An amazing mix of species!

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September 14th

Our Sightings:

Humpback whales, Orca (Resident and Bigg’s Transient), Minke whales, Stellar sea lions, Harbour seals, Dall’s porpoises, Pacific White-sided dolphins, Black-tailed deer, Bald Eagles, Red-necked Phalaropes, Rhinoceros Auklets, Gull species, Belted Kingfishers, Black Oystercatchers and Common Murres.

It was a feeding frenzy out on the water today with a number of different species all coming together to feast upon the abundance offered by the sea. Orcas (23’s/A25’s) were mixed amongst Pacific White-sided dolphins and at one stage Stellar sea lions were in the midst of this group also.

The clear, bright weather and calm, ripple-less sea allowed us to sight Humpback whales from a long distance away. Blows were seen in all directions as well as some feeding behaviour as Humpbacks lunged through bait balls. We even viewed a Minke whale feeding on one of our tours which is not a common sighting. It lunged through a tight ball of fish, giving us a view of its uniquely shaped rostrum; the jaw of a whale.

Many birds species indulged in the ocean buffet today, filling the air with vibrant squawks and shrieks. It has been witnessed that birds can accidentally be taken in the jaws of a whale when birds find themselves at the top of a bait ball, with a whale lunging from just below the surface.  Birds being released unharmed from the jaws of the whale have also been observed.

Nature continues to fascinate and inspire.

Seasmoke Whale Watching photo’s have been taken by Dave Jones using a telephoto lens and have been cropped.

A panorama that nourished our inquisitive minds!  

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August 28th

Our sightings:

Humpback whales, Minke Whale, Pacific White-side dolphins, Dall’s Porpoises, Stellar sea lions, Harbour seals, Bald Eagles, Red-necked Phalaropes, Black-tailed Deer, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Gull species and Belted Kingfishers.

It felt as though we were playing hide and go seek with the fog today as it swept in and out then in again during our two tours that went out today.  It is during these days that we are grateful that our dear Humpbacks release such a loud and thunderous breath because in fog, we are literally searching for them using our hearing.

Our skipper went to all the favourite feeding spots where Humpbacks are often seen. While engines are stopped and our guest’s ears are poised, it is the blows from the Humpbacks that often give them away. Even in thick, low visibility fog we were able to see bubble net feeding Humpbacks, whale flukes rising from the sea and even a full Humpback body breaching clear out of the water. The Fog can’t hide everything.

During the afternoon as the fog thickened, it brought our attention closer to the animals dwelling onshore. Stellar Sea Lion numbers are rising as the males continue to congregate at their chosen winter haul-out locations.  In fog they appear to be twice the size, especially the larger males with their massive main reminding one of the male lion in Africa. It is with no doubt that they appear to be the king of the rock.

Porpoises and dolphins appeared during our tours today, the fog making no difference to their search for food. It is a treat when immersed in thick fog, you round a corner to find an opening, like an oasis in a visibility drought. When the sun did shine it struck obstacles that drew our attention to the subtleties of nature. Sea Urchins and Anemone’s were lit up like colourful lanterns and bull kelp shimmered like diamonds. The entire day was literally a panorama that nourished our inquisitive minds.

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

A glorious calm day for viewing Orcas, Humpback whales and so much more!

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Today’s sightings: Orcas, Humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises, Stellar sea lions, Harbour seals, Bald Eagles, Black-tailed deer, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets, Marbled Murrelets, Common Murres, Red-necked Phalaropes, Black Turnstones, Pigeon Guillemot’s, Belted Kingfishers and Gull species.

It is a delight working within a whale watching community that when on the water; information is shared in regards to where the whales are. People are working together, communicating sightings and helping each other whenever needed. This information is also shared with the researchers, so they too are utilizing the resources of having boats and eyes on the water.

Our skipper heard a report that Orcas were traveling in the fast expansive open water of the Queen Charlotte Strait. Thankfully the weather was working with us today as the visibility was crystal clear and the sea conditions calm.

