Wildlife viewing on our magnificent raincoast
It isn’t in vain that the west coast is often referred to as the rain coast, or sometimes the “wet coast” by us locals. Today the weather lived up to its reputation, but we did not let the rain dampen our spirits as we headed out to explore the waters. It is thanks to the rain that this part of the world is so green, lush and mild and able to support such a diversity of living creatures.
The grey neutrals of the wet day served as a perfect backdrop to highlight the intricacies of each individual organism we came across. From the “old man’s beard” (usnia) lichen draped over tree branches, to kelp fronds floating in the current, to the impressive black dorsal fins of orca against the grey seas, we were treated to a continual feast for the eyes.
One of today’s highlights was being able to listen to the beautiful calls of orca on the MV Seasmoke’s hydrophone. According to our skipper, today’s sounds were the best of the season so far. Individual groups of orcas each have their own dialects, as indicated by the letter in their names. For example, today we saw and heard the northern resident orca groups A5s, A30s, and I15s. The A5s and A30s use the same dialect, whereas the ‘I’ group uses a different one. What a beautifully complex animal, and how privileged we are to observe them in the wild here in the Pacific Northwest.
Today was also a day for the ducks, as we would say about rain weather! But familiar sayings aside, we really did have a lot of bird action, particularly around a bait ball (school of small fish, such as herring) at Bold Head. There were hundreds of Red-necked Phalaropes, and lots of Rhinoceros Auklets and Common Murres to be seen.
The humpbacks today were content to swim in our vicinity, showing off their flukes as they dove and swam around. Humpback whales are actually among the most agile of all of the large whales, aided in part by their massive pectoral flippers. Today we also saw Dall’s porpoises down in Johnstone Strait, a Bald Eagle pair at their nest in the Stephenson Islands, and a lone Stellar’s sea lion swimming.
All in all, wet coast, rain coast, and duck weather aside, we had a fantastic day of wildlife viewing!