Today Captain Gabe and I left the dock with warm weather, calm seas, a boat full of excited passengers and best of all, Whale Reports!! We headed North off the dock to find some wildlife. As we exited Mosquito Pass, we spotted a small pod of harbor porpoise so we decided to watch them slip in and out of the calm water. Harbor porpoise are the smallest cetacean (whales, dolphins and porpoises) found in the Salish Sea, and were at one point the most abundant. They spend their time feeding on small schooling fish like herring and sandlance, the same diet as humpback whales. On the other hand, these shy animals make quite the tasty snack for Transient Orcas.
After watching our "pig fish" friends for a bit, we continued north to see black dorsal fins erupting from the water as clouds of mist escaped the blowhole of first one, then another and another and another Killer whale! It was J pod heading towards Stuart Island from the west side of San Juan Island! As they headed north we noticed them zigging and zagging in an effort to catch some chinook salmon for lunch. One large male, perhaps chasing something, porpoised halfway out of the water facing towards us to increase his speed. Let me tell you, seeing an Orca coming full speed toward you and pushing a wall of water is a rather imposing sight! Perhaps in celebration after enjoying a nice fat salmon, one whale decided to swim upside down and slap his tail a bit. Looked like fun! We got especially good looks at the J22 matriline, or "the Cookie Clan" as we know them, off of Turn point. This family consists of J22 (Oreo) and her two sons J34 (Doublestuff) and J38 (Cookie). We were able to ID these individuals by getting great shots of their dorsal fins and the white saddle patch just behind it and comparing it to the Orca Survey that is released by the Center for Whale Research each Summer.
After our awesome whale encounter, we decided to explore a bit and found a harbor seal haulout, a great blue heron hunting in a kelp bed, and several bald eagles while cruising through the scenic Cactus Islands.
As we pulled back into Roche Harbor, we were all still mesmerized by our great wildlife experience. Another Whale of a day in the San Juan Islands!
Naturalist Mike J
San Juan Outfitters