A mystical panorama with Orcas and Humpback whales in the mix!

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Today’s sightings: Resident Orca’s, Humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises, Harbour seals, Bald Eagles and a Eaglet on a bough beside its nest, Great Blue Herons, Black Turnstones, Black Oystercatchers, Belted Kingfishers, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Red-necked Phalaropes and Gull species.

A moody mixture of sun, cloud and eerie fog that wisped through narrow channels and clung to the tops of cedar trees, created a mystical panorama on our tour this morning.

Fog accentuates everything. It seems to act like a blanket that quietens all other things, except the sounds of surfacing whales and the shrill from nearby birds. In fog, the ocean is tranquil-calm, the silence is deafening and the blows from distant whales sound even more thunderous.

Orcas stole the show today as numerous blows and piercingly black dorsal fins sliced through the water as our resident killer whales came in from the west. These family oriented animals displayed social behaviour as they frolicked, played and interacted with each other, in the same manner as if you were watching a human family playfully wrestling in the park.  Often when viewing whales in the wild, you seldom see their entire head and face, however today we were gifted. On the odd occasion a smooth, black head with a pure white eye patch would appear up from the glassy calm sea. This behaviour is known as spying hopping which describes the act of the whale popping to the surface to spy on the world above. They have relatively good eyesight and so they utilize this sense to get an idea of what is around them above the sea.

Throughout the morning as we lowered the hydrophone, the whale vocalizations matched their playful spirits. High-pitched squeaks and squeals delightfully filled our ears as we listened to the undersea world of the Orca. It is moments like these that you cannot help but feel truly fortunate to be witnessing nature at its wildest.

Other highlights enjoyed by our guests was a fearless Great Blue Heron, poised elegantly on a floating stipe of Bull Kelp. A seal decided to take a closer look at our guests and surfaced near our vessel, giving our guests the opportunity to photograph these dog-like facial features of our local Harbour Seals. Black Turnstones were abundant today as they foraged on nearby rocks and reefs and areas of strong current.

Thank you Northern Vancouver Island for your gifts today, we shall cherish them in our memory banks.

Seasmoke Whale Watching photo’s have been taken with a telephoto lens and cropped.

Beauty abounds!

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Sightings today were: Orcas, Humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises, Harbour Seals, Great Blue Herons, Red -necked Phalaropes, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Black Oystercatchers, Belted Kingfishers and Bald Eagles.

There are two words that described our day of touring – Beauty Abounds.

Not only were we gifted by numerous sightings of a variety of wildlife, the weather made for comfortable conditions to be at sea, as we admired the abundance of wildlife that nature generously revealed.

In addition to the family groups we have been seeing over the last couple of days: the A30’s, A23’s/A25’s,I15’s and I31’s, there is the possibility of new pods having arrived  today and joining with the other orcas who had travelled far out into the Queen Charlotte Strait early in the morning. There were at least forty individuals who displayed both foraging and social behaviour, as they tail-slapped and rolled on the surface of the sea, interacting with each other as though they were literally having family time. The vocalizations heard via our hydrophone were superb!

We were stunned by the many blows we could see on the horizon, including the larger Humpback whale breath that can reach up to 3 meters high, all backed by rich blue skies and the forest green of our mountain ranges. The two Humpback whales we observed at a close range today, handsomely lifted their tail flukes high to the sky. The sea water that dripped from their fluke glistened like diamonds in the sun.

Our guests enjoyed the exploration of the islands and islets, as we hopped from one to another. Curious seal heads, camouflaged by the floating bull kelp, followed our boat as it drifted by, inquisitive like young pups.

Numerous birds foraged and flew, flapped and vocalized adding to the symphony of sound that echoed throughout this region, due to the stillness of the air.

Once our morning tour was complete, our guests stepped off the boat overwhelmed by all they had experienced and some even chose to join us on the afternoon tour. I think we will take that as a compliment. Thank you Mother Nature for once again providing us with such beauty, we are so honoured to share with our visitors.

Seasmoke Whale Watching photo’s have been cropped and taken with a telephoto lens.

Magic in the making, a viewing of species big and small!

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Sightings today: Orcas, Humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises, one Pacific White-sided dolphin swimming with the orcas, one Stellar Sea-lion, Harbour seals and pups, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Red-necked Phalaropes, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Black Oystercatchers, Belted Kingfishers and a Black-tailed deer (fawn).

It seems as though our resident Orca have arrived for the summer as once again we viewed them in all their oceanic glory during our tour this morning. They were first sighted by our skipper and guests coming in from the West, tucked close along the shores of Malcolm Island. A large male with his stunning tall dorsal fin swam further offshore from his family members and cruised by our boat while foraging, giving our guests a delightful view of this magnificent animal.

