Back at the dock, happy twins Charlotte and Gabby with Dad about to disembark
Our tour was one of quiet and relaxed viewing of three humpback whales, a fourth we cannot confirm with certainty but the other three we can. The first blow was seen near Little Weynton Island and in time, two humpback whales were seen travelling towards us in the flooding current of Weynton Passage. They moved together in close proximity and with their surfacing and diving sequence, it was mesmerizing and beautiful to watch. As we neared the Plumper Islands, looking backwards a third humpback whale was seen, it too was making its way west through Weynton Passage while looking far out into the top end of Blackfish Sound we thought there to be a fourth whale diving. The sighting of this whale was never confirmed, it could have been one of the earlier whales but the distance between sightings and timing of it and them, appeared to be too far. It was a fabulous viewing in very quiet waters with small groups of dall’s porpoises feeding nearby. Also seen today: stellar sea lions, harbour seals, bald eagles, pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets, pelagic cormorants and surf scoters and marbled murrelets.
With a report of Orcas (A30’s and I15’s) east of Forward Bay in Johnstone Strait this morning and still easting we explored in through Weynton Passage and it was here that we enjoyed the dynamic behaviour of four Humpback Whales feeding in a specific area of the Passage where large flocks of Common Murres and Rhinoceros Auklets had also gathered. With our engine off and our boat drifting in the current, it was breathtaking to watch the surfacing and diving sequences of the whales as they circled back and forth, surfacing one after another and simultaneously at times with one whale breaching once nearby the boat much to the surprise of us all. The viewing was exciting and superb while the sounds of Murres calling back and forth to their young, the blows and trumpeting of the whales and the background roaring chatter of Stellar Sea Lions all added greatly to the mystical atmosphere and exquisite beauty of the day as seen in the clearing fog. Also seen: Stellar Sea Lions, Dall’s Porpoises, Bald Eagles, Red-necked Phalaropes, Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, Ruddy Turnstones, Black Oyster Catchers, a Pelagic Cormorant, Mew, Herring and Glaucous-winged Gulls. Like yesterday, due to the denseness of the fog that lingered for much of the tour, there is little contrast in the greyness of the photo images posted today.
When we headed out this morning we did so in bright sunshine with a clear view ahead of us down Johnstone Strait while a heavy fog bank hung above us and soon began dropping as we made our way down the Strait to where Orcas had been reported earlier inside the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. It was therefore an incredibly moving and beautiful encounter that we were fortunate to witness, just as we neared Blackney Passage this morning when Orcas appeared suddenly out of the fog. There were initially two groups, the A30’s were closer to mid-Strait and the A34’s who were slightly behind but closest to Blackney Passage. It was a breathtaking moment to see the A34’s swimming by under water and then surfacing near the bow of the boat and watching as they stalled momentarily while forming a long resting line of 10 individuals, a beautiful sight and somewhat surreal in the morning fog. Taking photo’s was not easy with the fog being so dense, there was little contrast between the black and white Orcas, grey water and dull white foggy surroundings, yet beautiful it was! The A30’s moved ahead along with the A12’s and behind them were the I15’s, spread out, some we observed were foraging along the Hanson Island shoreline and some beautiful G-Clan calls were heard at that point, we had also listened to echolocations and A-Clan calls earlier from the A34’s. Leaving the orcas as they continued moving west, we made our way into Weynton Passage and sighted the blow of a Humpback Whale. The fog was clearing rapidly and soon we could see that there were at least three whales, possibly four moving about in the flooding current, with one seen as far up as Cormorant Channel. It was a fabulous day, topped off as we were nearing Alder Bay with the sighting of yet another Humpback Whale surfacing and diving a distance away from us in Pearse Passage. Also seen today: Stellar Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, Dall’s Porpoises, Bald Eagles, Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets, Red-necked Phalaropes, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Black Oyster Catchers, Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons and Mew, Herring and Glaucous-winged Gulls.
As we headed out on tour this morning the fog had mostly cleared in Johnstone Strait and we headed east where it was reported that orcas were making their way to the west along the Vancouver Island shoreline while others were also making their way west across the Strait. We encountered the A8’s near Kaikash, A66 was in the lead and we enjoyed seeing him ahead of the others, a family of five orcas in total. While the Orcas were all moving quickly, stopping to forage along the way they were joined by a small group of Pacific White-sided Dolphins 10+ who were seen porpoising amongst them.The orcas at that point became silent and proceeded to take long dives in an attempt to loose the playful dolphins but ahead of this we had listened to their A-Clan calls via our hydrophone; meanwhile the rest of the A5’s ( A23’s and A25’s) were travelling west along the Hanson Island shoreline. It was in Weynton Passage that we sighted a humpback whale moving back and forth in the current and taking dives lasting seven minutes. At the same time small groups of Dall’s Porpoises were observed feeding all around us and some 8+ Stellar Sea-lions were seen swimming lazily together nearby in a backeddy. Also seen today: Harbour Seals++, Bald Eagles and two Eaglets on the top of their nest, Red-necked Phalaropes, Pigeon Guillemots, Black Oyster Catchers, Belted Kingfishers, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Herring, Glaucous-winged and Mew Gulls.
