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Sunday, November 10, 2019

November 10: A memorable day on the water

Things have been changing so much and so quickly in the Salish Sea; the transformations are astounding. When I first started spending time up here 20 years ago, both humpback and transient killer whales were rare sights. Now, they are around almost daily - even in November! With a friend up visiting for a long weekend, we headed out on the water with Maya's Legacy today and our sightings rivaled a good day during the "peak season" (whatever that is anymore!)

Early in the morning a report came in of the T18s near Orcas Island, and luckily they didn't travel too far too fast. We caught up with them at the west end of Spieden Channel, where they were first split into pairs with T18 Esperanza and T19 Spouter together, and T19 Mooyah and T19B Galiano about a mile further to the west.

18 year-old male T19C Spouter
A little while after we got there, the two groups merged and started making their way northwest up Haro. 

From left to right T19B Galiano, T18 Esperanza, and T19C Spouter

They were zig-zagging a bit, but their final surfacing before we left was perfectly lined up with the Turn Point l=Lighthouse. What a sight!

The T18s in front of the Turn Point Lighthouse
As we reversed course back through Spieden Channel we slowed down along Spieden Island. With its exotic wildlife, it rarely disappoints, but it was exceptional today. There were hundreds of Mouflon sheep, sika deer, and fallow deer out; more sika deer than I had ever seen, in fact!

Sika deer buck
It's also rutting season, which means there's plenty of drama unfolding! This male was bleating at these two very unimpressed females.

Male fallow deer bleating
We were distracted from the exotic wildlife when we spotted a family of river otters running along the hillside! They darted down into the water but 7 of them tried to all climb out on this little rock at the same time, some of them sneaking a curious look at us as we looked at them. One of the collective nouns for a group of otters is a "romp", and watching them today, you could see why!

A romp of sea otters

Down at Green Point there weren't any Steller sea lions hauled out, but there was a gang of them in the water. This one looks vicious in the photo, but he was just yawning.

We only got a quick look at the sea lions, because just across San Juan Channel was a humpback whale! We were shaking our heads in bewilderment at so many sightings on a chilly November afternoon! It was BCY0160 known as Heather, who seemed to just be doing circles.

BCY0160 Heather
It was just a short ride back to Friday Harbor from there, but I kept my camera out anyway, and I was glad I did! Eight ancient murrelets were flying amazingly fast, keeping pace with us for about a minute!

Ancient murrelets in San Juan Channel
By the end of the day, by my count, we had seen eight mammal species and about another dozen marine bird species - not too shabby!

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