Bigg’s (Transient) Orcas and numerous Humpback Whales

IMG_0137 IMG_0189 IMG_0191 IMG_0192 IMG_0194 IMG_0196 IMG_0200 IMG_0204 IMG_0205 IMG_0208 IMG_0253 IMG_0262IMG_0271A day of viewing Cetaceans where one cannot help but recognize the Biggs (Transient) Orcas as being a marine predator at the top of the food chain, no question! Our encounter today with the Transients was an encounter that was very sad to some watching, while awesome to others. Resident Orcas while displaying a sense of playfulness with other species do not appear to hurt or injure other marine mammals and birds, Bigg’s (Transient) Orcas meanwhile feed off other marine mammals and birds, they also play with them as though they were toys as was the case today with young Common Murres. Not yet fledged, these young birds are unable to fly and are seen in our area trailing behind, usually their male parent. From the time that they land on the water, it is two weeks before the chicks are capable of flying and both male and female Common Murres moult after breeding and become flightless for 1–2 months.  While capable of diving to great depths of 150 ++ feet and to some recorded depths of 600 feet, these birds when at this flightless stage in their lives are very vulnerable at the surface of the water and if unable to dive in time, they can be hit by fast moving boats, they are also vulnerable to attack by Transient Orcas. This morning while in Weynton Passage, looking out past Stubbs Island, an Orca was suddenly glimpsed a few kilometres ahead of us and soon, three more orcas were sighted and almost immediately we knew them to be Bigg’s Transient Orcas. T38A was easily identified by the white patch on her dorsal fin and with her were the T35’s ( T035, T035A, and T035A1). As we neared the Orcas a young dead Common Murre bird was sighted on the surface of the water and as we watched another parent and its chick became part of their play. The parent we did not see afterwards and the chick did not survive the encounter. Just ahead of this, a small group of 12+ Pacific White-sided Dolphins were seen fleeing quickly out into the Queen Charlotte Strait. When the orcas began moving away, they came right by our boat, swimming alongside and then under the boat much to the amazement of everyone onboard. All around us, Humpback Whales were seen surfacing and diving, there were at least 7 in the vicinity of Weynton Passage and Blackfish Sound with some 14+ in the area today.  Returning into Alder Bay, two River Otters were sighted on the dock, very curious, they were delightful to watch! Also seen: Stellar Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, a Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagles, Red-necked Phalaropes and Gulls.

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