We are so spoiled here to live in (or visit) an area just overflowing with gorgeous views, amazing weather, and bountiful wildlife. Even working here every day, I never get tired of this gorgeous place and all the critters that inhabit it with me. We had an amazing opportunity this evening to truly appreciate all that this area has to offer as we took the Sea Lion up north of San Juan Island for one of our last sunset whale watch and wildlife tours of the season.
We started out our journey by ducking into the Wasp Islands just off the west side of Orcas Island. Here we watched some harbor seals enjoying the island life as they sunned themselves on the rocky shores. Next, we moved westward to traverse the back side of Spieden Island, the historical location of an exotic big game reserve. Right away we spotted a small herd of fallow deer, native to Europe, as they snacked on grass and sipped some groundwater on the treacherous slopes of the island.
We took John’s Pass out of the Cactus Islands and into Boundary Pass where we turned out bow towards the very west side of Stewart Island, Turn Point. From there we headed west into Canadian waters and soon found ourselves surrounded by a dozen harbor porpoises! These shy and creatures are our smallest whale species, at a meek 4-5 feet long and a dainty 200 pounds. After watching them scoot about the area, fishing just below the surface, we bopped up to Mandarte Island, a bird sanctuary and research station off the coast of Sidney Island. At this time of day, the majority of the cliffside is teeming with nesting cormorants, returning home from a busy day of fishing.
The sun was just starting to set as we reentered American waters and we watched it slip below below the horizon moments before we docked at Friday Harbor.
Naturalist Sarah C.
M/V Sea Lion