[Lauren Fritz, M/V Seahawk, 08/12/17, 2 pm Tour]
Don't you just love when you can spot killer whales near your home turf? Every day is different and unpredictable out here in the San Juans, but today we had the chance to observe a family pod of Transient orcas in San Juan Channel - moments after we were watching a humpback! It was a whale watching jackpot day.
Captain Joe and I greeted our guests on the dock at Roche Harbor, excited to see what was in store for the day. I truly love humpback whales and enjoy seeing them here in one of their feeding grounds, so when I heard there was one in the area, I started skipping! Most of my background with these large baleen whales has been down in Maui during their breeding season, so it's fun to see a very different behavior up here in the Salish Sea. We left Roche Harbor with reports of an animal near Point Caution on the east side of San Juan Island, gearing up with binoculars and marine mammal ID guides.
These whales are not hard to spot. You can see their blow from miles away, and oftentimes we hear them before we see them because their exhalation is so powerful. This whale was swimming quite close to the Turn Island shoreline when we saw him, probably getting himself some nice grub and enjoying the sun that has finally been poking its way out of the haze. We watched him for several minutes before we rounded a corner and...surprise! A pod of orcas was headed our way up San Juan Channel! It was the T46's.
Now, technically orcas are the top predator for humpback whales. But out here in the Salish Sea, there's some much easier pickings for the killer whales in terms of meal choices. It takes a lot less energy for them to kill a harbor seal or porpoise compared to a 40 ton hunk of humpback whale. So we watched, spellbound, as the humpback eased his way south throughout San Juan, slipping uneventfully by the orcas as they headed north. Like ships in the night, two very different whale species continued on with their two very different lifestyles. I didn't manage to get a photo of the whales in the same frame, but I did catch one of both of their blows - if you look carefully in the photos below, you may see it.
Captain Joe and I were so excited we had a double whammy of a whale watch. What a treat to see killer whales and humpbacks in one day! Oh how I love the Salish Sea! It makes me swoon. We're very grateful to those of you who joined us out on the water today - come see us again soon!
Naturalist Lauren, San Juan Outfitters