Pete and I left Roche Harbor for our 11 o'clock tour without any promising whale reports. Luckily, Roche Harbor is very close to Henry, Speiden, Stuart, Johns and the Cactus Islands. Each of these islands are home to an array of different wildlife. First, we cruised through mosquito pass where we saw our first (but certainly not last) Bald Eagle, as well as a harbor seal swim by the boat. We motored north along Henry Island where we found two more Bald Eagles. We also took a moment to gaze at the Pelagic Cormorant rookery, home to over 50 nests. We then moved further north to Sentinel rock where we saw 25 harbor seals hauled out and enjoying the sun, before we moved on down beautiful Speiden Island, to see 4 more Bald Eagles and a nest! Upon turning the corner toward the Cactus Islands, we caught glimpses of a large herd of Mouflon Sheep on Speiden, and 4 more Bald Eagles on the Cactus Islands!
After Alaska, we actually have the largest population of Bald Eagles in the U.S. so it wasn't that surprising to see so many of them, but I've never seen quite that many in one trip. Bald Eagles are one of the largest birds that are found in Washington State with a wingspan of 6-8 feet, and weighing in at 8-12 pounds. Juveniles often get confused for Golden Eagles because they remain a mottled brown color until getting their adult plumage (white head and tail) at 4-5 years of age. Although they do usually mate for life, they will split up to find a more compatible mate for themselves in the event that their clutches are consistently not surviving. Each year, a breeding pair will come back to the same nest, often re-building to cover up any damage that's been done over the course of the winter--which can build up quickly and become quite heavy. In fact, in one instance, a 2000-pound Bald Eagle nest caused a tree to collapse!
Luckily all of the nests that we saw today were well supported by their respective trees. Whew.
M/V Sea Hawk