Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Whale Trail in Washington

A great resource for the wildlife viewer. There is a system of 25 on-shore (mostly) sites that are good for viewing marine mammals, especially orca whales. Washington waters also regularly host gray and humpback whales and sperm whales were seen this year.

They are in Puget Sound, Staight of Juan de Fuca, on San Juan Island, one on the Pacific Coast. The exception to the on-shore rule is -- on all Washington State Ferries. There is great viewing on the ferries, but who gets to spend much time on them?

None of the sites are south of the Tacoma Narrows where we hang out. In the South Sound we have hundreds of resident harbor seals and California sea lions come every year during the darker months. But whales don't regularly go south of the Tacoma Narrows. Though they sometimes do; our next-door neighbor had a close encounter with two orcas (as I recall) about five years ago when he was on his boat that was anchored. Being anchored means he was in shallow water, probably 5 feet of water at our lowest minus 4 tides. And less than two hundred meters from our bulkhead (high tide mark). He had no warning: suddenly they come up near him.

The photo: It's mine! I took it from a 20-foot panga boat in the Pacific Ocean about two miles off the shore of Cabo San Lucas. With my pocket-size digital camera I never use more than 3x telephoto, so you know we were close. When this close you make sure you are following the whale. Don't get in front of hime. We only saw this one whale, but he breached like this continuously for half an hour! Click to enlarge.

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