Category Archives: Wildlife

Whales, Whales and More Whales!

The Strait of Juan de Fuca has had extraordinary numbers of humpback whales and sightings of a rare-to-these-waters fin whale. Orcas are active and part of the viewing spectacular! Definitely, local attention has been focused on the waters and the whales. On a recent whale-watching tour out of Port Angeles, we saw the trifecta! All three species - humpbacks, fin and Orcas. It was an astounding feeling to have possibly two dozen humpbacks surrounding the boat, breaching, and spouting. With the engines off we could hear them nearby when they were spouting. The fin whale looked rather like a very large brown log floating in the water, until it moved! It was a huge animal. The fin is the second largest whale after the blue whale. The Orcas were feeding, so we missed their usual playful behavior. But, again with the engines off, the Captain lowered a microphone into the water. We heard them talking to one another. Phenomenal! Here's what the naturalist aboard the ship the day we went had to say about our viewings:

Humpbacks and Orcas and a Fin, Oh My!

Port Angeles Highlights: Dozens of Humpbacks L-Pod Resident Orcas "The" Fin Whale Mt. Baker What happens when you mix sunny skies, flat seas, snow-capped peaks, and three species of whale?  Just another great day at the office with Port Angeles Whale Watch! The visibility today was phenomenal providing views of both the Olympic mountain range and Mt. Baker of the North Cascades. The humpbacks were up first, with many of the dozens of whales we spotted yesterday still feeding in the area.  Notable individuals that could be identified included BCX0298 "Split Fin", BCX1068 "Split Fluke", BCX1193 "Zig Zag", and CS631, but there were many, many more whales spouting and fluking in the distance. We next got a call of possible killer whales to the northeast so decided to investigate.  Sure enough, we arrived to see several members of the Southern Resident L-Pod spread out foraging for salmon.  While many of the whales were quite scattered, mom L77 "Matia" and her 4-year old calf, L119 "Joy" stayed nearby for a while.  Because it was so calm today, we were able to turn off the engines and drop in the hydrophone to eavesdrop on an orca conversation of whistles and squeals! It was time to return home, but luckily the route took us right back through humpback territory for an encore presentation.  Much to our delight, however, we were treated to our third whale species of the day - the rare fin whale that's been in the area for the last week or two!  It doesn't get much better than that!  Check out some of the gorgeous photos from today: Erin
Port Angeles: PA Whale Watching, 360.293.4215, whales@islandadventurecruises.com Port Angeles Whale Watch Company is owned and operated by Island Adventures based out of Anacortes, WA. Island Adventures Whale Watching has been in business since 1992 and has carried hundreds of thousands of satisfied passengers.

Port Townsend:  Puget Sound Express,  360-385-5288. https://www.pugetsoundexpress.com/

Three generations of our family have helped visitors have life-changing experiences with some of the most majestic creatures on the planet. Puget Sound Express has been a family business for 31 years!

Whales

Whales

Humpbacks

Humpbacks

Whales in Strait of Juan de Fuca

Whales in Strait of Juan de Fuca

Hummingbirds in the winter? Yes!

Anna's hummingbirdIf you are a birder, young or old, you'll add to your life list on the Olympic Peninsula. I'm interested in them, but I'm not a birder - YET. I know that this area almost always leads Washington State in high counts of species during spring migration. The Christmas bird count a big annual event for the Dungeness River Audubon Center at Railroad Bridge Park along the Olympic Peninsula Discovery Trail. The reason for my investigation?  I've noticed hummers hanging around my house for the last few days. My curiosity was up. So I started some research about these lovely little guys that chose to stay here in the winter. Boy, was I surprised.     In looking for bird information, I found listings for over 350 species that visit the Olympic Peninsula. We have three different types of hummers. Anna's, Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds all have been reported. Maybe on examination, I think I know which one I saw. Anna's like to live in the forests, brush areas and in town. It is a permanent resident along the West Coast from British Columbia to northern Mexico. Calliope's like to live in the forests and have only been seen on the Olympic Peninsula a few times. They are the smallest - about three inches long. (The ones I saw seemed more robust!) That leaves the Rufous hummingbirds. They live in forest, brush areas and in town. They are rarely seen in the winter. They are common in the spring and early summer, and fairly common in the fall. So I probably am not seeing Calliope's or Rufous. But, I want more information. An email to my birder friend says that Anna's should be the only ones hanging around at this time of year. According to ebird.org, there was a registered siting in Neah Bay on February 1. And, Anna's have been seen on Ediz Hook in Port Angeles within the last couple weeks. Conclusion: Anna's Hummingbirds are at my house! All this is fascinating to me. Think how far birds travel during their life times. Much farther than many of us do over the course of our life times. This graphic from Cornell Labs totally mesmerized me. Be sure to watch the animated migration.
Watch the animated version to see how far birds actually travel

