Our route today sent us north and we took a right up Bellingham Channel and before we'd gotten very far we'd ticked off bald eagles one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven! Around us we had some great looks at our smallest and shyest cetacean, the harbor porpoise. But we were definitely looking for bigger critters and they would be found not long after we crossed over into Canadian waters. Annie, one of our former naturalists, spotted whales up ahead, and not just any whales but orcas!
As we got dialed in on their location and speed we found we were with some marine mammal-eating orcas, also known as Transients (or Ts!), and it wasn't long before we spotted some familiar fins in the mix. The T86As, consisting of a mother and her three offspring, were swimming with the T124As and they were exhibiting their "typical" sneaky behavior, changing directions and eventually splitting from each other. We'd soon find out that it was probably because there were A TON of other Ts in the area! Whales at eleven o'clock! Three o'clock! Six o'clock! Whales inshore, more offshore! Everywhere you looked there were whales to be seen! When we first arrived they had been heading north but it wasn't long before they flip-flopped and started heading back south again.
After the turn T86A popped up with her newest kiddo, a little whale who wasn't in our ID guide yet, and a big male. It was T102, and that explained the other big dorsal fins we were seeing off in the distance. We had at least a third family group so far, the T101s, headed by matriarch T101 and her three sons, T102, T101A, and T101B. As we headed off further south to meet up with yet another group of transients the T86As and T101s grouped up behind us as they continued their journey south.
T86A and her youngest offspring, T86A4.
T102 and T86A4.
But our T-party wasn't over yet! Up popped three members of the T124As. They crossed right in front of our bow, wowing everyone on board!
A member of the T124As.
We had to bid farewell to our orca friends but little did we know we weren't quite done for the day. As Captain Scott cruised past the Patos Island lighthouse he spotted two huge plumes of mist just to the west of the island in glassy calm waters. It was two humpback whales and we officially had a double-header! These guys didn't seem to be going anywhere in a hurry and had long down times but we were able to see that one of them is a "regular" of ours---Split Fluke (BCX1068). We didn't get an ID shot on his friend before we had to continue our push south towards home.
As we cruised back down past Lummi Island we found more harbor porpoise and bald eagles eight and nine on Jack Island. One of them was sitting on their nest. On the east side of Guemes Island we got to see some cormorants flying in to land on their cliffside perches and then found even more bald eagles! Ten and eleven were perched together in a tree, sitting side-by-side and there were two more pairs soaring high up on the thermals above the island.