Yesterday was another classic early season day whale watching in Friday Harbor on the M/V Sea Lion. Captain Mike and I arrived to the boat to begin prepping for our trip, keeping an ear towards the radio listening for reports from our extensive spotting network. As is usually the case this time of year, there was nothing reported as we left the dock, but Captain Mike worked with the other captains to lay out a search pattern that made the most sense, covering waters where no one had been searching for the elusive wildlife of the area. It was a bit of a drizzly day, but that did not dampen our spirits!
One of the things I enjoy most about running whale watches this time of year is that we tend to have a very small group size. The M/V Sea Lion is Coast Guard approved to carry 49 passengers, but yesterday we had a group of 11 guests on board. Having a smaller group size enables me to tailor to trip to individual interests.
About a half hour off of the dock as we were beginning to round Flattop Island just northeast of San Juan Island, our network came through for us once again. A boat traversing the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver had found a group of Transient killer whales! We altered our course immediately heading for East Point on Saturna Island. We crossed through Boundary Pass and into Canadian waters. We found the two of my favorite family groups, the T049As as well as the T123s socializing and hunting right where the waters of Boundary Pass meets the Strait of Georgia. We watched as the two families separated, and then rejoined one another forming a big social puddle of whales. We surmised that the whales had made a kill based upon the bird behavior. We watched as several herring and Bonaparte’s gulls swooped down to the water surface to grab scraps from the whales. The juveniles in the group erupted into happy fits of tail slapping and rolled around showing off their impressive agility.
We left the orcas in search of some other wildlife, getting awesome looks at both bald eagles and Steller’s sea lions. As we transited past the Waldron Island we were delighted to see some beautiful harbor porpoises and harbor seals. As we made it back to Friday Harbor the sky parted and the sun poked its face through the grey clouds. Just another incredible day spent on the water whale watching in the San Juan Islands.
Naturalist Sarah, M/V Sea Lion, Seattle Orca Whale Watching