Superstars ~ Orcas and Humpback Whales and other stars as well!

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Today’s Sightings: Northern Resident Orcas, Humpback Whales, Dall’s Porpoises, a Harbour Porpoise, Steller Sea lions, Harbour Seals, Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots and a Great Blue Heron.

How lucky are we to live where we do in a place where an abundance of marine mammals and seabirds can be viewed so close to home. We are so inspired by our guests who travel great distances to see our Superstars, the Orcas and Humpback Whales and yet, they are also just as thrilled in seeing the Red-Necked Phalaropes flying low over the water in small cloud-like flocks (a rare sighting in Europe we have been told), the hauled out Harbour Seals, Steller Sea lions and Bald Eagles perched high in trees. All of them are common sightings for most locals but wonderful sights for our guests to gaze upon in awe and photograph.

It is very easy to take it all for granted but how can we? Daily we are reminded by our guests excited expressions for they tell a familiar story. How lucky we are to see so much beauty in our surroundings!

Our tour today was beautiful. There were three Matriline groups travelling together, the A42s, A24s and C10s and we first encountered them resting in Blackfish Sound. When they woke up they began interacting and socializing with each other, the A24s keeping a little distance ahead of the mix of A42s and C10s and we observed some tail slaps and spy-hopping behaviour in the mix of orcas!

Four Humpback Whales were sighted during the tour and Argonaut was one that we identified in Weynton Passage. Our passengers were thrilled to see in one scenic shot, Stellar Sea lions, Dall’s Porpoises and Bald Eagles. Having seen the Superstars earlier on in the tour, everyone was more than content to see the other stars!

It is a wonderful and precious world that we live in, here on the North Island!

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Our C0-Pilot ~Thank you Dava, you stole all of our hearts today!

Photo credits: Muriel Halle & of Dava ~ Andrew Jennings: cropped photos taken with telephoto lens.

Orcas: C10’s, a humpback whale and a sea otter with fantastic viewing!

IMG_0185 IMG_0182 IMG_0179 IMG_0177 IMG_0172 IMG_0171 gzIOp 2016-07-13 14.23.52 2016-07-13 14.23.35 2016-07-13 14.23.24

What an incredible afternoon that we all so enjoyed! The sun was shining, it was warm on the water and there are so many highlights to talk about including a beautiful blue sky and ocean!

We encountered the C10’s, one of the pods of Northern Resident Orcas who arrived into our area yesterday morning. They were all spread out and westing near Bauza Islets. We listened in awe on our hydrophone to their A-Clan calls and it was so beautiful listening to them in this manner! We were lucky at one point to see them surface nearby surprising us all when we were not expecting to see them so close as we sat idle and drifting.

Later on in our tour we encountered a humpback whale and observed several half breaches and tail slaps. After four 10 minute long dives, it surfaced just as we were departing and a guest motioned to us all that it was breaching and tail slapping!

It could not have been any better but then we spied a Sea Otter rolling around in a kelp forest and what an incredibly exciting viewing that was. As we observed, we all became aware of the ebbing current passing us by, and noticed that the bull kelp was aligned and flowing in the direction of the rapidly moving ebbing waters. We ended our tour viewing Bald Eagles and their nests and hauled out Harbour Seals.

Sightings seen today: Northern Resident Orca’s: C10’s, a Humpback Whale, Bald Eagles, Harbour Seals,  Black Turn Stones, Rhinoceros Auklets, Red-Necked Phalaropes, Black Oyster Catchers, Gulls and a Sea Otter!

Please note: all photos are cropped and are taken with a telephoto lens on our blog posts.

Humpback Whales ~ A mother and her young calf with excited Pacific White-sided Dolphins at play. A fabulous day!

IMG_3960 IMG_3986 IMG_3980 IMG_3969 IMG_3968 IMG_3965 IMG_3944 IMG_3946 IMG_3951 IMG_3942It was a beautiful and blustery trip today. We had some excellent viewing of hauled out Pacific Harbour Seals and Bald Eagles (juvenile and adult) all soaring high above, we counted ten or more of them, all the while to the tune of Black Oystercatchers who were calling out loudly from the rocks nearby. We caught sight of a few large blows down in Blackfish Sound and happy to have found some Humpback Whales, we did not expect what we saw next! As we drew nearer we could make out the splashes of some very excited Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, always fun to be with they did not disappoint us today. It seemed that they were congregating around the one, no two, Humpback Whale blows that we at first saw! It turned out to be a mother and her young calf, swimming very slowly. The dolphins however wanted to play, and play they did!