The Orcas were identified as the A30’s, I15’s and A5’s which were the same groups as yesterday. The overcast and calm conditions made their black and white colouration stand out so vibrantly against the smokey grey sea. By the time we left them they had covered a number of miles and were heading in to Weynton Passage, perhaps with a plan to forage. The salmon runs are crucial for our resident Orcas as this is their main food source which sustains them throughout the summer and beyond.

It was a joy to see at least four Great Blue Herons in flight today, with their large wing-span stretched out like plane wings and gangly legs tucked beneath their tail feathers. These herons are the most remarkable, patient hunters as they lightly perch on bull kelp, waiting enduringly for a small fish to swim by.

Our tour is not complete until we have witnessed the gentle giants of this region, our faithful Humpback whales who have been sighted in this area since late April, and will likely be here until the end of November. Their blows that can reach up to three meters high are easy to see from a distance and once their fluke (whale tail) ascends up from the sea, in preparation for a deep dive, their presence has been given away. It is hard not to miss this massively broad body part when the conditions are so benign.

On our journey back to base, we peacefully meandered through the charming narrow passage ways that allowed us the opportunity to view Harbour seals and shore birds which included the Black Oystercatcher and Belted Kingfisher.

Today we sighted a young Black-tailed deer (fawn) which had a different colouration than the ones that had been sighted over the past couple of days. This makes us wonder how many family groups of deer presently call these islands their home.

It was a stunning day spent with our keen and eager guests who soaked up the magic of this region and left our boat smiling.

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Seasmoke Whale Watching photo’s have been cropped and taken with a telephoto lens.

Orcas, Humpback whales and so much more!

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Seasmoke photo’s have been cropped and taken with a telephoto lens.

Our sightings today: Resident Orcas, Humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises, Harbour seals, a Black-tailed deer with her fawn, Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, Black Oystercatcher, Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklets, Red-Necked Phalaropes, a Great Blue Heron and Gull species.

Having seen Orcas the previous day we are always curious as to where they ventured during the night and whether they would still be in the area the following day. Like all things in nature, the animals know how to utilize their environment in the best way possible as survival of their species is paramount.  Often we observe our resident orca traveling in the same direction as the current and turning soon after the current has turned. On this particular morning they entered Johnstone Strait via Weynton Passage at the end of the flood.

Our skipper, while crossing Weynton Passage scanned far ahead and thought he saw blows in the distance.  As he came closer, he confirmed his sightings of blows to be that of Orca and later it became clear that we had the same pods from yesterday. The I15’s and A30’s were all spread out and travelling steady in an easterly direction in Johnstone Strait. It is astonishing to watch these individuals surfacing to breathe at the exact same time as their other family members whom are traveling meters (and at times kilometers) apart, as though they are instinctively synchronized.

Later that morning as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, a feeding frenzy of numerous birds that swarmed above the sea, caught our attention. This was an indication that there was a bait ball of small schooling fish below the surface, attracting birds and Humpbacks alike. We observed Humpback whales foraging close to shore amongst the picturesque islands and islets that were fringed with rocks and kelp forests and pleasantly littered with Harbour seals. Hundreds of Red-necked Phalaropes and numerous gulls continued to occupy the water this morning creating a lively symphony of sound from Mother Nature.

Every day we are blessed to experience such natural delights and how privileged we are to share it all with our visitors.

Orca’s once more!

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Seasmoke Whale Watching photo’s have been cropped and taken with a telephoto lens.

Our sightings today: Orcas, Humpback whales, Harbour seals, Dall’s porpoises, Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, Black Oystercatchers, Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklets, Red-Necked Phalaropes and Glaucous -winged gulls.

It was an overcast but calm day and a strong ebb tide stirred the tranquil sea, turning some passage-ways into a turbulent river, as large volumes of water were forced out through narrow channels. As we cruised close along the shore we could hear Oystercatchers squawking, competing with the also vocal Kingfishers which swooped from tree to tree in search for food.

It was an Orca day today. How exciting it was to see our resident Killer whales who we have come to know as family. Those skippers and whale researchers who have watched and studied these whales for over three decades, can identify them by their distinctive notches and scars on their dorsal fin, the shape of their saddle patch and the number of family members they are traveling with. Once the hydrophone goes down their vocalisations can also tell us which pod we are so fortunate to be observing. The A30’s and I 15’s were the pods we saw today.  Their stunning black and white streamlined bodies built for speed and agility rose up to the glassy surface of the sea, releasing their breath in sync with other family members.  At times we observed them travelling so close to shore and while the underwater microphone was down, we could hear A-Clan vocals loud and excitable, like kids in a playground. This made us wonder whether they could be rubbing on the smooth pebbled beaches that exist along these shores.