Watch the animated version to see how far birds actually travel

A Beginner’s Guide to Wildlife Spotting on Hood Canal

Black Bear

Black Bear

"The Hood Canal region of the Olympic Peninsula is known for natural diversity. Home to dense forests, steep rivers, majestic mountains and breathtaking waterfalls, the region is stuffed with beauty. In fact, it is hard to think of a place more diverse and beautiful than Hood Canal. Each year, the region sees hundreds of thousands of visitors, each hoping to make a memory in this beautiful corner of the world. While most come for the beauty and solitude, many come to this corner of the Peninsula to see animals in true wilderness."    So begins this article by Douglas Scott, "A Beginner's Guide to Wildlife Spotting on Hood Canal". It's full of locations for potential wildlife sightings on hikes in the mountains, walks along the lush valleys, and along the Hood Canal with special spots along the water.
Olympic Marmot on the river bank - Photo by Joy Baisch

Olympic Marmot - Photo by Joy Baisch

Elk in the Dosewallips River by Joy Baisch

Elk in the Dosewallips River - Photo by Joy Baisch

 

Traveling in different seasons                                                                                                          The Hood Canal area and the rest of the Olympic Peninsula will give you more opportunity to see different wildlife if you travel in different seasons. For example, during the warm summer days you would be more likely to see an Olympic Marmot sunbathing on a rock. During the spring and fall, migratory birds show off all over the Peninsula. Eagles are year-round residents, so chances of seeing them are pretty good of seeing them in tall, dead trees. However, when the salmon come back to the rivers to spawn, you'll likely see eagles around the mouth of the rivers. Roosevelt Elk can be seen in herds most of the year.

Mr. Scott's article not only gives good advice on when and where to view wildlife, but he also includes links to other resource information about Hood Canal area, such as a link to Six Quintessential Hood Canal Hikes, or Seven Incredible Viewpoints and Stops along Hood Canal.

Most of all when visiting the Hood Canal, take your time. There is a lot to see and experience. Recently a friendly blogger suggested a four-day minimum stay to enjoy all the area has to investigate.

WHALE WATCHING! Post from Guest Bloggers

Two friends of ours, here on the Olympic Peninsula, submitted a recount of their special day whale watching. We don't know about you, but we want to go, too! From Ali and Brian, hosts at Chito Beach Resort: Having a free day, which we don't get often since we are usually busy with guests, we decided to take full advantage of our time and go out on a whale watching trip. We decided to go from Port Angeles with Port Angeles Whale Watch. The crew of three were fun and accommodating. The crew consisted of the Captain, a marine biologist and the galley chef.  Lucky us to have a biologist on board! He gave us information and updates on all the sea life we saw during the excursion.  The galley chef make hot chocolate, tea and warm food for all those in need. We were indeed spoiled for the day.
brians whales #1

Photos by Brian H Photography

The weather was brian whales #3 brian whales #2perfect and the Captain did a great job navigating us to the whales! We saw several Humpbacks on two occasions and the L pod of Orca, including the newest member- a two-week-old killer whale. We often see whales in the waters off the shore at Chito Beach, but this was so special seeing them from a different perspective. It was a day we'll remember. Here's access to information about the L pod. And a link to the Whale Trail. Chito Beach Resort is one of several accommodations along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. You will find a list of other places to stay beginning on page 31 of the Olympic Peninsula Travel Planner. Whale Watching Tours. Find local whale watching businesses. Make your own special day.  

