April 1- Encounter near Spieden

© Five Star Whale Watching/ Andrew Lees. Image — A fish-eating orca whale, belonging to J-pod, surfaces with its pod today near Spieden Island, north of San Juan Island.

Our journey out in the Salish Sea was very exciting day, and was filled with some remarkable sights and sounds! We were fortunate to encounter a large selection of wildlife.

We headed north, through Haro Strait and past Spieden Island. In the 1970’s-1980’s the island functioned as a big-game hunting reserve, complete with imported Sika deer, Mouflon sheep and fallow deer which still exist on the island today.

Near Spieden Island is where we encountered marine mammals, a pod of orca whales! The pod was J-pod, one of three distantly related pods in the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) community. The SRKW’s depend on salmon for survival, feeding on Chinook salmon almost entirely. The SRKW clan unfortunately faces severe threats due to lessening food availability; it is our hope that they have been able to forage successfully in the waters of the Salish Sea.

We were able to witness lots of individuals surfacing together in unison. It is often possible to identify individual orca whales by physical characteristics such as dorsal fin shape and size (especially in males) and differences in markings (i.e. eyepatches, saddlepatches).

It was a glorious sight to see these animals surface in the calm waters with a beautiful West Coast setting. On the island itself, we were fortunate to witness some Mouflon sheep and deer. Resting on the rocks of the shoreline were Steller Sea Lions, massive pinnipeds that are found along the British Columbia coast.

We had a truly special day out on the water, being more than fortunate to encounter various species. Although we covered a vast distance in our search, we were rewarded with a beautiful encounter with a memorable orca family.

To view more images from today’s trip, click on the link below:

April 1st- J-pod near Spieden Island

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