Yesterday morning, what should have taken a few minutes of time, extended into nearly an hour. I was outside on the balcony hanging out some washing when I heard the unmistakable blow of a humpback whale. I heard the blows a few times before grabbing the camera and binoculars and waited for the next blow. How wonderful to listen as the loud blows broke the stillness and quietness of early morning, seeing the humpback whale surfacing a few times but not in time to take a photo, and still see a small whale (minke) feeding near where sea birds had gathered. There were numerous bald eagles flying about but due to the rising tide they were unable to reach the remains of a halibut thrown out further along the beach. A belted kingfisher was fishing from the piling nearby and then there were five river otters swimming along and clambering out on the small dock out in front. When I zoomed in and cropped the photo, there was a minke whale feeding back and forth where the humpback whale had also been! Blissful was the time spent outside yesterday morning, living in the moment! Had I not bothered to hang out the washing (it is easier to throw it in the dryer), I would have missed the ‘moment’ and majestic beauty of the ‘living and breathing’ coastline on which so many species, including humans, rely. Meanwhile, even as I write, an oil rig is currently passing through our BC waterways, en route to the Alaskan Arctic Coast for drilling purposes by Shell, in the Chukchi Sea. It brings to mind that somewhere, at some point, an oil spill will occur along the BC/ Alaskan coastline. I cannot begin to imagine what it will do to birds, fish, whale and dolphin populations….our oceans and coastlines are precious!
Environmental groups, citing harsh conditions and a fragile ecosystem, say it’s a mistake to drill in the Arctic.
“We can’t trust Shell with America’s Arctic. As we all remember, Shell’s mishaps in 2012 culminated with its drilling rig running aground,” Cindy Shogan, executive director of Alaska Wilderness League, said in a statement. “Shell’s 2015 plans are even riskier and dirtier this time around.”
Franz Matzner, director of the Beyond Oil Initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council, called it a “wrong-headed decision.”
“No company deserves a license to despoil our last pristine ocean and spew massive amounts of carbon pollution into our atmosphere,” Matzner said in an e-mail. “Any major Arctic Ocean spill would be impossible to clean up.”
Shell drilled two test wells in 2012 after spending about $6 billion over almost a decade in preparation. This year Shell plans to simultaneously use two vessels to explore about 70 miles from the village of Wainwright. The drilling will take place in 140 feet of water.
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.
It seems as though summer has arrived already on the North Island with temperatures this last weekend as warm or warmer than they ever get to in the summertime and one cannot help but be amazed at the large numbers of Bald Eagles seen all over the island and viewed in close proximity. Yesterday 28++ could be seen feeding out in the Bay, diving low over a herring ball. This morning I observed a juvenile eagle targeting a Common Loon as it was feeding close to the Government Dock, fortunately for the loon, it skillfully dove beneath the waters surface time and again and the juvenile giving up, flew back to rest on the nearby piling. Birds of all species are busy, some are nest building while others are already sitting on their clutch of eggs. While gardening yesterday, it was heartwarming to see once again the Tree Swallows who have returned to our yard claiming their nesting box and the sound of Rufous Hummingbirds flitting back and forth among the salmon berry bushes and at the feeder was music to my ears. Great Blue Herons and Belted Kingfishers feeding out front when the tide is low is always a welcomed sight and seeing them this morning with the sun shining bright was wonderful. A Minke Whale was also reported yesterday feeding on the north side of Cormorant Island.