first blows! It was part of J pod swimming along the shoreline. In the lead and the first orca we saw was J-19 (Shachi). This is interesting because for as long as humans have been studying these orcas the old matriarch, J2 (Granny) has been the leader of J pod, but with her passing late last year or early this year there have been some curious social dynamic changes, Shachi being in front of the pod is one of them. As the orcas and we headed northward, next we saw J27 (Blackberry), J31 (Tsuchi), and J39 (Mako). These three are siblings that travel together. Then we saw the J16s an adorable family with J16 (Slick), J26 (Mike), J36 (Alki), J42 (Echo), J50 (Scarlett), and J52 (Sonic). This is a neat multigenerational family that usually travels tightly together. Alki is the matriarch with her adult children, Mike and Alki, her young adult child, Echo, and her new calf, Scarlett. Sonic is Alki’s new calf. We continued to look at different parts of this group as they headed towards Turn Point on Stuart Island. Just about when they were about to reach Turn point and we were passing through a rip current that was a little bumpy, some of the orcas started breaching! Several happened in a row from a few different whales! We were so distracted by that and the orcas started playing around in the rip current that we almost didn’t notice Echo swim closer and then spyhop off of our right side! Super cool! We watched them continue north for a little bit longer as Shachi continued to lead with a flew tail slaps as they rounded Turn Point and headed up Swanson Channel in Canada. Until next time.