The Orcas were spread out, reaching from one island to another with miles in between. Amongst the pods of Orca foraging were foraging Humpback whales so at times we could see both species surfacing at the same time. With the Mainland Mountains in the background and picturesque islands and islets in the foreground, birds patiently waiting for a bait-ball to drift by and the sounds of blows in the distance, it was a wonderful feast of mother nature at its most abundant.

As the food multiplies so does all the critters that forage in these parts. Our bird numbers are rising, the Sea Lions are moving in, soon more dolphins will be sighted on a daily basis and once all the Eaglets and other chicks are fledged, the trees and sky will be clouded with bird life.

Peak season from the animal’s perspective will soon be upon us. How amazing it is to see them successfully hunt and forage, keeping their specie alive and thriving.

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

Moments in the wild that can touch and change you!

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August 14th

Sightings: Resident Orcas (the I16s, I4s and I65s along with the A30s), Humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises, a Pacific White-sided dolphin, Stellar Sea Lions, Harbour seals, Bald Eagles, Black-tailed deer, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets, Marbled Murrelets, Common Murres, Great Blue Herons, Black Oystercatchers and Gull species.

We began our first tour of the day where fog in places limited our visibility. We decided to take the more scenic route to stay near the shoreline and forest, where scenes of Eagles proudly perched and Harbour seals lining the kelp covered reefs and rocks could be viewed by our guests.

Once we arrived deeper into the Broughton Archipelago patches of clear sky and sunshine offered the opportunity to search for and find Humpback Whales. It was a flurry of activity as a tightly bundled bait ball formed off a nearby headland. It was the mighty meal the birds and whales had been patiently waiting for. The sound was chaotic and unorganized as the vocal birds argued over their prey and the Humpbacks surfaced releasing their powerful breath. Nothing can break up a party like a Humpback lunge feeding right through the middle of the bait ball. The bigger mouth always wins.

Throughout the tour there was a sighting of a large group of Stellar Sea Lions cruising close to shore, sharing this limited space with a foraging Humpback. Dall’s Porpoise and an unusual sighting of a lone Pacific White-sided Dolphin made it on our species list, as well as a single Black-tailed deer and a number of Great Blue Herons seen perched up in trees.

In the afternoon it was nap time as we watched the Northern Resident Orca form a resting line. This resting behaviour is frequently seen in this region and it is an absolute privilege to experience. Orcas are one of the most socially complex animals that exist on our planet and when they sleep they display this tightly woven family connection.  In this vast ocean environment, there are no rooms for whales to go in to. They have no need for a blanket to wrap their bodies in for comfort. The ocean is open. It is where they forage, feed, socialize, travel and it is where they rest. Instead of a room or a blanket, they have only their family and it is all they need. Young whales and mothers are often seen on the inside and the larger male Orcas frame the outside of the resting line. Their movements through the water slow down, their breath softens and they swim side by side, as if nearly touching. At times they may linger briefly on the surface of the sea, but they will always descend, then return to breathe completely synchronized with each and every family member.

When one is sitting silently in a drifting boat, watching this awesome scene, you cannot help but feel completely humbled, honoured and touched. It is moments like these that can change you.

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

An amazing mix, marine mammals and other species!

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Today’s sightings: Humpback whales, a Minke whale, Stellar Sea Lions, Dall’s porpoises, Harbour seals, Black-tailed deer, Bald Eagles, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets, Black Oystercatchers, Belted Kingfishers and Gull species.

The month of August is an interesting time to be on the water in this region. It is when the North Island experiences its warmest weather. Boaters have nick-named this month as Fogust which describes our month so far, perfectly. As well, food is abundant as different salmon species make their way up to the rivers to spawn and so we experience a variety of whales, which we often get to observe feeding. It is certainly the busiest month in regards to tourists who are traveling the length of Vancouver Island, in hope of seeing the wildlife Canada is best known for. It truly is a gem of a place to visit and for those of us that live here, we are proud of our back yard.

