Whale Watch/Wildlife Tour – San Juan Island

Had a great tour yesterday with a family willing the brave the cool and damp weather. We ran a circuit in North Haro Strait around Kelp Reef, Henry Island, Stuart Island, and Speiden Island. We were hoping to encounter a group of Transient Killer Whales (marine mammal eating) that have been sighted frequently in the area. Weather conditions made visibility greater than a mile difficult. We did not see any whales, but did find large groups of Harbor Porpoise in Speiden Channel, as well as 20 or more Northern (Stellars) Sea Lions in the same vicinity. The Sea Lions looked like they were feeding on some type of bottom fish, as they did not have the typical pink/red color of salmon. I did see one fish that looked like a small halibut, and my naturalist thought she saw one with a dog fish (small shark).

There were literally hundreds of Mouflon Sheep on Speiden Island, including large groups of males traveling with females. This sighting was comparable to some of the largest groups I’ve seen in 12 years. A rough estimate put our sighting at 300 sheep. There was also a group of several large Fallow Deer.

The weather continues to be cool and wet here on San Juan Island after a relatively dry early winter. Looks like we’re catching up on our annual rain fall this week. We’re still running sea kayak and whale watch trips daily.

Killer Whale Update – Southern Resident Killer Whales

Our Southern Residents continue to be seen in the northern part of Puget Sound (Port Townsend, South Whidbey Island). Both J-pod and K-pod have been spotted between the 16th and 18th (when the new calf was first reported in J-pod).

There have also been lots of Transient (marine mammal diet) Killer Whales in the San Juan and Gulf Islands. On December 21st, several Transients were spotted off the west side of San Juan Island, and later in the Kelp Reef area.

Southern Resident Killer Whales Updates – NEW CALF J-POD!!

It’s official. Scientists from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center have announced a new calf in J-pod, J-48. The calf belongs to J-16 “Slick”, historically a very successful mother who has 4 surviving calves. This is great news for J-pod which now has a total number of 27 animals, and is the pod most frequently seen by our summer tours.

The calf was confirmed in Admiralty Inlet Area on December 21st. J-48 brings the Southern Resident Killer Whale population to 89 animals. Let’s all cross our fingers that this calf does well through the winter. With J-16 showing a strong history of surviving calves, I think J-48 may has a better than average chance of survival.

December Killer Whale & Marine Mammal Updates- December 17, 2011

We had absolutely stunning autumn weather this year. It extended far into November, and even a little into December. Long time locals couldn’t remember the last time we’ve had such beautiful late November & December weather.

Everyone on the island is in the holiday spirit! Downtown Friday Harbor is decorated with beautiful twinkling Christmas lights. Nearly every storefront has gone all out with their decorations! Even the lamp posts have HUGE lighted snowflakes. Friday Harbor is even more quaint, charming, and magical than in the summer…who could have thought that’s even possible :) .

On to our lovely marine mammal reports!

December 1st
Both J and K pods were in Saratoga Passage. A number of the orcas were feeding close to the beach, along a tide line. Obviously good fishing!
Three humpbacks slowly moving through Jervis Inlet, Saltery Bay, BC.

December 2nd
Southern Resident killer whales looked like they were headed NW into Haro Strait, and then we started to hear calls sporadically on the Lime Kiln Lighthouse hydrophone from 11:00am to 5:30pm.
Two humpbacks feeding on Halibut Bank, in the Strait of Georgia.

December 3rd
Up to 15 T’s off Victoria and most were traveling West. 4-5 of the Ts were going East. The same Transients were spotted near Race Rocks later in the day.

December 4th
5 Transients in Monterey Bay, California! The CA138s, CA217 (Chopfin), and CA171b together. They successfully hunted a large harbor seal about 7 miles SW of Moss Landing, CA.

December 5th
Js and Ks (and probably Onyx L-87) were heard vocalizing continuously on the Lime Kiln & Orcasound hydrophone between 1am and 6 am!

December 7th
Five orcas (most likely Transients) were reported just north of Nanaimo BC. They were headed north in Northwest Bay near about 50 sea lions, which were “going crazy.” There was one male possibly one baby in the group.

December 9th
More California killer whales! 8-9 orcas were spotted about 4 miles offshore of Ventura Harbor, CA. There were at least 4 calves and a maybe three females and a large male.

December 10th
Two orcas (most likely Transients) were spotted in Case Inlet (South Puget Sound). They did a series of long dives just south of Vaughn Bay for about 15 minutes before they took off towards Heron Island.

December 16th
J pod, K pod, and L87 Onyx traveled slowly down Admiralty Inlet. They were spread out for miles apparently foraging for salmon as they swam the entire expanse between Whidbey Island, the Kitsap Peninsula, and Marrowstone Island. They stayed from 9:45am until at least dusk. Their calls were very clear on the Port Townsend hydrophone!

We also had one single transient come through the Haro Strait. T31 was spotted at Race Rocks. Later in the afternoon, there was a faint call on the Lime Kiln Hydrophone at 4:11pm and then a two other faint Transient calls at 4:25pm.

Be sure to check our Facebook page for more frequent updates! Click on the icon in the lower right hand corner :) .