Whale Watching Report

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Orca Whales Near Spieden Island

The Island Explorer 3 is just off Spieden Island watching Orca Whales, reports Captain Carl. Stay tuned for updates from Naturalist (and Captain) Michael Colahan.
Sunny skies greeted us during our trips today on the Island Explorer 3. Leaving the dock, we embarked upon a tour of the islands, showing our guests first the beautiful, weather-beaten southern coast of Lopez Island. We were given a very nice view of several dozen harbor seals hauled-out on the rocks of Colville Island. Information we received revealed that members of our Southern Resident Orca whale pods were travelling north into Canadian waters! Captain Carl took us around the islands and we caught up with L2, Grace, and her sons L78, Gaia, and L88, Wave Walker. We had the unique opportunity to visit with this family on both tours today! It was very exciting to watch family members travel and interact on such a beautiful day in the San Juan Islands. Other wildlife throughout the trips included bald eagles, harbor porpoises, and many shorebirds.

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Orca Whales Passing in Front of Anacortes

J-Pod Orca Whales are just north of Anacortes heading our direction. Our morning guests are on-scene now and the afternoon tour is looking good too. Stay tuned for updates from Naturalist Jami Nagel. "Beautiful morning in the islands. We headed up Bellingham channel and had J-pod heading south into Bellingham channel at the north end of Guemes Island. They were spread out about a mile grouped up in their subpods. Our guests were treated to several breaches, some tail-lobbing and a couple of spyhops. We continued south with them into Rosario strait until they headed around the south end of Lopez Island. Other wildlife we encountered today where harbor porpoise, harbor seals, pigeon guillemots, rhinocerus aucklets and bald eagles."-Naturalist Jami Nagel
"On our evening trip headed out and around the South end of Lopez Island into the Strait of Juan de fuca. We caught up to a sleeping J-pod south of Discovery Island, BC. Well all except for the newest member of the pod little J45 who kept spyhopping and tail-lobbing when he was suppose to be resting. When orcas's sleep the shut down one hemisphere of the brain and continue traveling. They also group tightly together. So we were able to identify all 26 members of J-pod tonight. Our return home took us through the breathtaking inner islands. Our guests were also treated to foraging harbor porpoise and harbor seals, rhinoceros aucklets, pigeon guillemots and a bald eagle preach above the water on the southeast end of Lopez Island."-Naturalist Jami Nagel

Friday, June 26, 2009

Orca Whales in Sight!

Captain Carl reports from the Island Explorer 3 that they are on scene with orca whales off Salmon Bank! Stay tuned for details and pictures from Naturalist Kate Janes!

Pigs May Not Fly, But Deer Do Swim!

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

From The Stillness (Cappuccino K21)

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

AM: "We began our search for wildlife northbound up Rosario Strait where we found over 30 Harbor Seals hauled out on Peapod Rocks, a juvenile & mature Bald Eagle had a watchful eye on the Island Explorer 3 as we ventured towards Lawrence Point where we found a Black-tailed deer swimming! This is only the second time in 3 seasons that I personally have witnessed this! After having a good look northbound into the Strait of Georgia we returned south through the inner islands and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca where we found members of K pod moving quickly in our direction. Our first visit was with Georgia (K11) and shortly after we had to opportunity to visit with Cappuccino (K21). The Orcas of K pod were spread out over a few miles and were beginning to move offshore. This change in direction gave us the opportunity to visit with Spock (K20) and her youngster Comet (K38) before heading towards the beautiful pass between Lopez Island & Castle Rock. As we passed Swirl Rocks we to our surprise and delight found a Minke Whale. This little guy (one of the smallest Minkes I have ever laid my eyes on) was zigging and zagging in the small bay allowing our guests to witness the difference between toothed and baleen whales!"

Reflection of a Wave (Opus K16)

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

Above & Below (Above: Opus K16; Below: Sonata K35)

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

Homecoming (Washington State Ferry returning to Anacortes dock with Mt. Baker)

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

PM: "Our evening trip lead us once again through the heart of the San Juans and delivered us into the calm waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We enjoyed a peaceful evening with three different subpods of K pod. Our visit started out on such a high note as Opus (K16) and her 7 year old son Sonata (K35) circled the boat staying very close to the surface of the water allowing our guests to see their white patches shine a brilliant green color from beneath. As Sonata surfaced we noticed that he had a clump of Bull Kelp in his mouth! This fast growing algae is one of their only natural toys! We then enjoyed some great looks at Lea's (K14) subpod (Lobo K26, Yoda K36 and the youngest member of K pod little K42). Leaving the Orcas for a moment we ventured towards some very active birds that were feeding on massive baitballs under the water along side a Minke Whale! Two double headers in one day! We ended our spectacular day in the presence of Georgia's extended family. In this last group four generations were represented as 76 year old Georgia (K11) swam near her 5 year old Great-grand calf Comet(K38). Also present was Skagit (K13), Spock (K20), Scoter (K25), Deadhead (K27) and Cali (K34)." - Naturalist Kate Janes

Thursday, June 25, 2009


J1, Ruffles was one of the stars of our show today!