Humpbacks and Minke whales were the highlights of our tours today, not to mention the large group of Stellar Sea lions we viewed cruising relatively near our boat. We recognised half of the Humpbacks we viewed today which included Inukshuk, Blackpearl and Argonaut. It wasn’t hard to find the whales even from a distance away, as one breached clear out of the water at least twice as though it was literally showing us ‘Here I am’. As we slowly meandered towards it, the breaches changed to tail slaps, and then the pectoral fins, the side flippers were being slapped against the surface of the sea. As though a fire cracker was going off, the sound echoed across the Strait to reach our keenly listening ears.

On our afternoon tour, the highlight was the viewing of a Humpback whale named Freckles who was observed bubble-net feeding. It seems this whale has now also perfected the technique, with perfect bubble-net stitching seen on the surface of the water followed by the whale lunging up through the centre of the bubble-net while feasting, its mouth gaping wide open. Again and again we witnessed the bubble net sequence and the viewing was phenomenal!

It was a mix of weather today, overcast and patchy fog, but with a forest so lush with greens so rich, it seems though the sun is shining even on these cloudy days. The Western Hemlocks, Sitka Spruce and Western Red Cedar trees line the coastal islets, islands and mountains, like constant companions. The old man’s beard (lichen) hanging from the many branches add to the powerful feeling that everything has its place. In spring it is a delight to watch the many birds utilizing this lichen or dried seaweed or drift sticks, to use for their well-needed nest.

We sighted four Black-tailed deer during our tours out today, literally hundreds of Seals made it on our wildlife count and we had a beautiful passing of Dall’s Porpoise. The one thing that is truly delightful about fog is the beautiful silence it creates. It is as though the very mist of salt and water-vapour is acting like a blanket, softening all sounds. It encourages us to talk softly and quietly while we watch in awe the magic of this magnificent place.

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

Brilliant viewing of Orcas, Humpback whales, a Minke whale and so much more!

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Today’s sightings: Orcas, Humpback whales, one Minke whale, Harbour seals, River otters, a Black-tailed deer with fawn, Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murre’s, Black Oystercatchers, Belted Kingfishers, Red-necked Phalaropes and Gull species.

Numerous pods were sighted today which included, but may not be limited to, the A30’s, I31’s, I15’s, and A23/25’s. From the vocalizations being broadcasted from our underwater microphone, it sounded as though they were talking up a storm. Pings, squeals and other calls could be heard vibrantly and entertained our guests who felt privileged to listen in on the intense social underwater world of the Orca.

We have a large number of ‘salmon eating’ pods who travel through and utilize this region. They have been categorized as the Northern Residents. Within these pods some share the same or similar dialect and together they form a language group which we call clans. Today we were listening to A & G Clan calls and it sounded as though they were intensely social as these large dolphins are known to be. Just in case you did not realize it, an Orca is the largest in the dolphin family. The vocalizations heard today were phenomenal and for those passengers listening intently to the beautiful calls on the afternoon tour, it was thought that a Humpback whale was also heard in the mix.

It was an extraordinary day with orcas sighted on all three tours and the morning tour was especially lucky in seeing them not long after leaving the dock. As well as the brilliant viewing of so many orcas today, the Humpback whales were there as well and can never be forgotten, they are magnificent and their dive sequence mesmerizing!

During the days when Orca’s take the spotlight, we still enjoy taking the time during a tour to show our guests, the other creatures of this area. They all play a crucial role in this rich and unique eco-system. As our boat weaved amongst the islets and islands, through scenic passageways passing kelp-beds camouflaging Harbour seals, we saw a female Black-tailed deer with a fawn along her side and River Otters on the dock in Alder Bay, a mother and her three kits. Finally, at the very end of our evening tour a Minke whale was seen!

One elderly passenger getting off the boat today told our skipper that “it was the best three hours of his life!” It cannot get better than that!

 

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.