We had a great bird watching cruise this past weekend, a trip that took us through the middle of the San Juans, then north to Sucia and Patos Islands. We saw a nice variety of birds, with seals, sea lions and a Humpback whale as well. Thanks to Jim Bachman for his incredible photos from the day!
One of our passengers, Erich T., sent us some great photos from our whale watching tour this past Sunday. It was a great, sunny day in the San Juans, with lots of whales seen.
It’s been a spectacular season so far, with lots of great Orca and Humpback whale sightings, with several days that we’ve had multiple sightings. Summer weather has finally arrived as well, so now is really a great time to go out to the islands on a whale watching cruise. Our deluxe and half-day whale watching tours are available, with reservations recommended – you can call 1-800-443-4552 or book online.
Despite the early morning rain (which let up halfway through the day), it was a spectacular day in the San Juans for whale watching. Our first half day whale watching tour aboard the Chinook was successful in finding a group of Southern Resident Orca whales near Vancouver Island, and our deluxe whale watching tour found Humpback and Minke whales.
What an amazing season this was – the weather was close to perfect with lots of warm sunshine, but this was topped by the number of whale sightings. With the season over we saw whales on just over 95% of our cruises, and there was a great variety of whales to be seen as well. In addition to the three resident pods of Orca whales (J, K and L pods), we saw lots of transient Orcas, Minke whales, Humpback whales (especially in May and September), Gray whales and towards the end of the season we even saw a Fin whale a few times.
This season also saw the resident group grow by 5 – 4 of these babies just received names (Scarlet, Nova, Sonic and Windsong) and a fifth (L-122) was just born a few weeks ago and will be given a name soon.
Thanks to everyone who joined us on a tour this season – we’re already at work getting ready for next summer!
It has been an amazing summer filled with great weather and lots and lots of whale sightings. The majority of the time we’ve been seeing the three resident pods of Orca whales (J, K and L pods), with occasional transient Orca and Humpback whale sightings. Add absolutely amazing weather, with lots of sunshine and warm temperatures, and it’s been one of the best seasons in recent years. It’s not over yet though – we still have over a month of tours left. More information can be found at: http://www.whales.com/Cruises/San-Juan-Adventure-Full-Day-Cruise.aspx
On our final Bird Cruise for the season we went to Smith Island. Smith Island is the only place left in the San Juan Islands where the elusive Tufted Puffins nest and raise their young. It is a remote island and offers the birds an isolated nesting spot. Tufted Puffins usually have the same mate every year and return to the same nesting burrow. Here in the sandstone bluffs of Smith Island they raise their one chick in deep burrows. Both parents take care of the chick and spend their days carrying fish back to the burrow. Within a few short weeks, the chick will leave the nest and start foraging for itself. The thick kelp beds here provide habitat for the small fish eaten by the puffins. By late summer, the puffins will head out to the open ocean where they will spend their winter.
In previous years, Smith Island has always been a place to go and maybe see a couple of puffins. With this nesting colony becoming firmly established, we see puffins on every trip. There were also many other species of birds seen on this trip. There are certain islands where we always see the colorful Harlequin Ducks and Black Oystercatchers. Rhinocerous Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murres, and Marbled Murrelets are other Auk species that we see.
(Photo Credit to Jim Bachman). Jim has been coming out with us on nearly every bird cruise for the last three years. (When Jim is on the boat, I don’t even take my camera out of its case) He has always generously shared his beautiful photos with us.)
Species list for this trip:
Great Blue heron
Glaucous Wing Gull
We have really enjoyed all of the sunshine we’ve received this spring – it’s been absolutely gorgeous just about every day we’ve been out this season. It’s now summer, and this weather is set to continue for the next 7-10 days or so. We’ve seen lots of wildlife on recent tours – Minke whales have been plentiful, and yesterday we saw a group of Orca whales on the west side of San Juan Island. Saturday was the best though – transient Orcas (T-69’s) on the outbound trip to Friday Harbor, and a different group of transient Orcas (T-65’s) on the way back to Bellingham. If you want to join us on a whale watch this summer, more information can be found here: http://www.whales.com/Cruises/San-Juan-Adventure-Full-Day-Cruise.aspx
The day was just right for bird watching. Calm seas and sunshine. We went up Hale Passage and crossed Rosario Strait to Sucia Island. Slowly cruising around the Finger Islands through Echo Bay, we saw a Pigeon Guillemot nesting colony here. On the eastern side of the bay, there was a large congregation of Harlequin Ducks. It was one of the largest flocks that many of us had ever seen. Heading north and rounding the northern tip of Patos Island gave us a great view of Mt. Baker with the lighthouse in the foreground. There were many harbor porpoise and harbor seals feeding in the tide rips. One of the harbor porpoise had a very small calf with her. Harbor porpoise are very boat shy, and they do not come close. However, we had a small pod come right next to the boat. We returned home on a different route and saw many different species of birds to add to our list. The nesting colonies that we observed were Pigeon Guillemots, Double Crested and Pelagic Cormorants, and Glaucous Wing Gulls. There was a pair of Black Oystercatchers at the same nesting spot that we observed last year; they tend to not nest in colonies. Last season we were able to watch the chicks from incubation to almost fledging. We saw two Peregrine Falcon nests and a Bald Eagle’s nest. One of the parents was feeding the chicks. One of our passengers was able to add five birds to her Life List.
Great Blue Heron
As we move from weekend whale watching tours to daily tours, we’re encourages by all of the great whale sightings we’ve had so far this season, as well as the amazing weather forecast over the next 7-10 days or so. Although there was some light rain today, it’s supposed to warm up into the weekend, with temps in the lower 80s. Now’s a great time to head out to the San Juan Islands on our whale watching tour and beat the summer crowds, while enjoying some great summertime warmth out on the water.
Here are a few photos from some of our recent tours – the first four of which came from from one of our passengers (First four photos below courtesy of Webb Photos).