In the company of Orcas ~ surreal and beautiful viewing in the fog

IMG_9520 IMG_9546 IMG_9553 IMG_9564 IMG_9578 IMG_9600 IMG_9626 IMG_9630 IMG_9634 IMG_9642 IMG_9650 IMG_9658 IMG_9664When 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.

Brilliant viewing of Orcas, Humpback & Minke Whales!

IMG_9107 IMG_9113 IMG_9118 IMG_9133 IMG_9179 IMG_9212 IMG_9227 IMG_9261 IMG_9285 IMG_9300 IMG_9303 IMG_9309 IMG_9310It was another day of contrast, colour and visual beauty in Johnstone Strait, beginning with heavy fog early on in the tour when Orcas were first reported heading back to the west in the vicinity of the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. After briefly glimpsing a Humpback Whale in Weynton Passage, we continued down the Hanson Island shoreline and near the Baron Reefs, just east of Cracroft Point, we knew that we were getting close to the approaching Orcas, but still could not see them due to the denseness of the fog. Suddenly, there some were, surfacing near the bow of our boat, travelling quickly, porpoising along. They were the A50’s from the A30 Matriline and as we looked, Johnstone Strait was suddenly clearing of fog and with the blink of an eye, had vanished and all across the Strait, small groups of Orcas could be seen, spread out, all moving to the west. The sun was bright and warming, the sky blue and the Strait beautiful and shimmering, there was not a breath of wind. Orca blows and that of a Humpback Whale were clearly seen with the Humpback Whale being centre Strait and easting. We also observed some of the I15’s, their G-Clan vocalizations were heard via our hydrophone, as well as echolocations from both the A30’s and I15’s foraging nearby. It was interesting to watch the A50’s who had passed us by, suddenly charge back to forage close to the boat and then continued on in the direction of Cracroft Point where the rest of the A30’s were foraging in the vicinity of Blackney Passage where the current was flooding. The A8’s were also in the mix of orcas in the Strait today. It was up near Weynton Passage in Johnstone Strait that we observed two Humpback Whales lunge feeding through herring balls, and again like yesterday, we observed as the Whales quickly moved to where flocks of gulls were feeding on the herring at the surface of the water while mostly Common Murres had also gathered and were diving under the water to feed, in doing so, driving the herring upwards. As well as lunge feeding, we also observed some feeding where a whale simply hung suspended at the surface of the water and opening its mouth that filled with feed, it closed it, repeating the process a few times before moving on. As we began making our way homeward, a small group of Dall’s Porpoises joined us at the bow, riding along beside us, they treated us to some beautiful close-up viewing of them. Finally, near Pearse Passage, a Minke Whale who we identified as Bolt, was suddenly sighted surfacing nearby providing a wonderful finale to an extraordinary day of numerous Cetacean sightings. Also seen: Harbour Seals, Rhinoceros Auklets, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Red-necked Phalaropes, Great Blue Herons and Gulls++.

Wonderful day sailing with Orcas: A8’s, Humpback Whales lunge feeding & breaching++ and a Minke Whale!

IMG_8401 IMG_8402 IMG_8447 IMG_8449 IMG_8451 IMG_8459 IMG_8608 IMG_8609 IMG_8610 IMG_8611 IMG_8612 We enjoyed an amazing day of viewing Orcas, Humpback Whales++ and a Minke Whale with unbelievable sightings! What a day of contrast and colour, of quiet foraging of Orcas and then amazing lunge feeding and airborne acrobatics by Humpback Whales. Our tour this morning took us first into Weynton Passage where we enjoyed viewing Humpback Whales, it was reported that there were eight in the vicinity but with the sudden sighting of a large male Orca fin out in the Queen Charlotte Strait, we headed in that direction and met up with the A8’s who were foraging initially off Bold Head but moving steadily west, they were taking long dives and were soon off Bold Head and still heading west and a small group of Dolphins were seen amongst them. Their A-Clan vocalizations were beautiful to listen to, all the while we trailed our hydrophone while sailing quietly along.  While the A30’s began making their way into Blackfish Sound from Blackney Passage where they had been foraging in a heavy flooding current with SE winds, we made our way back into Weynton Passage to better enjoy the Humpback Whales. We enjoyed some fabulous viewing of a whale lunge feeding through a herring ball with gulls galore also trying to feed from the herring ball, there were some six more whales sighted close by and everywhere it seemed throughout our tour, the blows of numerous humpback whales could be seen near and far; it was absolutely phenomenal to watch them. We began heading home with a Dall’s Porpoise riding alongside us briefly when suddenly in Pearse Passage we sighted the distinct fin of a Minke Whale surfacing nearby, identifying it as being Bolt, the same Minke Whale that we had seen in recent days and then remarkably the blow of yet another Humpback Whale was sighted just as the Minke Whale resurfaced, the dilemma then was where best to look and from which side of the boat? And so began the fabulous viewing of a whale breaching time and again into the wind, it was mesmerizing to watch as the whale breached clear out of the water while at times we observed it waving its pectoral fins high, it was a brilliant finale to an amazing tour! Also seen: Dall’s Porpoises, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Harbour Seals, Stellar Sea Lions, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Bald Eagles, Red-necked Phalaropes, Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers, California, Mew, Herring and Glaucous-winged Gulls.