J2, Granny, joined Ruffles soon after we arrived.

Harbor seals relaxing on Colville Island.

On our way out to look for orcas we slowed down at Colville Island to watch about 75 harbor seals hauled out on the rocks during an extreme low tide of minus 3. We found our first orcas of the day off the west side of San Juan Island. J27, Blackberry, was the first orca we saw, and he zig-zagged his way right toward us, apparently chasing fish. He gave everybody a great view as he passed in front of the bow. Next we found J1, Ruffles, slowly swimming by himself. He came over for a great visit. Soon after that we spotted J2, Granny, who did a spyhop, and Ruffles swam over to join her. The mother and son tandem swam side by side for the next 15 minutes as we watched. Next we got some great looks at J17, Princess Angeline with her new calf, J44, J28, Polaris, J35, Tahlequah, And J30 Riptide. On our way back to the dock we spotted many harbor porpoises and a bald eagle carrying a branch that we watched him tear off a tree on Burrows Island. Other wildlife we spotted today included two pacific loons, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, pelagic cormorants, double-crested cormorants, and a great blue heron, We had a great day today! Naturalist Bart Rulon

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On Scene with J-Pod Orca Whales

Captain Michael and the crew of the Island Explorer 3 are showing our guests Orca Whales. Click here to see the location of the whales from space and stay tuned for updates from Naturalist Kate Janes.

No So Suttle, Suttles (Suttles J40)

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

Bend It Like Riptide (Riptide J30)

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

Riptide Making Waves

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

Land Sausages All in a Row (Harbor Seals on Puffin Island)

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

"Our day may have started out with some liquid sunshine but our guests found out through experience that one just needs patience and the weather is bound to change and change it did. It wasn't long off the dock that Captain Michael found us some blue sky and even some sunshine! It was in a patch of sunshine that we found the Orcas. Our first whale of the day was my favorite boy (shouldn't have favorites I know), Blackberry J27, was cruising off on his own. On his flukes were a couple of feisty youngsters, Riptide (J30) and his little sister Suttles (J40). These two whales were having quite the time backdiving, rolling about, little Suttles spyhopped and Riptide even gave us a nice breach that produced quite the splash. We spent the remaining time with these two fun-loving whales who were definitely the most surface active out of the whales that were spread out over a couple of miles. On our way back to the dock we had the opportunity to slow down at Puffin Island where we found a huge Bald Eagle's nest with a chick in nest situated right above a Harbor Seal hang-out! We even got a glimpse of a Black Oystercatcher who was trying very hard not to be seen but wasn't so shy about being heard!" - Naturalist Kate Janes

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

J-Pod and K-Pod Orca Whales, and 5 Minke Whales

"Another great day on the Salish Sea," reports Captain Carl from Island Explorer 3. Lots of Orca Whales and 5 Minkes too. Stay tuned for an update from Naturalist Kate Janes and click here to see the location of the whales from space.

Orca Bellies!

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

She Was Out There (Sequim K12- for a passenger)

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

The Photo That Figured Them Out! (L to R: Yoda K36, Lea K14 & little K42)

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. (Lea K14 surfaces)

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

"Leaving the dock not a soul on board had any idea what was in store for us later in the day. As we made our way towards Discovery Island we found 5 Minke Whales just south of Salmon Bank. This was a great start to the day as the Minkes kept appearing all around the boat. We eventually continued onward towards the Orcas. Arriving on scene the whales were very spread out traveling in subpods. Captain Carl found the most active group and they did NOT disappoint. It seemed as if each whale was assigned a behavior to show off for the watchful eyes above the water. One whale was the queen of breaching, another had mastered the caudal peduncle throw, while a wee one seemed to love waving (taillobing)! In that first group we saw Rainshadow (K37) and upon further inspection of the photos from the day Sequim (K12), mother of Rainshadow, was also enjoying the calm conditions. Eventually we did move south of False Bay towards another group who gave us quite the gift. Lea (K14), her daughter Yoda (K36) and the newest member of K pod, K42 (who was born last summer) circled the boat multiple times forcing us to shut down the engines and soak it all in. At one point little K42 swam just along side the boat just barely under the water and slowly turned to one side. You could actually see this youngster peering up at us through the water. This sent chills down my back. What an incredible moment. We didn't end the day there on the way back to the dock we found 2 more Minke Whales, a mature Bald Eagle, and more Harbor Porpoise!" - Naturalist Kate Janes

Monday, June 22, 2009

Orca Whales Spotted Near the Straits of Georgia!

Passengers are enjoying the company of K and L Pods this afternoon. They also report sightings of a dozen bald eagles! Stay tuned to the whale report for further details from Naturalist Kate Janes.