The mother Humpback let out many loud trumpeting sounds as she blew (out her two blowholes), seemingly irritated by her small and (distant) annoying dolphin relatives (all of them collectively called are called cetaceans). The dolphins were jumping and flipping and swimming all around the mother and calf and coming all around the boat as well. It was quite the sight and we had an excellent time just taking it all in. We put the hydrophone in the water and the chirps and squeals of the high pitched dolphins could be heard. The Humpbacks did not take a dive, it is possible that the calf was breast feeding as we observed, the mother under the water and the calf coming to the surface often to breathe. The youngin seemed to almost enjoy the dolphins as it rolled around and popped its small rostrum above the water. Perhaps the dolphins were welcoming the new whale to these waters…we will never really know the full extent of these interspecies relationships. Perhaps the dolphins weren’t entirely pesky and were offering some sort of assistance to the mother and her calf, perhaps they were simply enjoying and observing out of interest, like we ourselves were, the beauty and wonder of the mother and her calf.

As well as the mother and her calf there were some three to four other humpback whales also in the area today. It was a truly beautiful experience to watch this interaction between the whales and dolphins and then, through wild wind and turbid waters we made our way safely home, all of us smiling!

Today’s penned comments:

“Thanks for a wonderful return visit”
Darnell & Kevin Knauss, “class of 1988” , California

“I wish I could wake up to those scones every morning! Thanks for an awesome journey! Will be back”
Siera Hammill, Ontario

“Spectacular trip – over too soon. Great fun. Thank you”
John , Colorado

Extraordinary Humpback Whale watching and also Orcas!

IMG_9374 IMG_9378 IMG_9381 IMG_9385 IMG_9388 IMG_9448 IMG_9449 IMG_9454 IMG_9455 IMG_9466 IMG_9472 IMG_9479 IMG_9498 IMG_9501 It was an amazing day for viewing Cetaceans but in which direction should we take? Orcas were reported down in Johnstone Strait with conflicting reports and sightings, there was a Commercial Fishing opening as well as fog in Johnstone Strait. We decided to take the less travelled route, with less boat traffic and fog and found ourselves suddenly alone amongst numerous Humpback whales, at least 7-8 as we transited through Weynton Passage and out into the Queen Charlotte Strait. It was amazing to see the whales so spread out feeding in all directions, some were lunge feeding through herring balls, others could be seen breaching off in the distance off Bold Head and also off Donegal Head; we also listened to some interesting Humpback Whale vocals via our hydrophone. It was while we were observing some lunge feeding Humpback Whales that Orcas were reported coming in off Lizard Point and then off Fife Sound,  meanwhile a Humpback Whale surfaced suddenly very near our boat and began to hang vertically with its mouth open and gaping and then closing it, repeating the process two more times as we watched with amazement, it was exceptional viewing! Over the side of the boat we could look down at the huge body lying vertically in the water, its left pectoral fin visible as we looked and then in a moment, it dived,  surfacing again it continued to feed but not in the manner that we had been so fortunate to witness. We continued further out into the Queen Charlotte Strait travelling north and suddenly sighted orcas travelling east and due south. They were well spread out some 8 plus individuals, one large male was sighted closer to Malcolm Island and we believe they were the A34’s (10 orcas). It was exciting to see them and listen to their vocalizations via the hydrophone which were beautiful A-Clan calls! As we watched, they suddenly turned back, travelling further out in the Strait towards the Penfold Islands. Also seen today: Dall’s Porpoises, Stellar Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, Black Oyster Catchers, Bald Eagles, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, a Peregrine Falcon (photo zoomed and cropped) , Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets, Red-necked Phalaropes and Gulls ++

Superb viewing of Orcas and lunge feeding Humpback Whales!

