Yesterday was my first time getting out on the water for the 2014 season, as I hopped aboard with my former employer Western Prince Whale and Wildlife Tours out of Friday Harbor. We left the dock without any whale reports, but I had a good vibe about the day, and it wasn't too far up San Juan Channel before we came across a group of obliging harbor porpoise that gave us all some good looks.
Shortly after this, we go the word we had all been hoping for, that the group of transient orcas seen the day before had been relocated. They were way north in the Canadian Gulf Islands, just at the edge of our range - in fact, after going through Active Pass, we turned north a bit further, taking me further than I had ever been on the Western Prince when I worked there! It was well worth the journey, as soon became apparent when we got on scene with the five whales.
The family group was the T65As, made up of mama T65A and her four surviving offspring, including little T65A5 that was first seen in March of this year.
|T65A5, only a couple months old, pokes its head up|
The whales had apparently made a kill a while before we got there, so these mammal-eating whales were out of stealth mode and into party mode. The whole group of them, particularly the juveniles, seemed to be in a frisky, playful mood.
|Three year-old T65A4 lunges|
We heard one of the whales vocalize at the surface, which encouraged the captain to drop the hydrophone into the water. We heard a few more eerie vocals over the boat's speakers.
|From left to right: T65A2, T65A4, T65A5|
The setting was beautiful, too, in the south Strait of Georgia - the whales even passed in front of our distant view of Mt. Baker:
|Calf T65A5 with Mt. Baker in the background|
It was pretty special getting to spend some time with this family! We started heading back to our home port and took a different route back, by East Point. Here we stopped to enjoy the abundant wildlife that seems to always hang out here in the spring of recent years, including hundreds of Bonaparte's gulls in their black-headed summer plumage. I love these gulls! They're smaller than our regular gulls and look so buoyant in flight.
|One black oystercatcher in with this flock of Bonaparte's gulls - do you see him?|
We also got some quick looks at about twenty long-tailed ducks:
And on the nearby haulouts were lots of Steller sea lions and harbor seals:
|Steller sea lions at East Point off Saturna Island, BC|
We saw such a variety of wildlife, it was all I could have hoped for during my first afternoon getting out on the water this season!