Orcas, Humpback whales, Dolphins and Porpoises feeding in the swirling current!

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August 22nd

Our sightings: Orca, Humpback whales, Pacific White-sided dolphins, Dall’s porpoises, Harbour seals, Bald Eagles, Common Murres, Rhinoceros and Cassins Auklets, Kingfishers, Black Oystercatchers, Black Turnstones, Red-necked Phalaropes and Gull species.

It felt like an afternoon matinee out on the water today. The first half was spent enjoying a ballet performance as dolphins, Orca (A30’s) and porpoises danced amongst each other in the strong flood tide that ran quickly through the narrow entrance of Blackney Passage, Humpback whales were also in the mix!  All species were working the tide, hunting for fish that also utilized the tide for its own purpose.

The second half was spent out in the wide open top end of Blackfish Sound as Humpback whales put on an acrobatic display. Multiple flukes could be seen from all directions and one whale tail slapped numerous times then completed its performance by doing a full blown breach. Another whale brought its wide open jaw up to the surface and began to trap feed. Before the curtain closed the final act was a lunge, as a Humpback forcefully launched its upper body in a forward motion to snap at a school of fish darting near the ocean’s surface.

This recital all took place under an overcast sky, among the threads of Seasmoke that wisped through the lower sky like Northern Lights. A show is not complete until an encore is delivered and it was the sun that took the final bow. As we journeyed home amongst the islands the sun appeared from behind the many clouds and offered us stunning light that saturated the beautiful stage of mountains, islands, forest and sea.

Photo’s taken by Dave Jones have been cropped and taken with a telephoto lens.

An amazing day of marvellous sights, sounds, colours and species!

 

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August 15th

Sightings: Orcas, Humpback Whales, Dall’s porpoises, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, 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 Pigeon Guillemot’s.

‘Wow’ was the word of the day as we encountered Orca only minutes after leaving the Alert Bay dock. It was the magnificent I33’s and possibly others which consisted of approximately 20 individuals. After spending some precious time with this group we continued exploring the area and  came across other groups of Orca traveling in a Northerly direction.

As we travelled along the shoreline, it was special to see Eaglets still utilizing their summer nests, perhaps not ready to leave home as yet. One of our resident Humpback whales known as Inukshuk was seen resting fairly close to shore. At one stage the whale surfaced with bull kelp fronds draped over its entire back. Dolphins and Porpoises joined in the marine mammal parade and hundreds of Harbour Seals took center stage as we drifted close by the islands.

It was a remarkable day with numerous sightings of the many animals who continue utilizing the abundance of this rich and wondrous eco-system.

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

Time well spent with Humpback whales, Orcas and a Minke whale!

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August 13th

Sightings: Orcas, Humpback whales, a Minke whale, Stellar Sea Lions, Harbour seals, Dall’s porpoises, Pacific White-sided dolphins, Bald Eagles, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets, Common Murres, Black Oystercatchers, Black Turnstones and Gull species.

It was superlative out on the water today as literally all the marine mammals that call this place their home were seen by our guests. Three tours, 10+ Humpbacks, 60 Orcas, 20+ Pacific White-sided dolphins and hundreds of feasting birds made it an exceptional experience for our visitors from all over the world. Even the weather displayed its many moods as the first tour started off with overcast skies and some precipitation, yet ended in sunshine and patches of blue sky.

Numerous Humpback blows were seen on our first tour as well as a full blown breach as a whale used the power of its fluke to propel its large body completely out of the water. Porpoises cruised through the narrow channels, utilizing the push from the steadily moving current. Stellar Sea Lions have started to establish themselves in the area, particularly the males who at this time of year are looking to take up residence which they do throughout the winter months. On our way home between Alder Bay and Alert Bay a Minke whale was seen travelling mid channel giving our passengers a fun-filled and action packed three hour tour.

