My mom and a friend are here for a few days and we decided to get out on the water this afternoon with Captain Hobbes of San Juan Island Whale and Wildlife Tours. The Southern Residents have made themselves scarce again, but I was excited to get the chance to check out some of the amazing minke whale activity that's been going on this summer off the south end of San Juan Island.
It was a bit foggy as we made our way south down San Juan Channel, but things began to clear a little as we approached Whale Rocks where the Steller sea lions are already staking out their winter territory. Here's part of a three-way argument over who gets to sit on this rock:
We didn't have to go far out onto the straits - just to Salmon Bank - before we came to an area where three minke whales were feeding. We saw at least two of them, but spent most of our time with this unique individual known as Trotsky II. Most minkes aren't as easily identified as killer whales, but this one's characteristic notch helps him stand out.
Despite being a rather gray day, it was a beautiful day to be on the water. The waters were calm and the scenery was, as always, stunning.
There were salmon jumping everywhere - so much so that I was actually able to catch a few on camera! You have to be even quicker to catch a salmon breach than an orca breach, but luckily they also seemed to like to do jump several times in a row on occasion. While cool to see, these clearly weren't Chinook salmon, which may explain the absence of our black and white friends!
It wasn't just fish and whales out there, either. There wasn't a lot of seabird activity right while we were there, but I did see some more red-necked phalaropes. (I saw my first of the year on last Thursday's whale excursion, making them year bird #168 after I added wandering tattler as #167 after coming across the relatively rare for here sandpiper at American Camp a few days before.)
I couldn't resist taking this photo of the boat I used to work on, the Western Prince, with the dramatic clouds and Olympic Mountains behind it:
Days like today are never bad days to be on the water!