July 26, 2016 – As we left the harbour this morning, fog loomed low over the Olympic mountains to the South. Our way was clear, however, as we headed out toward San Juan Island to see killer whales. On the way across Haro Strait, we encountered a pleasant surprise – a solitary feeding humpback whale! She was taking shallow dives, surfacing slowly. She was, as Biologist Kat says, “chilling out” – not exactly a scientific behavioural term, but accurate. About a mile away, we finally caught up with J Pod’s ‘A’ group. We spent some quality time watching Blackberry (J27) and his little brother Mako (J39) foraging along the shore.
As we came on the scene, our first look at J27 was of his huge 6-foot dorsal fin cutting the water in quick, staccato motions. He was chasing a fish just below the surface, and we could see every stroke of his powerful tail as he caught up to a tasty Chinook salmon and lunged to the surface to catch it! On our way back to the harbour, we stopped in the East Chain Islets and had a great look at 40-50 harbour seals hauled out on the rocks, mostly mothers with their sweet little pups.
This afternoon, we did it all again! The humpback had moved on, but we caught up with our favourite brothers again as they continued foraging. The rest of J Pod was catching up, and we watched as the boys were obviously getting called home by the matriarch. Blackberry gave us a nice look at his pectoral flippers as he slapped them on the water to signal the pod, and just as we turned to leave, Mako joined in, jumping and flailing with his little fins like he was waving goodbye. We had another good look at Chain Islets on the way home, but this time, many of the seals were in the water. We had a nice look at a mom and pup frolicking and scent-bonding (touching noses) in the shallows, and those weren’t the only babies: there were several proud seagull moms waddling around the rocks with their mango-sized fuzzy grey chicks in tow! All in all, a nice day to have a look at some happy families in the Salish Sea.