M/V Sea Hawk | Sunday, July 21, 2019 | 1:00 PM | Naturalist Erin
It was a beaufitul day aboard the M/V Sea Hawk in the Salish Sea. It was sunny, the water was calm, and there was an abundance of wildlife! We began heading out of Roche Harbor and going across San Juan Channel towards the south side of Spieden Island. On our way there, we saw lots of harbor seals hauled out on some rocks! There were some that were resting and warming up on the rocks, and there were some that were swimming around in the water. Everyone was fascinated to know that harbor seals can hold their breath for about 40 minutes and dive to depths of 1500 feet! We didn't see any harbor seal pups on the rocks, but it was still a treat to see our first marine mammal.
Shortly after seeing the harbor seals, we saw the first sign of an orca: tall dorsal fins up at the water's surface. There were orcas travelling north up San Juan Channel, passing right by Roche Harbor. It was hard to see what they were up to at first, but we could tell that there were many animals in the area. After getting some better views and seeing a white/gray calf, we could identify the pod as the T46B's. They are a group of transient, or Bigg's killer whales, that have 8 whales in their pod! Two of the 8 whales are brand new calves, one that was born in 2018 and one that was born this year! The matriarch of the pod, T46B, is a whale who is 31 years old. With her newest calf this year, she has now had 6 offspring! Her eldest daughter, T46B1, has now had two calves of her own! She is 16 years old. Her newest calf is the white/gray whale. He has leucism, which means that he is lacking pigmentation. It was incredible to see this pod altogether, and there were a few times that all 8 of them were up at the surface together! Throughout the encounter, they began to pick up speed and swim in circles, so it seemed possible that they were hunting something. We eventually had to say goodbye to the T46B's to search for other wildlife in the area.
We headed toward Turn Point on Saturna Island and saw the lighthouse! Then we headed around the island and saw a bald eagle resting in the treetops. We went through Johns Pass, which goes between Johns and Stuart Islands, and then we stopped past Cactus Island. On Cactus Island, we saw some more harbor seals, but this time we saw some pups! They were adorable. As we headed around the eastern side of Spieden Island, we saw some Mouflon sheep grazing! The Mouflon sheep on the island are not native. They were brought to the island in the 1970's, and they have adapted to life on the island since then. It was a wonderful day of experiencing wildlife in their natural habitat!