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Monday, April 5, 2010

First Trip of the Season

Our unpredictable weather has continued, as it feels like we've experienced all four seasons here in the Pacific Northwest in the last two weeks. The other day while I posted my brief update on the blog, we were in the middle of a torrential hail storm that ended up with the ground covered like it had snowed for several hours. Still, we got enough of a break in the weather yesterday (cloudy and breezy instead of rainy and windy!) to head out both on land and on the water.

Down at my COASST survey beach we didn't find any beached birds, but we did see and hear a purple finch (132). A little later, I got to work the first Western Prince trip of the season with ten adventurous passengers. Our first stop was along Spieden Island where large groups of the exotic Mouflon sheep were out grazing on the hillside. The big rams have striking dark coloration this time of year, and many of the ewes were being trailed by small lambs. On nearby Sentinel Island, dozens of harbor seals lounged on the low-lying rocks.

Spring is a great time for bird-watching in the San Juan Islands. One highlight was certainly the bald eagles, as we saw multiple pairs of them throughout the trip. We saw many other sea birds as well, such as pelagic cormorants, harlequin ducks, rhinoceros auklets (133), and pigeon guillemots (134).

We cruised through a few areas where the marine mammal feeding transient orcas have been spotted on occasion over the last few weeks, and while we didn’t have any luck locating them today, it’s always a beautiful ride to travel between the San Juan Islands and the Canadian Gulf Islands, and a few of our passengers who were helping us scan got glimpses of harbor porpoise.

Our last sighting before heading back to Friday Harbor was of a pair of impressive male Steller sea lions. They will only be around the San Juans for another month or so before they start heading back to their breeding rookeries farther to the north. These behemoths are up to twelve feet long, and certainly dwarfed the harbor seals we saw in the water nearby.

Overall, it was a great first day on the water! But I'm definitely still looking forward to a return to some nice sunny weather....


Warren Baker said...

Good to get your sea legs back eh?

Whats gone wrong with the blogger, the photo's havn't come up ?

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Good luck for the new season Monika - got my first on-ship cetacean survey coming up at the end of the month - looking forward to it.