As the afternoon arrived, so did the Northern Resident Orcas. They had been traveling in from the West and by the time our second tour was out, boats had sighted and reported their arrival. A large number of orcas and two clans (two language groups) were present this afternoon, the A23/25s, I16s, I65s, G03s, G27s, G02s, G46s, G16s, I11s, I33s and A30s which meant for interesting vocals that were heard over the hydrophone. It literally felt like a family gathering, a congregation as the different pods spread themselves over the broad expanse of Blackfish Sound.

By the time our third tour was out and about, the Orcas had made their way into Johnstone Strait and were heading towards the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. This is an area 1 mile offshore and 7 miles along the coast that is a sanctuary for our Resident Orcas. It was discovered that the whales like to gather in the area as a family and rub their bodies along the smooth pebbles that line the beaches. It is an important social activity which has been a part of their complex social system for many years. Boats, kayakers or even hikers on the beach disturbed the whales from this activity and so it became a reserve. It is the only place the whales can go and not be bothered by humans.

As we headed home at the end of a long but exciting day, our grand finale was watching three Humpback whales swimming side by side. We were drifting silently with our engines off when they turned towards us. We sat frozen and still and enjoyed this beautiful encounter. The sun was slowly descending, and soon sat low on the horizon.  It did not take long for the sky to be filled with fiery reds and rusty oranges and the greens from the islands and mountains were cast in darkness. The many birds that spent their day hunting and foraging were heading to their perch for the night, and the whales continued about their evening but in quieter waters.

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

Phenomenal sightings on all of our tours today!

 

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Sightings today: Orcas (Resident and Biggs Transient ), Humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises, Harbour seals, Bald Eagles, Black Turnstones, Black Oystercatchers, Red- necked Phalaropes, Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets, Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers and Gull species

It was a busy day at Seasmoke Whale Watching as three tours went out to play.  Numerous visitors arrived on the shores of Cormorant Island in search of the rich First Nation Culture that is present here, as well as an opportunity to experience our glorious oceanic backyard.

In the early wee hours of the morning the Resident Orcas travelled west in Blackfish Sound, their presence detected by whale calls heard on the hydrophones of the nearby Research Station, Orcalab.  This land-based research station has been present for over four decades. They not only listen to the underwater sounds 24/7 every day of every year, they record the vocalisations as well. The founders of Orcalab and volunteers have also been mapping the movements of these Northern Resident family groups including the changes within the family units. It is the longest ongoing land-based research of its kind.

We encountered the Orcas near the Foster Islands where they were still  travelling  west and observed traveling, resting, socializing, foraging and feeding behaviours. Seen amongst the Orcas was the occasional blow and the lifting of a fluke from Humpback whale. It is humbling to witness both an Orca and a Humpback in the same vicinity, sharing in the abundance of the sea and co-existing in what seems like a harmonious manner.  Our encounters with the Humpback whales today were numerous and wonderful and we were fortunate in observing both lunge and bubble-net feeding.

During the day the prevailing NW wind picked up, forming white-caps on what had been a glassy calm sea.  And although the conditions changed, the wildlife in the area continued about their day. The Humpback whale that was bubble net feeding continued feasting, the birds in flight were not hindered by the increasing wind and the Harbour seals remained upon the rocks at low tide despite the change in shore break as water splashed against the reefs.

On our way home after a fabulous late afternoon tour of viewing Humpback whales and other marine life, our guests onboard observed a small group of Biggs Transient Orcas in hunting mode (of seals) around a small group of Islands where earlier today on both the morning and afternoon tours, guests had enjoyed watching the same Harbour seals, mothers and their pups, hauled out and resting. That all changed this evening with the arrival of the three Transient Orcas in and amongst the reefs and islands.

Like a continuously flowing paint brush on a forever changing canvas, the turning tide and change in current and predators on the move, altered the conditions yet again.

It was a splendid day where folks from all over the globe chose to visit and cool down in the sea-breeze blowing on friendly Cormorant Island.

