Our trip started out under beautiful sunny skies as we left Cap Sante and rounded the corner into Guemes Channel. The wildlife sightings started right off the bat with a great blue heron perched on the breakwater as we left home port.
As we headed south in Rosario Strait we saw harbor porpoise on both sides of the boat. The small cetaceans were busy foraging in the current lines and so we pressed on as well. With the sunshine and flat calm seas everyone was busy looking as far as they could for creatures of all sizes.
Before heading out into the open waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca we slowed down near Colville Island. Some harbor seals were hauled out enjoying the sunshine and several more were swimming nearby. Above them a juvenile bald eagle was perched on the rocks and before we peeled off to search for bigger critters it flew off towards Lopez Island.
Back out in the straits we searched far and wide for more wildlife and we were rewarded with two Steller sea lions attracting the attention of a group of gulls as they thrashed around at the surface. One had caught a skate and was working on ripping it apart into more manageable pieces to eat. The other guy wanted in on the feast but his buddy was not in the sharing mood it seemed. Not far away from them we found not one but two groups of Dall's porpoise! They weren't in the mood to bow ride but we did get some great looks at them as they surfaced together. But we weren't done! We cruised south towards Smith Island and as we did our very first minke whale of the season popped up next to us. Unfortunately, this particular whale was being quite slinky and disappeared after that. We waited and cruised towards a bait ball but we didn't see the whale again.
As we were about to leave we had another first of the season! It was two tufted puffins swimming in a large mixed group of birds, including common murres, rhinoceros auklets, and gulls. We got great looks at the two as they swam side by side. What a special treat to see them!
Just about then we got word that some much larger animals had been seen to the north and we quickly cruised that way and boy were we in for yet another treat---it was two humpback whales! Another first for the season! These two whales were animals we have known since they were both calves. At ten years old both Split Fin and Split Fluke have been returning to the Salish Sea since they were babies brought back from the breeding grounds by their mothers. How incredible to see them! They popped up near us and we got some great looks as they swam side-by-side. As we waited for them to surface from one of their deep dives we even got to see a pair of long-tailed ducks swim by. What a day!
Split Fluke (BCX1068), background, and Split Fin (BCZ0298), foreground.
Split Fluke (BCX1068)
After spending some time with BCZ0298 (Split Fin) and BCX1068 (Split Fluke) we had to head back towards home but our wildlife day wasn't done yet! We slowed down and slipped between Castle Rock and Lopez Island where we saw more harbor seals basking in the sun. There was even a Canada Goose hanging out! Back in Rosario Strait we found another minke whale! This one was much more agreeable than our first and gave us some great looks as he or she headed south in Rosario. But they were going the opposite way and we soon bid goodbye to them only to slow down yet again for two more (or were they the same?!) Steller sea lions! These two big guys cruised right in front of the boat giving us some awesome looks at them.
A not so slinky Minke.