IMG_8867 IMG_8870 IMG_8891 IMG_8896 IMG_8986 IMG_8994 IMG_9010 IMG_9020 IMG_9032 IMG_9045 IMG_9046 IMG_9048 IMG_9049 IMG_9056 IMG_9069 IMG_9070 What an amazing morning we shared on the water viewing Cetaceans and what a surprise viewing it was too! It was a foggy morning when we headed out and rather than clearing, the fog seemed to thicken around us. We were making our way into Weynton Passage and enjoying viewing the quiet beauty of the Stephensen Islands when Orca fins were suddenly sighted a distance away, breaking suddenly out of the fog and heading towards us through Weynton Passage on the flooding current. It was a moment of surreal beauty, of not quite believing it to be real, but then looking again and seeing the fins once more advancing through the fog towards us, and there were many fins! As the orcas advanced, we became aware of a smaller group of orcas separate from the large group and identified them as the A8’s while in the larger group, spread out in a very large resting line we could identify the A30’s but another large family with them we could not be 100% certain of. While the A30’s have been travelling with the I15’s in recent days, from our count today including the A30’s, there did not seem to be enough orcas, and we could only see one other male in the group, plus A38 and A39 (A30’s Matriline). The viewing was breathtaking and beautiful and the whiteness of the surrounding fog held us all spellbound, aware that we were witnessing something special in the foggy quietness and emptiness of the morning. We deployed our hydrophone at the entrance to Johnstone Strait and heard one A-Clan call only. The orcas carried on into the Strait with the push of the flooding current behind them, they moved quickly making their way down the Hanson Island shoreline; the A8’s closest to the shoreline were slightly behind the A30’s + ? I15’s.  We watched as they moved away from us, their fins disappearing quickly into the fog beyond, just as we had first encountered them coming out of the fog!  We made our way back into Weynton Passage and without going any distance, enjoyed viewing the dynamics of three Humpback Whales, all three feeding on herring balls. We could easily see the bait balls gathering with a myriad of gulls feeding off herring at the surface of the water and then quickly rising up in flight as a whale commenced lunge feeing through the herring ball. Even when the Orcas were transiting through Weynton Passage earlier a Humpback Whale was seen feeding only meters away from them and the blows of Orcas and Humpback Whales punctuated the still morning air beautifully in their passing. Also seen: Stellar Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Black Oyster Catchers, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Belted Kingfishers, Ruddy Turnstones and Gulls.

Humpback and minke whale watching!

Minke Whale: Ripple

Minke Whale: Ripple

3 herring gulls (juvenile and 2nd summer) and 1 hybrid glaucous -winged gulls

Today was an amazing day for viewing cetaceans despite the fog conditions that we encountered early on in our tour that later changed to drizzle. Our sights and sounds began while we were docked in Alder Bay this morning when we heard the distinct blow of a humpback whale nearby but due to the fog that stretched across the Strait we could not see it. Once underway we listened for blows and then

harbour seals

harbour seals

Humpback whale KC - dorsal fin

Humpback whale KC – dorsal fin

suddenly sighted a minke whale disappearing in the fog. The blow of a minke whale is considerably smaller than that of a humpback whale and this was not the sound that we had heard earlier while docked in Alder Bay. After

KC's - fluke on diving

KC’s – fluke on diving

several sightings of the minke whale Ripple (i’d later by Jared), observing as it foraged, and then two bald eagles chasing a gull that luckily escaped, we continued on our way. A small group of pacific white-sided dolphins were sighted and we watched as they foraged intently at the bow and around the boat. Two humpback whales had been reported near Weynton Island and heading in that direction, after some anxious moments and eager anticipation, we heard the blow of a humpback whale and there it was! It was KC (Kelp Creature) the 11 year old humpback whale who has been in the area frequently already this summer and has returned every year since its birth in 2002. We enjoyed some special viewing in quiet waters with KC and following slowly  we observed as he/she made its way through the inside passage of Weynton Island, viewing hauled out harbour seals as we went by. The fog remained heavy and with the current ebbing strongly in Weynton Passage we eventually lost track of KC but caught a brief glimpse of a minke whale in passing. Other sightings today included: dall’s porpoises, rhinoceros auklets, harlequin ducks,  cassins’ auklets, belted kingfishers, bald eagles, a great blue heron and pigeon guillemots.

Our tour today.

It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the sea calm. We sighted bald eagles in abundance and numerous stellar sea lions, several were hauled out while the others we passed were travelling in Blackfish Sound. There were harbour seals hauled out and seabirds: pigeon guillemots and black oyster catchers were also seen. Approximately an hour after arriving back into Alert Bay, Christie reported that two orcas were travelling to the west in front of Alert Bay, she had identified them as being transients (Biggs Killer Whales) T68 & T68A.