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

Great Start to our 2017 Season

It was our first day of 2017 on the water for Seasmoke Whale Watching Tours! What a wonderful day. We saw 3 Humpback whales, a group of Transient orcas and some Dall’s porpoises. We also saw Rhinoceros Auklets,  Pigeon Guillemots,  Black Oyster Catchers, Bald Eagles, Harbour seals, and the raw natural beauty of Northern Vancouver Island.

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Humpback Whales in their glory and an ever changing marine world all around us!

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Today’s Sightings: Humpback Whales, Dall’s Porpoises, Harbour Seals, Steller Sea Lions, Rhinoceros Auklets, Red-Necked Phalaropes, Pigeon Guillemots, Common Murres! A Peregrine Falcon, Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, a Great Blue Heron, a Sooty Shearwater and Gull species.

It was an incredible day of viewing and an ever-changing marine world all around us! The clouds and fog lifted on our morning tour revealing a beautiful flat calm ocean and Humpback Whales in their glory feeding. There was lunge feeding observed, some was at close range on both tours and an enormous breach was seen along with some five or more whales on the morning tour. As an added bonus, our passengers were very excited when a group of Dall’s Porpoises joined us briefly, bow-riding alongside!

On the afternoon tour, the sun was shinning brightly and a blue sky and ocean filled our eyes with immense beauty! We observed some seven or more Humpback Whales who were lunge feeding++. Freckles we observed tail lobbing and we also saw Slash and her calf! At one point we noticed Freckles surfacing with a gull in its mouth. When the whale opened its mouth and released the gull it swam free but was barely able to float. It was retrieved from the water and given a chance to recover and dry and was then released.

Lunge feeding is intense and birds who are also feeding at the surface (gulls) or diving beneath the water and at the surface (Auklets and Murres), are often injured or trapped momentarily inside the mouth’s of the surfacing Humpback Whales. It is by accident and not by intent as Humpback Whales do not have any teeth and have no interest in feeding on birds.

Steller Sea Lions were active, feeding and swimming in the water and one we observed was eating a fish at a distance. The scenic beauty today was wondrous, we could not have asked for a more beautiful day!

Photo Credits: Muriel Halle. All photo’s have been cropped and taken with a telephoto lens.

Orcas and Humpback Whales in an ocean of blue!

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Today’s Sightings: Northern Resident Orcas, Humpback Whales, Dall’s Porpoises, one Harbour Porpoise, Steller Sea Lions hauled out and swimming, Harbour Seals, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets, Red-Necked Phalaropes, Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, Black Turnstones and Gull species.

The weather did not disappoint us today and neither did our sightings of Orcas. They were the same two family groups that we have seen in recent days, the A30s and A42s. We encountered them travelling slowly west on the ebbing current in Blackfish Sound. They were milling around and briefly stalled just west of Flower Island, it was near Bold Head they appeared to gather more speed. Perhaps they were waiting for the current to turn back to flood and for them to turn back east once more was a thought that occurred to us but we will have to wait and see!

During our viewing of orcas, we also encountered seven or more Humpback Whales; three were in Blackfish Sound, two (possibly more) we sighted off Bold Head and at least two more near Stubbs Island. They were all on the move looking for food as were the birds common to our area at this time of the year. It was good to finally see a herring ball with gulls feeding upon it for the scarcity of bait balls and birds this year is of great concern to everyone.

The food chain from which all ocean species feed on, big and small, appears to have many links that are missing in our local waters this year! The sightings of Rhinoceros Auklets are very few and Common Murres are barely seen, just a single one or two can be observed on occasion. When compared to hundreds, if not thousands usually seen at this same time last year and years before, something is seriously wrong!

It was a special treat today to have a small group of Dall’s Porpoises ride alongside and at our bow briefly, we also saw another group rooster-tailing along in the current, they are so fast! The blue ocean sparkled in the bright sunlight and fluffy white clouds drifted on in a gorgeous blue sky, it was a beautiful day that we all enjoyed.

Photo Credits: Muriel Halle and Seasmoke Whale Watching.                                                                       Photos taken with a telephoto lens and have been cropped.

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