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Friday, September 24, 2010

A Five Marine Mammal Day - From Shore!

 On Wednesday we had another beautiful, calm, sunny day - a rarity this month! I knew the orcas were still in the area so I decided to head out to the west side and see if I could see them, and maybe some other wildlife. As I pulled up to Lime Kiln I saw a big group of racing Dall's porpoise (species #1) heading up Haro Strait. Just like last year, Dall's porpoise were very scarce in the area during the summer months, but seemed to have returned in pretty good numbers this September.

I found a comfortable rock (yes, there is such a thing!) to sit on, when someone coming by pointed out there was a harbor seal (species #2) sitting right behind me! Funny how I didn't even see him at first, but he didn't seem to mind my presence.

I saw some boats in the distance and, sure enough, I could see they were with the killer whales (species #3) coming east across Haro Strait. Unfortunately for me they decided to go south instead of north towards me, but through binoculars I watched them breach up a storm, which was awesome to see even from a distance.

Another whale-watching boat was heading out towards the whales when all of a sudden it stopped and did a 180 degree turn - a sure sign they spotted something. I looked through binoculars and saw they were with about 15 Pacific white-sided dolphins (species #4)!!!!!!!! This species is normally pretty rare here, but has been seen quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, including groups of them at times seemingly harassing the orcas. I'm not on the water as much anymore, so I hadn't had a chance to see them yet, but they're one marine mammal I've always wanted to see, and this was a very exciting "life mammal" for me. They were making their way closer to where I was sitting when they all dove down, never to be seen again by me, the other shore-based observers watching them, or several boats that searched the strait for them!

I sat and read my book in the sunshine for a while, waiting to see what the orcas might decide to do. When it became clear they were definitely heading south, I decided to pack up and head towards the south end of the Island too. I decided to walk out to the Cattle Point Lighthouse for a panoramic vantage point of the straits:


I sat down on the cliff in front of the lighthouse looking out towards the Olympic Mountains in the distance. The water was glassy calm, and I could see the orcas spread out for miles offshore. Their blows were illuminated by the afternoon sunlight, and I could hear them breathing even from this distance. The few boats that were out with them were all stopped, just hanging out and letting the whales travel and forage where they may. It was a peaceful scene, and as I sat and soaked it all in I lost track of time for a little while. I had such an incredible close encounter with the whales the day before (see my previous post), but this moment reminded me that you don't always have to be close to appreciate the sheer beauty of nature.

I was snapped out of my reverie by a loud "kawpfff!" down below me. It was a Steller sea lion (species #5):

There were more sea lions hauled out over on Whale Rocks across the pass, and they could be heard growling and roaring across the way too.

By the time I got back home, the clouds were starting to move in again, but they created a beautiful pattern in the sky right above our marina:


Kate said...

Awesome pictures Thank you for sharing...:)

Animal Annie said...

Lucky day for you! The harbor seal looks precious.