An unbelievable day of viewing!

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September 13th

Our Sightings:

Humpback whales, Orcas, Minke whales, Stellar sea lions, Harbour seals, Dall’s porpoises, Pacific White-sided dolphins, Bald Eagles, Red-necked Phalaropes, Rhinoceros Auklets, Gull species, Belted Kingfishers, Black Oystercatchers, Pigeon Guillemots and Common Murres.

A crisp, sunny, blue bird day was gifted us on this mid-September, two tour day.

After a few days of rain it is amazing how relieved we feel to have the sun resting upon our cheeks and turning the water into shimmering diamonds once again. Blue sky stretched for miles and the calm sea was a welcomed reprieve after a number of days of wind, rain and choppy waters.

Our morning tour was all about the Humpbacks and by afternoon the Orcas had arrived in to the area so we were able to witness the family dynamics between the three pods that transited the area. Although we had the familiar A23 and A25 pods in the area today, we were also privileged to witness a family that has not been in the area all season, the A34’s. It was lovely to see them traveling close together, swimming in unison.

The Sea Lions littered the rocks and stood out like lanterns as they were lit up by the sun, their tanned complexions brilliant and bright in the mid-day sun. Their vocals carried far across the water, reaching our eager and curious ears along with the puffs and blows of the smaller marine mammals of porpoises and dolphins transiting the area.

Birds feasted alongside the gentle giants of Humpbacks and the odd fishing boat cruised through the area in hope of catching their limit. We also had sightings of two Minke whales today! Everything was in order in this Northern Vancouver Island region and we were happy to be along for the ride.

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

The ocean was full of treasures!

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August 19th

Our sightings: Humpback Whales, Orca, Dall’s porpoise, Harbour seals. Stellar sea lions, Bald Eagles, Rhinoceros Auklets, Marbled Murrelets, Common Murres, Red-necked Phalaropes, Black Oystercatchers, Belted Kingfishers and Gull species.

It was a busy day for Seasmoke Whale Watching as three tours went out to play and thankfully the weather was mild. Fog took the day off and so the air was fresh and clear, and the sea welcomed us with tranquility.

The very first sighting of a whale today was one that breached and it was a Humpback. More blows were seen and after making our way to the action, we observed numerous other blows as well as a whale known as Moonstar was bubble-net feeding. The ocean came alive as the current stirred up the sea bringing rich nutrients to the surface. Auklets, Murres and numerous gulls arrived on scene to take part in the feast. They dove into chaos of current and bubbles, then rose again with a beak full of fish. The chorus of varied squawks and shrieks filled the motionless air.

A report of Orcas in the area turned our attention and boat in their direction. Thankfully they were fairly close and it took little time for us to reach them. They too were making good use of the abundance of food in the area. Their buffet consisted of fresh salmon and they were not the only specie hunting this local cuisine. Our guests witnessed an unusual event, as two Dall’s Porpoise swam by our silently drifting boat in pursuit of a salmon. All was seen underneath the surface due to the sea being ultra-calm and transparent.

Not only were there Humpbacks and over 60 Orca were in the area, we had a wonderful sighting of Sea Lions. A generous group of Stellar Sea Lions sailed by our vessel, some of them had their flipper poised in mid-air, as they regulated their body temperature. Evidence of Sea Otter was present as a devoured Sea Urchin floated by us in the current and the sounds of Kingfishers and Oystercatchers drifted to us from the forested shoreline. It was a Plethora of sights, sounds and awesome encounters summarized perfectly by one of our guests: “Today the ocean was full of treasures”.

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

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These four photo’s taken by Robin Quirk have been cropped and taken with a telephoto lens.

Wonderful viewing, in and out of the fog!

 

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Sightings today: Humpback whales, Orca, Dall’s porpoises, Pacific White-sided dolphins, Stellar sea lions, Harbour seals, Pigeon Guillemots, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets, Common Murres, Red-necked Phalaropes, Belted Kingfishers, Bald Eagles and a Mink.

The question for the day is ‘what didn’t we see today?’ There were so many species that came out to play during our mystical fog tours. The low-lying fog limiting our visibility especially on the morning tour did not stop us from seeing almost the entirety of marine mammals that can be sighted in this region. The Orca’s arrived back from the east, Humpback whales were sighted in their usual feeding spots and there was so much more to see besides!

