[7/30/17 2pm SH]
Summer brings excitement here in the San Juans. All sorts of wildlife can be seen both along shorelines and in the sea, enjoying the sunshine just as much as we do. Today we got a little peek into the true abundance of wildlife here in the San Juans. We took the Sea Hawk out for one of the warmest days yet, with beaming sunshine and breezes just cool enough to warrant a light sweater. Our little tour took us all throughout the islands just north of Roche Harbor, where we were fortunate enough to encounter a whole host of wildlife. Here are some notable examples!
The San Juans have one of the largest breeding populations of bald eagles in the United States. With nests almost everywhere with evergreens, bald eagles enjoy perching on rocky shorelines or tall douglas firs, pretty much anywhere they can get a solid vantage point of the seas below. Determined (albeit clumsy) hunters, bald eagles in the Salish Sea especially enjoy our marine life, from salmon to harbor seal pups.
Speaking of pups... Summertime in the San Juans is prime time for spotting petite versions of our ever-present harbor seal population. Only hanging out with mom for two months, harbor seals grow fast while nursing on 65% milk fat and learning to hunt fish and octopus here in the Salish Sea. New moms usually haul out on the less-crowded shorelines, keeping pups and themselves away from the usually rowdy favorite rookeries.
Our sea bird population here in the Salish Sea varies both in species and morph from season to season. One of our most common residents (and a personal favorite of mine) are the pigeon guillemont, a member of the auk and puffin family that molts to reveal vibrant white wing patches during the summer breeding season. Featuring bright red feet and awkward-yet-impressive diving strategies, these football-sized birds can be found foraging near their cliffside nests.
Jellyfish undergo a complex reproductive cycle, but it's the medusa stage that is the most recognizable. Every summer, the San Juans are blessed with a jellyfish bloom, resulting in thousands of charismatic jellies congregating in current convergence zones and harbors and bays. While four main types of jelly inhabit our waters (fried egg, lion's mane, moon, and water), the moon jelly is by far the most abundant and adorable. With a sting harmless to humans, it's no wonder moon jellies are a favorite among naturalists everywhere!
Many, many more critters can be spotted around San Juan Island in the summer months, including harbor porpoises, resident killer whales, humpback whales, and phallaropes. Keep your eyes peeled whenever you're out on the water for some of these exciting species!
Naturalist Sarah C.