Eagle & Seal Club

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

K13 Subpod (L to R: Comet K38, Spock K20, Skagit K13, Scoter K25, & Cali K34)

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

"The inner islands beckoned the Island Explorer 3 into its magical waters as we ventured toward Canadian waters where the Southern Resident Orcas were. Along the way our guests enjoyed Harbor Seals swimming and lounging atop small islands, Pigeon Guillemots, Rhinoceros Auklets, a Great Blue Heron fishing on the shoreline, a fast moving Belted Kingfisher, Harbor Porpoise and a dozen Bald Eagles perched atop Flattop Island! Entering in Haro Strait we saw in the distance Orcas spread out over miles of flat calm water and under a blue sky! The first subpod we visited with was Skagit (K13), Spock (K20), K38, Scoter (K25), Deadhead (K27) and Cali (K34). We watched this close knit family group swimming in close proximity to one another and as we watched the sounds of their exhalations carried across the water. At one point we seemed to be surrounded by whales, for they could be seen on either side of the boat. Captain Carl joyously called for "whale ping-pong" as guests whipped their heads back and forth between various groups! There was one subpod that had a very breach happy youngster who must have breached a dozen times during our visit. Our last visit was with Opus (K16), Sonata (K35) and Gaia (L78)." - Naturalist Kate Janes

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Superpod of Orca Whales!

Captain Michael just reported in saying that the Island Explorer 3 is on scene with LOTS of Orca Whales near Pender Island. Our guests got to see Orca Whales on both of our tours today. Stay tuned for a full report from Naturalist Kate Janes.

Water Lessons (Black-tailed Doe & twin fawns)

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

Go Big or Go Home!

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

AM: "This morning lead us out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca where we found members of all 3 Southern Resident Pods (J, K & L pods) milling about False Bay region. We were treated to an array of activity- from breaching to spyhops with a few taillobs, pec slaps, caudal peduncle throws and a few back dives sprinkled in for good measure! We had great looks at a group of males that decided to do a little showing off near the boat which included Blackberry (J27), Mega (L41) and young Doublestuff (J34). There was even a youngster traveling with its mom that was really breach happy near the shoreline. The weather really made a fantastic turn opening up to brilliant blue sky right when we arrived on scene with the whales and as we returned to the dock found 3 Minke Whales feeding on Salmon Bank! Quite the trip."


Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

In the Still of the Night

Photo by Naturalist Kate Janes

PM: " The afternoon brought us through the heart of the San Juans to Haro Strait where we enjoyed a SUPER pod! All three pods met up for the first time in the San Juans this summer against a magical setting in the low light of the day. Our guests enjoyed the sleeping pods as they synchronized swimming through the still water. The sounds of their exhalations mesmerized as they gently rolled in tight formation. Young and old swam side by side. The pods merged blurring the family lines. A few of the youngsters attempted to wake the rest of the pod as they squirmed about taillobing and started to stir without any avail. During our visit we watched as the Center for Whale Research and lead biologist Ken Balcomb and his team photographed the Southern Residents which will help determine the summer 2009 census. Great to see science and research at work on the water!" -Naturalist Kate Janes

Saturday, June 20, 2009

J-pod is Back!!

J27, Blackberry, does a huge spyhop!!

J28, Polaris comes out of the water.

A bald eagle nest complete with chick and adult.

We finally saw J-pod after a long absence today. We had word that J-pod was heading north before we left the dock today so we cruised as fast as we could toward Point Roberts in hope of catching up with them. Along the way we spotted hundreds of harbor porpoises in Georgia Strait. We ended up in Canada when we finally reached J-pod orcas. They were spread out over a few miles. First mate, Liam, was the hero by spotting the trailing orcas in the group, allowing us to spend more time with them than we had expected. Rhapsody, J32, gave us our first great looks as she swam very close to us, and appeared to be chasing some salmon. Next another small group approached including Polaris, J28, who breached for us! Next we saw Blackberry, J27, coming close so we spent our last minutes watching him. He made the day for our passengers when he swam up toward the bow and did a huge spyhop. Everybody cheered! On the way back home we spent a few minutes watching a pair of bald eagles, and their chick at the nest on Puffin Island. It was so great to see J-pod again!! Naturalist Bart Rulon

Friday, June 19, 2009

Gray Whales

One of two gray whales we saw today.

Who's watching who? A harbor seal checks us out.

Bald eagles practice synchronized landing on Bird Rocks

Today we started out southward and found two gray whales just north of the naval air station on Whidbey Island. They were swimming side by side and they surfaced near us many times. It looked like they were feeding as they would occasionally go under the water with one tail fluke in the air as they swam on their sides. The wind was building so we weren't able to go out to some of our favorite spots to look for minke whales, but we did tuck in and take a look at Bird Rocks where hundreds of double-crested cormorants, and glaucous-winged gulls were getting stirred up by a pair of bald eagles perched on the rocks. Every time the eagles took flight all the birds would scatter. Next we headed north through Rosario Strait and toward the shoreline of Cypress Island where we spotted a cooperative pod of harbor porpoises, and lots of curious harbor seals that seemed to enjoy watching us as much as we enjoyed watching them. The seas were very calm in this area making the end of our journey a peaceful one along with the beautiful sunset! Naturalist Bart Rulon