Dungeness Wildlife Refuge Turns 100 Years Old

Dungeness SpitCATCH ONE OF THE CELEBRATIONS! The Dungeness Wildlife Refuge will have a year-long, public celebration to help commemorate its 100th anniversary in 2015. Everyone is welcome! A short version of the history of the refuge: On January 20, 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed an Executive Order establishing the Dungeness Spit Reservation as “...a refuge, preserve, and breeding ground for native birds.” In 1940 the Reservation’s name changed to the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge. One hundred years later, celebrations for the Refuge are planned with a series of educational events throughout 2015. 197See the 2015 Schedule of events and join the commemoration of 100 years of working for wildlife. There are several birding walks during the year, a kid's day on June 20 with hands-on activities, and two geology walks on July 18. We are all waiting for July to learn more about the geology of the Olympic Peninsula and why it's such a magnet for birds and other animals. 172If you are planning to include a visit to the Refuge on an upcoming trip to the Olympic Peninsula, the Refuge opens at sunrise and closes ½ hour before sunset daily. An entrance fee of $3.00 is required. A minimal amount to take in this wonderful place. Children 15 and younger are free.  And, please, no pets are allowed. We want the 'locals' to have run of the place - the local deer, otter, nesting birds and so on! mapHere's a kind of fuzzy map, but you can get the general lay of the land. Accordihng to Wikipedia, Dungeness Spit is a 5.5-mile (8.9 km) long sand spit and the longest natural sand spit in the United States. The lighthouse at the end of the spit was once run by United States Coast Guard, but in 1976 an automatic light was installed, and since 1994 it has been staffed and maintained by the volunteer 'New Dungeness Light Station Association'. If you are interested in being a lighthouse keeper for a week, check out the website. The spit is open to the public year around. It was first found by Europeans during the Spanish 1790 Quimper expedition. The name 'Dungeness' comes from the Dungeness headland in England. The spit was named by explorer George Vancouver in 1792, who wrote: "The low sandy point of land, which from its great resemblance to Dungeness in the British Channel, I called New Dungeness." We'll go along with the Wikipedia description of our past and heritage of the spit.
Olympic Peninsula Whale Tales & Whale Tails A local whale enthusiast recently reawakened our fascination with whales by explaining just how amazing the OP is for whale watching. It’s truly the best spot in the northwest to watch a variety of whales. Seeing these wondrous and mysterious creatures from shore or boat is a memorable, bucket-worthy experience with bragging rights!
polly debari gray whale cape flattery

Gray Whale off Cape Flattery

Gray whales are our day-by-day whale on the shores along the Strait and outer coast. They hug the coastline all the way from Mexico on their way north. A genetically distinct band will peel off from the main route heading to Alaska and turn right into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Here, they feed and forage in the near shore kelp beds and along the sandy bottom during the summer season, or if they are not calving, perhaps all year.  
220px-Humpback_Whale,_blowholes

Humpback Whale

Humpback whales spend the winter months near Hawaii (who doesn’t like that idea?) where they have their young and then head for the Pacific Northwest and northern waters. Again, a distinct group stays near the outer coast of the Olympic Peninsula and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca all summer and into the fall. We don’t see Humpbacks as often from shore because they need deeper water where small fish and krill are found.

A breaching orca. Photo courtesy of NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

And then there are the Orcas, of which we have a lot of information. There are three resident pods in Puget Sound. The J, K and L pods are individually named and have generated lots of data, and several lines of plush toys adored by children of all ages. These resident orcas are social and use echo location and sound to locate their favorite food – salmon! One of our favorite foods, too! In addition, transient orcas come through the region in smaller family groups. These silent hunters seek seals for their meals
Minke Whale

Minke Whale

The minke whales are a very fast, smaller whale that not much is known about – yet. We do know that they breathe three to five times at short intervals before they “deep dive” for two to 20 minutes. The deep dives are preceded by a pronounced arching of the whales’ backs. Maximum swimming speed is estimated at about 24 miles per hour.
Whale Trail Kiosk at Freshwater Bay