During our tour today, three magnificent Humpbacks surfaced in our vicinity and among them were large groups of Red Necked Phalaropes, utilizing the same area of water to forage. How impressive it is to see these creatures side by side, one as small as a field mouse and the other the size of a school bus.

It was a stunning day where once again we were gifted by such precious encounters with some of the earths most magnificent creatures.

 

 

A wildlife extravaganza!

July 26th

Our sightings: Humpback whales (mother with calf), Harbour seals, Dall’s Porpoises, Pacific White-sided dolphins, Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, Black Oystercatchers, Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklets, Red-Necked Phalaropes, Common Murres, Mink and Black-tailed deer with fawn.

A wildlife extravaganza is how we would describe our tour today.  All creatures great and small came out to play, feed and forage starting with a sighting of a Mink scrambling along the rocks on Pearce Island, adjacent to Alert Bay. It appeared as though every second cedar tree had its guardian, the Bald Eagle, poised so elegantly on what seemed like a flimsy branch. Eaglets were spotted today, showing signs that they soon will fledge. On two occasions these young birds flapped their wings as though warming up and stretching muscles in preparation for their very first flight.

As we traveled on crystal clear water at a tide low enough for us to observe all the intertidal delights, the thick fog enveloped us. In limited visibility we shut down the engines and watched the wispy fog float by as buoyant as smoke. The stirring sounds of Humpbacks surfacing could be heard from all directions. Suddenly, breaking the eerie sound of distance blows, a whale surfaced close by our silently floating vessel. A small Humpback appeared slapping the surface with its tail as it descended on a deeper dive.  Another, larger whale surfaced but this one came up jaw first, its mouth wide open in preparation for scooping up tight balls of schooling fish. This technique of feeding has been conveniently named ‘Trap Feeding’. As the smaller whale rolled on the surface of the seas, and the larger whale stayed close by, it was obvious to the guests and crew onboard that this was a mum and calf. How delightful and unexpected to witness a family group of Humpbacks.

As the fog lifted we were able to view some of the other whales we had heard at a distance. One of them was the first sighting of the season, a whale named ‘Chunky’.

As we headed for home, feeling exhilarated having observed nature so abundantly, it became evident that our tour was not yet over. Dall’s porpoises suddenly appeared by our boat, swimming lazily on the surface as we navigated through a group of picturesque islets. We came across a pod of White-sided dolphins milling about in another scenic passage and to top this all off, a female Black-tailed deer appeared with a fawn in tow, foraged fearlessly on the shore.

As our guests stepped off the boat, their grins were as wide as a crescent moon and their eyes displayed gratitude, for they had witnessed the magic of this special place where nature’s beauty abounds.

Humpback whales, Black-tailed deer, Mink and so much more. A glorious day on calm and glassy waters!

IMG_4943IMG_4950Our sightings today: Humpback whales, Harbour seals, bow-riding Dall’s Porpoises, Stellar Sea Lions, Bald Eagles++, Belted Kingfishers, Black Turnstones, Cassin’s Auklets, Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets, Black Oyster Catchers, one Mink, a Black-tailed deer with two fawns and Gull species.

Our glorious BC summer has continued to spoil us with graciously bright and sunny skies and a shimmering ocean with hardly a ripple.  These calm conditions offer numerous opportunities to navigate through narrow passages in hope of seeing a variety of critters along the rocky outcrops and boulder beaches.

Today as our eyes gazed along the shore a Mink was sighted, scurrying along the kelp covered rocks in search of food. We were treated by a fabulous sighting of not only one Black tailed deer but a fawn alongside. This precious juvenile with its gangly legs, carefully balanced on the uneven terrain seemed relaxed as we drifted quietly by as the current carried us. Another young fawn was also seen nearby and is probably the same two fawns and mother that we observed two days ago.

The Humpbacks were easy to spot today due to the absence of wind and glassy seas. Out of the four Humpbacks we viewed today we recognised Blackpearl. Numerous other blows were sighted as far as the eyes could see which made for a slow and careful journey back to base.

At this time of year as we navigate these waters, it is crucial we keep a constant and careful watch. Humpbacks can surface at any time, going in any direction and as this is their home, where they eat, sleep, rest and travel, they always have the right of way. We are blessed to share in their magnificent presence, but it is important to remember that we are simply guests visiting for a short time their watery world in which they rely entirely on for their ultimate survival.

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