Naturalist Erin | M/V Sea Hawk | 2:00 PM | Friday, July 26, 2019
It was a true wildlife adventure aboard Sea Hawk this afternoon. We began our trip heading south out of Roche Harbor, but quickly decided that the weather would suit us better if we headed north. We found ourselves across the U.S./Canadian border, headed towards a wildlife refuge known as Mandarte Rock. This wildlife refuge is not only important for seals and other pinnipeds, but for a large array of birds as well. When we approached Mandarte Rock, we saw many birds on the rocks. The rocks were also covered in guano, which is important to the nutrient cycling of the Salish Sea. We saw cormorants and gulls, and many of the cormorants were sitting on nests! There were also gull's nests. There was so much activity near Mandarte Rock! It was a great start to the trip.
After we saw all of the birds, we headed toward Turn Point on Stuart Island. Turn Point has a lovely automated lighthouse, and to the right of the lighthouse there is a beautiful cliffside that is also important for birds as they nest and rest. There are also some glacial striations on the rocks, which were left behind by glaciers over 13,500 years ago. As we rounded Turn Point, we saw some beautiful pigeon guillemots fly right above the water's surface. The white patches on their wings and bright red feet are pretty hard to miss! They are alcids, which is a group of birds that is related to penguins!
We went around the north side of Stuart Island and through a pass called John's Pass. After we went through the pass, we saw several lion's mane jellyfish up at the surface! They were floating along with some kelp. Then we travelled to Cactus Islands and saw so many harbor seals! They were resting on the small rocks that were exposed in the high tide, and some of them appeared as if their whole bodies were floating on top of the water! We saw some pups swimming in the water with their mothers, which was adorable. When we went around Cactus Islands, we spotted two bald eagles! One of them was flying around, and one was resting in the treetops. It was incredible to see the magnificent wingspan of the bald eagle.
We then travelled around Spieden Island and saw 20-30 mouflon sheep on the hillside. One of them was a male, who was starting to grow his large horns. We saw more seals hauled out on the rocks on the south side of Spieden Island, and there were at least 3 bald eagles circling up above. It was a lovely day on the water, and there were so many different types of wildlife that were spotted! Until next time, folks!