Whale Trail Kiosk at Freshwater Bay

The Olympic Peninsula is a key player in The Whale Trail, (whaletrail.org) with 15 sites designated as most likely to view whales from shore. NOAA’s Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (olympiccoast.noaa.gov) includes 2400 square nautical miles and 135 miles of wilderness coastline off the Pacific Coast.  Here, the whales can be seen migrating freely in protected waters. The Makahs are an ancient whaling society, as are most coastal tribes. The Makah Cultural and Resource Center in Neah Bay (makah.com) has excellent interpretations of the importance of the whale to their culture. The Quileute People host an annual Welcoming the Whales Ceremony.  The exact date fluctuates so  plan on visiting in late March to early April for this event.  It was held on April 11 in 2014. (quileutenation.org) READY TO GO?
  • Take a whale watching charter into the San Juan Islands from Port Townsend to see the resident orcas all summer, with trips to see gray whales and the visiting orcas, too. (pugetsoundexpress.com).
  • In the spring, the migration is fun to watch off the coast, particularly at LaPush where the grays tarry and feed with their young.
  • Cape Flattery is a hot spot to watch the grays, and other sea mammals.
  • In August 2014, Port Angeles will welcome an established whale watching company offering daily tours to see humpback whales in the Strait.  Visit pawhalewatch.com to find out more about Port Angeles Whale Watching.
  • It is not unusual to see whales and sea mammals from the Coho Ferry between Port Angeles and Victoria, Canada. (cohoferry.com)
Kinetic 2010 Sally the Map Lady

Kinetic Skulpture Race in Port Townsend

web whale bone

Whale vertebrae sculpture, Port Angeles

Oh, and you can look for representation of whales on land or made by hand, too. The OP has many cultural assets in public art celebrating our affection for whales! Embrace, absorb and share the Olympic Peninsula Whale experience!

The Government Shutdown Isn’t Bringing Us Down on the Olympic Peninsula

Due to the U.S. Government Shutdown, admittance into both the Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park has been ceased.  Calls to the ranger stations must go unanswered and websites now display a "not operating" message like this http://www.nps.gov/shutdown/index.html.
Kinetic 2010 Sally the Map Lady

Participants brave the Autumn waters during the Kinetic Sculpture Race

So what are visitors supposed to do?  Don't worry!  There is still a plethora of things to do and see on the 5,316 square miles of the Olympic Peninsula outside of governmental lands.    This weekend, October 5 & 6, is the 32nd Annual Shelton Oysterfest http://www.oysterfest.org/.  Enjoy wonderful seafood and watch the West Coast Oyster Shucking Championship.   Then travel north up Hwy 101 to enjoy the Kinetic Sculpture race and events in Port Townsend http://www.ptkineticrace.org/.  Afterwards, warm up from watching those crazy-geniuses enduring the race's frigid waters at the North Olympic Fiber Arts Festival, just 30 miles west in downtown Sequim http://www.fiberartsfestival.org/.  See beautifully hand-crafted woven arts and get in the cozy, Fall spirit! Even though camping and hiking in the National Park and Forests might not be an option, there are still plenty of beautiful areas to explore.  We're using this time to visit coastal grounds and towns as well as our beautiful State and County Parks that are located throughout the Olympic Peninsula.  On the east along the Hood Canal is the Dosewallips State Park http://www.parks.wa.gov/parks/?selectedpark=Dosewallips and the Dungeness Recreation Area in the North http://www.clallam.net/Parks/Dungeness.html.  Both are open year-round with spectacular water views.  Travel along the Hwy 112 Scenic Byway to take in the Autumn splendor over looking the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Stop at the Salt Creek Recreation Area near Joyce http://www.clallam.net/Parks/Dungeness.html.  Explore the tide pools in Sekiu (watch for the giant red jellyfish this time of year, but don't touch.) and listen for the last of the migrating birds as they make their way south.
IMG_3068

