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Saturday, April 17, 2010

More Transients and Great Wildlife

We have had a couple of great trips aboard the Western Prince in the last two days. On both occasions we left the dock without a whale report and ended up seeing transient orcas, as well as a lot of other wildlife!

On Friday we met up with T14 Pender who was traveling by himself. He's a whale with an amazing story, which I summarized on another blog post here. In summary, those notches on the front edge of his dorsal fin are from when he was surgically fitted with a tagging device in 1976.


While it's always awesome to spend time with an adult male orca, the rest of the wildlife was fantastic as well. When it comes to birds, in addition to several adult and immature bald eagles we saw a flock of 1000 or so Bonaparte's gulls in summer plumage; many common loons, rhinoceros auklets, and pelagic cormorants; a belted kingfisher which chattered right alongside the boat; and six beautiful harlequin ducks sitting right with a pair of clownish-looking black oystercatchers.

After looking at 50+ mouflon sheep on Spieden Island, we were cruising past Green Point when we found a group of four Steller sea lions in the water. Much to our surprise, a smaller, darker California sea lion surfaced right in with them! While all the crew on board had seen California and Steller sea lions hauled out together before, this was the first time any of us had seen them swimming together in a tight pack.

On both days we saw a bald eagle perched on the Kelp Reef marker

On Saturday were admiring a group of harbor seals hauled out near Yellow Island when we got the call of a rumored orca report near Victoria, BC. It was a ways away, but we decided to go in that direction so we would be in good position if the report was substantiated. It was glassy calm crossing Haro Strait, and we spotted several small groups of harbor porpoise. For a brief time we were also accompanied by a pair of Dall's porpoise riding just off our bow.

By the time we were in Canadian waters a couple of other boats had located the reported whales - a male and female transient. They were slowly heading away from us, but we were able to catch up with them a little ways west of Trial Island. It was spectacular to watch them surfacing in the tranquil gray waters with the Olympic Mountains partially shrouded in clouds behind them. The male was T103, who is over 40 years old. He often travels with female T104, but this wasn't her - this female had a tear on the trailing edge of her dorsal fin. As of right now, it is still a mystery as to who she was!


We had a bit of a rougher ride on our way back to San Juan Island, but the water settled down in Cattle Pass where we stopped to look at 15 or more Steller sea lions hauled out on Whale Rocks. All in all, another great couple of days on the water around the San Juan Islands.

2 comments:

Katie J. said...

Yep, certainly T103. I'm gonna go have a look through the T catalogue at the center tomorrow morning and see if I can't figure out the other. Pretty cool to see a somewhat "obscure" whale though...

Monika said...

Katie - Definitely cool to see an obscure whale! I wonder why T104 wasn't there? Jeanne talked to the Center and said they didn't immediately know who it was. Let me know if you figure it out. See ya tomorrow!