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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October 28-31: An Abundance of Salish Sea Wildlife

The weather this October has just been spectacular, right up through today, the last day of the month. We've had a few windy days and some heavy rain, but the number of clear, sunny days is certainly more than I remember having in recent years. This has provided a lot of opportunity to get out and enjoy this amazing place we live, and in the last few days the wildlife viewing has just been awesome.

On the evening of October 28th, we went out to Lime Kiln for sunset and enjoyed seeing all kinds of bird life passing by over the flat-calm seas.

Great blue heron
Tranquil autumn sunset
On the evening of October 29th, the transient killer whale family the T2Cs were making their way up San Juan Channel. A friend offered to let us hop aboard their boat out of Friday Hrabor, and the result was another memorable sunset!

T2C1 Rocky
When we had a view of Mt. Baker, we got two photo ops of two different cetacean species under the mountain. First, the orcas....

T2C1 Rocky under Mt. Baker
And then a pair of humpbacks passed by heading in the opposite direction!

Humpback whale under Mt. Baker
Then when we were stopped to get our last look before heading back to port, the whales surfaced after a dive right off our bow. 

T2C2 (the whale with scoliosis) and calf T2C4

Calf T2C4

The sunset on our way in

Then on October 30th (my birthday!) we took a hike down at Cattle Point. We came across a harbor seal with a huge salmon.

Nearby was a pair of river otters who were chowing down on forage fish. When one of them caught a larger rockfish, they both came ashore for a bit.

Otter on the upper right has a rockfish

While watching the otters, we also saw some harlequin ducks in perfect lighting.

Then today, the 31st, the sun continued and the waters were calm so we headed out for an afternoon boat trip. We originally thought we might see some sea lions, but they were the only thing we didn't see! We did find several groups of Bonaparte's gulls, which are one of my favorite birds to photograph.

This one has a little shrimp-like creature

A lot of the other winter birds are back too, including bufflehead, red-necked and horned grebes, and surf scoters. But the species that stole the show was a total surprise - the harbor porpoise! Don't get me wrong, I like harbor porpoise just fine, but more often than not they are very difficult to view. You may get just one or two glimpses and then they're gone. The one exception is when you get a large group actively foraging, and today we found just that with more than 100 of them off Green Point on Spieden Island. There were porpoise surfacing in every direction you looked.

We even saw some porpoise porpoising in the distance!

We shut down for a while to listen to their "chuffing" blows, and were rewarded with several close looks.

I've never seen (or photographed) a harbor porpoise swimming straight at me from such close range!

So concludes another beautiful month in the Salish Sea!


jdrlopez said...

What a diverse gallery of wildlife all in one day! Thanks for sharing your pics. All you're missing is a sea otter lol. I actually saw a sea otter the other day off the south side of Long Island (on Sat the 30th), very cool. Definitely sea not river otter, got a pic. Question: where were the humpbacks swimming? I'm trying to visualize where you'd be seeing them with Baker behind.

Monika said...

Thanks for your comments! I figured Dall's porpoise was the other species missing ;)

So cool you saw a sea otter! I've seen them twice in Haro Strait, and there's one that hangs out near Race Rocks, but they're definitely not a common sight here.

The humpbacks were swimming south down San Juan Channel at the top of Griffin Bay.

Vera said...

Wow! What more can I say.....