The cliffs of Cape Flattery

This is also an excellent time to visit the Makah Indian Reservation at Neah Bay.  Spending an afternoon at the amazing Makah Museum would not be regretted.  Enjoy the boardwalk along Cape Flattery and scan the vistas for whales.  Also happening this weekend on the West coast is the La Push Last Chance Salmon Derby http://forkswa.com/salmonderby/.  Fisherman don't want to miss out on our record high salmon run this year! Hopefully these tips can replaces a few disappointments with inspirations as we endure these changes that out of our control.  For more information planning your trip or for a free travel planner, call us!  (360) 452-8552.  Our complimentary travel planner can also be downloaded from www.olympicpeninsula.org.

Fall into the Olympic Peninsula Pin-It to Win-It Weekend Getaway Sweepstakes

"Fall into the Olympic Peninsula" this season by entering our Pin-It to Win-It sweepstakes for a chance to win a different prize package all season-long!  Up to five (5) Winners will receive weekend getaway packages, to be drawn on or around September 27, October 2, October 16, October 30 and November 27. The packages are listed as follows: Art Lover’s Dream Weekend (to be drawn on or around September 27, 2013, for the weekend of October 4, 5 and 6, 2013). Total approximate retail value: 450.00 USD.  In Sequim, the town that's the Queen of Lavender, you'll soak up the local art of the North Olympic Fiber Arts Festival and First Friday Art Walk and Nourish yourself in the rainshadow of the Dungeness Valley.  Take in the views of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains as you relax at the Holiday Inn Express.  Then head on over to the Victorian seaport town of Port Townsend for the mechanical fun of the Kinetic Sculpture Race and events and a stay in the charming Ravenscroft Inn.
Port Townsend

Port Townsend Waterfront by Anne Norup

  • One (1) double-queen guest room for one (1) night, including Express Start Breakfast for two, at the Holiday Inn Express in Sequim, Washington
  • Explore the North Olympic Fiber Arts Festival, the First Friday Art Walk, and the Saturday Sequim Farmers Market.
  • One (1) $50 gift certificate for meal service at Nourish Restaurant in Sequim, Washington (valid October 30, 2014).
  • One (1) room for one (1) night at Ravenscroft Inn in Port Townsend, including dinner for two at Doc's Marina Grill ($50). Valid through March 31, 2014, excluding November 28, 29, 30, 2013; December 24, 25, 31, 2013 and January 1, 2014.
  • Two (2) tickets to the Great Port Townsend Kinetic Sculpture events in Port Townsend, Washington, valid for October 5 and 6, 2013.
Port Angeles Dungeness Crab Festival and a Northwest Coast Adventure (to be drawn on or around October 2, 2013 for the weekend of October 11 and 12, 2013). Total approximate retail value: 322.00 USD.  Soak up some color with orange leaves and orange crab.  Indulge yourself in the biggest crab celebration of the year where the mountains meet the sea in beautiful Port Angeles, WA.  Relax at the Red Lion on the waterfront and spend an afternoon taking in the autumn sights along one of the newest National Scenic Byway of Highway 112.crabdetail
  • One (1) room for one (1) night at the Red Lion Hotel in Port Angeles, Washington. Valid October 11, 2013
  • Two (2) tickets to the 12th Annual Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival – Peninsula Daily News Community Crab Feed in Port Angeles, Washington, which takes place the first night of the festival, Friday October 11.
  • One (1) two-person room for one (1) night at Winters Summer Inn Bed & Breakfast, including gourmet breakfast, in Clallam Bay, Washington. Valid through March 31, 2014.
The Great Hood Canal and PumpkinFest Quest (to be drawn on or around October 15, 2013, for the weekend of October 25 and 26, 2013). Total approximate retail value: 300 USD Well, maybe not the type of "quest" from medieval legends but you will find yourself in several enchanted places this weekend.  Discover the secrets of the historic Elk Meadows Bed & Breakfast and Farm tucked away in the valley of the Dosewallips River.  Then journey south along the ancient glacial fjord of Hood Canal for a stay at the Robin Hood Village Resort.  There you can celebrate the season while honing your catapult skills at the Union PumpkinFest.
Elk in the Dosewallips River by Joy Baisch