Two types of dolphins were observed, the smaller Pacific White-sided dolphin and our Northern Resident Orca. The orcas, travelling in a big group were identified as the A23’s, A25’s, A30’s, I15’s and I31’s (A and G-Clan orcas). At times we have observed the dolphins swimming amongst the Orca, buzzing around them like Mosquitos around an Aussie. During these moments we see the Orca taking longer, deeper dives trying to rid themselves of these pesky dolphins that either are deliberately bugging them or they simply want to play. 

Dall’s Porpoises in small pods were seen during both tours that went out today. There are times they have been mistaken for young Orca calves, due to their distinctive black and white colouration. Our larger Sea Lion, the Stellar Sea Lion was also observed, in fact a group of three were seen swimming and foraging on the calm, tranquil sea that made for a smooth comfortable ride aboard MV Seasmoke.  

Although there were numerous Humpback Whales out and about today, we identified Lucky and Guardian. It is becoming easy to spot Lucky from even a far distance away just from the brilliant technique this whale uses for feeding. Lucky is the bubble-net feeding Humpback that we have often seen feeding in this manner this summer and it is always a special treat to see.

As we journeyed alongside the smaller islands and coastal nooks and crannies, we had a good look at a Mink who was scampering along the shore. Harbour Seals surfaced on occasion, wide-eyed while others hauled out, mothers and their pups, stayed upon the rocks and observed our passing. Because of the fog on the morning tour, the Bald Eagles had a strong presence. As they perched on a cedar branch, their wings open and stretched in order to dry them off, they looked massive as though it was actually Batman up in the treeEven the Red-necked Phalaropes, the smallest bird we encounter in these parts look bigger when they have fog as their backdrop.

For those guests traveling from overseas, today was definitely a nature bucket-list day! 

Seasmoke photo’s, taken by Julia today, have been taken with a telephoto lens and have been cropped.

A Humpback whale day!

August 8th
Sightings: Humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises, Harbour seals, Pigeon Guillemots, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets, Common Murres, Red-necked Phalaropes, Belted Kingfishers, Bald Eagles and 1 Eaglet, Black Turnstones, Black Oystercatchers and Gull species.
It was a Humpback whale of a day as numerous encounters of these incredible creatures were enjoyed by our visiting guests.  We witnessed varying whale anatomy appear suddenly from the water below, all belonging to the Humpback whale. Tail slaps were seen and heard fom near and far, as the explosive sound echoed freely across the water. It was the breeches we saw today that really impressed our passengers. A forty five foot, thirty ton whale leaping clear out of the water is a sight one does not easily forget. This awesome vision is a feast to lay your eyes upon as you watch the torpedo- like head suddenly appear up from the sea, followed by the two gangerly, long pectorial fins and stream-lined body. Once you see the fluke you can not believe that your eyes are seeing a whale completely clear out of the water. And then there is the landing..which is sensational. The chaotic splash and delayed crackle of thunder sent shivers up our spines.
Nature was at its most impressive today as our resident humpbacks went about their day and we, the audience, relished in their presence. Our touring through the many island waterways on our way home was one of immense wonder and joy.

Humpback whales ~ bubble-net feeding observed once more!

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Today’s Sightings: Humpback whales, Dall’s Porpoises, Harbour seals, Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Heron, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Black Oystercatchers and Gull species.

Our tour today departed in the afternoon, allowing time for most of the morning fog to dissipate. Feeling the emphasized heat from the blazing sun is somewhat unusual in this region, because typically a sea-breeze is present which welcomingly keeps our temperature comfortable. Vancouver Island is experiencing a heat wave therefore conditions are warmer than usual. Temperature plays a crucial role for salmon who are trying to head up rivers to lay their eggs. Spawning conditions need to be perfect and it is the combination of abnormally warm temperatures, very little rain and shallower streams that are effecting the success of the salmon. Not only do they need to lay their eggs, but they are required to get up the river in order to do so. They need deep enough water and the water needs to be at a certain temperature. And so the delicate balance of this eco-system continues to be challenged.

It was the Humpback whales that fascinated us throughout our tour today. One whale named ‘Lucky’ has adopted and perfected a feeding technique unlike the usual feeding behaviour we observe here – bubble net feeding. How extremely fascinating to know that Humpbacks learn and adopt feeding techniques, behaviour and even songs from other whales. The technical term is ‘learned behaviour’. Spiraling up towards the ocean surface, Lucky released bubbles, trapping bait fish within this newly formed bubble cylinder. A deep dive followed, as the whale descended downwards to place itself at the bottom of the tube ready to retrieve its catch. Now as it ascends upwards towards the surface once more, the whale opens its huge gaping jaw, the throat pleats spreading wide collecting the entire tube of fish along the way. This is truly dynamite and impressive to watch.

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.

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.