Where to begin writing about such an amazing day of viewing! We began our tour with the knowledge that Orcas had been heard earlier this morning in the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve and that they were heading to the west along the Vancouver Island shoreline. It was in heavy fog that we made our way down Johnstone Strait and near Blinkhorn, a lone Orca (A60), was out in the lead, slipping by us in the fog,his high dorsal fin appearing as a ghostly form and his breath clearly audible and far-reaching in the fog. With our engine off and the boat drifting, we listened for blows and could hear more blows behind us coming our way and soon the A43’s (A23’s) came into view with the A25’s close behind. We all enjoyed observing as the A43’s foraged near the boat, passing back and forth and lunging rapidly after fish as well, we listened to some beautiful A-Clan calls and intense close sounding echolocation near our hydrophone. The fog was dense and while losing the Orcas at times, we would listen for their blows and move towards the sound. As the tour progressed and the fog slowly dissipated around us, children onboard explained to their mother that they were experiencing a mystical Harry Potter “fog” moment just like in one of the books that they were reading with a fog and forest sequence but then more magic was to follow! As we sat waiting for the Orcas to appear again and while listening for blows of them feeding nearby, A60 suddenly appeared out of the fog and began feeding around our boat, passing back and forth with momentum while lunging after fish. One of our passengers observed as two large Chinook Salmon swam speedily towards the hull of our boat with A60 swimming directly behind them, it was incredulous, the images of A60 so close to us, using the hull of our boat to chase salmon against, were full and vivid in the minds of all of us. It was a magical and awesome experience to partake in at close range and came as a total surprise while the boat sat drifting with the engine off. As if by magic a “fog-bow” appeared on the water as a halo arching outwards from the stainless steel railings on the boat and with the sun shining bright, for an instant only, an orca was seen swimming through it and captured on camera by one very happy passenger! Other sighting today included dall’s porpoises, rhinoceros auklets, bald eagles++ in the trees and fishing on a herring ball, harbour seals, belted kingfishers and gulls ++.
It was a day of contrast and colour and vivid imagery that made ones head spin, where the scenic beauty was beyond belief and the sheer volume of water passing through Weynton Passage at maximum
humpback whale in the surging current
flood and ebb with constant upwellings, tide rip and whirlpools was absolute madness! Where to begin on such a day? This morning when we headed out fog hung low upon the water but clearing in waves to reveal mystical islands that would suddenly appear, only to disappear again! Weynton Passage was already busy with marine life when we arrived and it was not long before we sighted our first humpback whale of the day and observed it feeding in a back eddy close to the Plumper Islands. It was brilliant viewing and exciting when it surfaced suddenly near the bow of the boat on several occasions while the boat drifted in the fast flowing current. Several stellar sea lions were also seen swimming lazily alongside of the Plumper Islands, moving also in a back eddy but in the opposite direction to the humpback whale. Several dall’s porpoises were seen, some porpoising nearby and at the stern of the boat while others were rooster-tailing rapidly through the whirlpools. The fog engulfed us suddenly but while listening for blows a loud humpback whale blow could be heard and moving towards the sound that carried far into the fog, a whale suddenly dived before us. There were at least three humpback whales in the near vicinity, they were moving in varying directions and we enjoyed them all as they emerged and disappeared into and out of the fog. As the day grew brighter and warmer the islands among the scenic waterways enticed us all to look and listen more keenly at the enormous glistening kelp forests spreading outwards, belted kingfishers darting back and forth, harbour seals hauled out, black oyster catchers and ruddy turnstones; all of them adding to the beauty and majesty of the day. Our afternoon tour was busy with humpback whales and we so enjoyed watching as seven or more circled back and forth and round and round in Weynton Passage, some moving out into Johnstone Strait before cruising back through the current, swept on by in the upwellings and then out towards Stubbs Island before riding back in on the flooding current! It was exceptional viewing, everywhere one looked in all directions there they were! Some were breaching and some tail lobbing, others trumpeting, it was a challenge keeping track of them all. Stellar sea lions were in the mix, as were dall’s porpoises and bald eagles fishing with gulls++ on herring balls. As unbelievable as it sounds we watched a sea lion who was lying back eating a salmon, lose it to an eagle that came swooping in, taking the portion of salmon not yet eaten and the expression on the face of the sea lion in that moment was priceless to us, the audience watching on! Today on the water it was phenomenal, the images vividly portrayed were wondrous and powerfully energizing as only nature can be.