Tag Archives: San Juan Islands

New Evening Whale Watching Tour Added This Summer

This summer we have added a new whale watching tour that will go out Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during July and August. It’s a great chance to see the islands when summer weather is at it’s peek, while having a great chance of seeing whales and other wildlife. The evening is capped with a delicious, freshly prepared lasagna and Caesar salad dinner.

Departing at 4 pm from the Bellingham Cruise Terminal, we’ll cruise into the San Juan Islands, using information from our whale spotting network to find the best locations for viewing whales that evening. You’ll enjoy great views from the outdoor upper deck and along the bow of the boat, enjoying informative and entertaining narration from our captain.

The Salish Sea has ample indoor and outdoor seating, a bar with beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages available for purchase, and a restroom.

Photos From August 27th Bird Watching Cruise

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!

Whales & Wildlife Report: Whale Watching Season In Full Swing With Lots Of Great Sightings In July

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.

End Of Season Report – Lots Of Whales & Sunshine All Summer Long!

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!

Bird Watching Cruise – 7-5-15 – Smith Island Puffins

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:

Harlequin Ducks

Great Blue heron

Green Heron

Double-crested Cormorant

Pelagic Cormorant

Turkey Vulture

Bald Eagles

Black Oystercatcher

Bonaparte’s Gull

Heerman’s Gull

Western Gull

Glaucous Wing Gull

California Gull

Caspian Tern

Common Murre

Pigeon Guillemot

Marbled Murrelet

Rhinocerous Auklet

Tufted Puffin

Belted Kingfisher

Tree Swallow

Violet-Green Swallow

Whales & Wildlife Report: June 6-8 – Sunshine & Whales

There have been all sorts of whales active in the San Juan Islands over the last few days! Our boats have seen the local Orca pods, transient Orcas, Humpback whales and Minke whales as well. The combination of great wildlife viewing and spectacular sunny days has shown that summer is already here! Passengers have also had some great views of Bald Eagles, otters, seals and sea lions with Mt. Baker in the background. Join us out on the water and see for yourself! We are operating our Deluxe Whale Watching Tour that includes a northwest salmon lunch and a 2-hour port call in Friday Harbor every day.

First Bird Watching Cruise Of The Season – Sucia & Patos Islands

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.

Species List

Harlequin Duck

Surf Scoter

Brandt’s Cormorant

Pelagic Cormorant

Turkey Vulture

Bald Eagle

Peregrine Falcon

Great Blue Heron

Black Oystercatcher

Bonaparte’s Gull

California Gull

Caspian Tern

Glaucous-Winged Gull

Pigeon Guillemot

Rhinoceros Auklet

Rock Pigeon

Belted Kingfisher

American/Northwest Crow

Tree Swallow

Violet-Green Swallow

Barn Swallow

Pacific Wren

White-Crowned Sparrow

American Goldfinch

Whales & Wildlife Report: September 7, 2014 – Sunshine & Whales

While the kids are back to school and many people have wrapped up their summer vacationing, we’re still running tours daily through September 21st. The sunshine and whale sightings, which have been plentiful throughout the summer, continued this weekend. We had sightings of resident and transient Orca whales, as well as Minke whales, all weekend long. Their location has varied each day – one day we saw them north near Patos Island, then today we watched another group south of San Juan and Lopez Islands.