Elk in the Dosewallips River by Joy Baisch

  • One (1) two-person room for one (1) night at Elk Meadows Bed and Breakfast, including breakfast, in Hood Canal, Washington. No pets, children over 14 are welcome. Valid through March 31, 2014.
  • One (1) room for one (1) night at the Robin Hood Village Resort in Union, Washington.
  • Two (2) tickets to Union PumpkinFest (weekend of October 25 and 26, 2013) plus participation in pumpkin catapult contest.
Beach and Forest Fireside Weekend (to be drawn on or around October 24, 2013, for the weekend of November 9 and 10, 2013). Total approximate retail value: $300 USD.  Play catch with the surf, race the banana slugs, and relax your pace on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Listen to the soothing sounds of the Quinault River just outside your room at the Quinault River Inn.  Enjoy dinner at the Lake Quinault Lodge.   Sit long enough around a fire on the beach while staying at the Kalaloch Lodge Oceanside Cabin and you might even find yourself roasting a s'more or two.
beach

Kalaloch Beach by Dave Logan

  • One (1) two-person room for one (1) night at Quinault River Inn in Amanda Park, Washington. Valid through May 31, 2014.
  • Dinner for two at Lake Quinault Lodge in Quinault, Washington. Valid through March 31, 2014. (Up to $100 value, excluding alcohol, must be used in one sitting.)
  • One (1) room for one (1) night at Kalaloch Lodge in an Oceanside cabin, plus breakfast for two, in Quinault, Washington. Valid through June 30, 2014.
Holiday on the Peninsula (to be drawn on or around November 18, 2013, for the weekend of December 6 and 7, 2013). Total approximate retail value: $709 Value Welcome the 2013 holiday season in luxury at the Port Ludlow Resort.  Take a break from your holiday plans to enjoy 18 holes of golf and a leisurely kayak tour around the water inlets.  Then travel west to the temperate rainforest for a stay at the Miller Tree Inn in mysterious Forks.  Delight in the Festival of Trees and Twinkle Light Parade.  You'll return home feeling rejuvenated and ready to ring in the new year.IMG_0537
  • One (1) view room for two people for one (1) night, including breakfast, at the Inn at Port Ludlow in Port Ludlow, Washington. Valid through Valid through March 31, based on availability.
  • 18 holes of golf with a cart at The Resort at Port Ludlow in Port Ludlow, Washington.
  • One (1) kayak rental for two at the Port Ludlow Resort Marina in Port Ludlow, Washington.
  • One (1) room for one (1) night at Miller Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast in Forks, Washington Valid through March 31 excluding Feb 14 & 15 and March 15, 22 and 29.
  • One (1) $30 Gift certificate for two at Golden Gate Chinese Restaurant in Forks, Washington (no expiration).
Elwha River Hike Photo by John Gussman

Elwha River Hike Photo by John Gussman

Visit the Olympic Peninsula facebook page for more information and to register. Get started PINNING!  Check out our Olympic Peninsula Pinterest board for inspiration.

Birding- Herons, Puffins, and More on the Olympic Peninsula

birdingThe Olympic Peninsula is home to a diverse bird population year round, drawing birders to search for songbirds, swans, eagles, egrets and more. Birding trails, activities, and events take place across the peninsula. With so many opportunities for birders, this is the first in a series of posts which will highlight different trails and destinations.

Many migratory birds make their winter and summer homes on the eastern end of the Olympic Peninsula. The region is particularly popular with water fowl. The Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge and Dungeness Spit  is considered an "important bird area" by the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society. During spring and summer keep an eye out for Tufted Puffin, Arctic Tern, and Black Oystercatchers. In fall and winter Falcons, Snowy Owls, and a variety of ducks return to the spit. On the Migratory Waterfowl Watchers Trail in and around Port Townsend visitors can view Trumpeter Swans, Blue Heron, Osprey, Brant Geese, Harlequin Ducks, and Bald Eagles. The best time to tour this trail is between October and April. Continue reading