Monday, August 7, 2017 – M.V. Lukwa & M.V. Kuluta
Today’s Sightings: Northern Resident (Fish-eating) Orca (A23, A25, A30, I15, I35 and I68 Matrilines), Humpback Whales (Squiggle, Merge, Ridge, Moonstar, Crescent, Inukshuk, Guardian, Quartz, Lucky), Dall’s Porpoises, Steller Sea Lions, Pacific Harbour Seals, Bald Eagles, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Cassin’s Auklets, Red-necked Phalaropes, Belted Kingfisher and Great Blue Heron.
A truly remarkable day out on the water; we had awesome viewing conditions, with minimal fog and glassy, clear waters, perfect for viewing wildlife. We started the day by heading north, passing the small community of Alert Bay and several Dall’s Porpoises as we scanned the channel, looking for Killer Whales. We came across two large groups of Killer Whales made up of several different matrilines, the A23s, A25s, I35s, and I68s, all resting! The whales had lined themselves up and surfaced in unison as they slowly made their way through the channel, resting. We dropped the hydrophone and heard a few calls, but the real treat was being able to hear all the blows from the 30 whales all around us on such a calm, quiet morning. As we made our way back to Telegraph Cove we passed by a well-known active Bald Eagles nest. While we were admiring the nest and juvenile eagles, Squiggle the Humpback Whale surfaced nearby.
The afternoon brought more excitement as Inukshuk the Humpback Whale got very active, breaching, tail lobbing and head lobbing, giving us a new appreciation for his/her immense size as it came flying out of the water. Even more Killer Whales, the I15 matriline, made their way into Johnstone Strait, and eventually joined up with the other matrilines. With all these different families together, there seemed to be some serious socializing and foraging. We again deployed our hydrophone, and were treated to absolutely phenomenal vocals! Echolocation could be heard too, and gulls descended to where Salmon scraps remained after the orcas had eaten. These incredible vocals went on and on, leaving guests onboard both of our vessels speechless. Tail-slapping, breaching, and cartwheeling could be seen from multiple individuals, and we even got to witness a quadruple spyhop!
As we made our way away from the orcas on our afternoon trips, the activity continued. We had our first sighting of Crescent the Humpback Whale. Quartz, the humpback, lunge-fed multiple times on juvenile Herring schooled together by diving birds and Lucky, another Humpback, was bubble-net feeding along one of the island shorelines. The evening trip followed Moonstar into Blackfish Sound, as she/he passed through a narrow channel amongst the islands. Ridge and Guardian were also seen, Guardian’s distinct white flukes taking away guests’ breath.
We got an idea for the true size of Steller Sea Lions as one hauled out onto a rock and we saw one in the water whacking a Spiny Dogfish. The shark got away, however, to the chagrin of the sea lion and circling gulls waiting for scraps.
This wonderful day concluded with more Killer Whale activity, as the same group of Fish-eating Orcas made up of multiple matrilines descended into Blackney Pass. Incredible vocals were again heard as two curious Killer Whales sat near the boat and stared at us for a few minutes. It was an amazing thing to witness and a truly humbling experience. A breathtaking end to a great day!
All photos property of Stubbs Island Whale Watching. Photo credits: Chloe Warren, Johanna Ferrie, Alex McDonald, Alison Ogilvie, and Ashley Nielsen. All images taken with a telephoto lens and cropped.