Humpback whale watching at its best with some 18 Humpback Whales++

IMG_1064 IMG_1084 IMG_1094 IMG_1115 IMG_1130 IMG_1164 IMG_1186 IMG_1201 IMG_1202 IMG_1277 IMG_1292 IMG_1305 IMG_1320It was an incredible day of viewing Humpback Whales in the area, quite possibly the best of the season and most definitely the most humpback whales that we have seen at once while on tour this summer. It was incredible that everywhere we looked a whale could be seen surfacing, another diving and the lunge feeding activity today was intense and spectacular with whales surfacing close by around the boat, without our trying to get near them, they would simply arrive and commence their feeding.  Stopping to watch as a bait ball began to gather on the water surface like diamonds dancing, we watched as gulls commenced their feeding frenzy on the surface and suddenly we would observe a whale, two or three making their way over to the bait ball, feeding they would then move on, circling back and around, gracefully, the gentle giants went about their day, fully focussed and intent on their feeding. The constant sounds of their blows punctuated the still morning air while their vocals were also heard via our hydrophone and some trumpeting as well, alongside of the ever familiar penguin-like calling of the Common Murres who along with Rhinoceros Auklets, had also gathered to feed on the herring. Some breaching activity and tail lobbing by the whales a distance away was also seen which added greatly to the sights and sounds of the tour. The day was a magical one, there was not a breath of wind, the sea and sky reflected a beautiful intense blue colour and the sun was shinning bright. It was fantastic to see the sights of some 18++ whales surfacing and diving in the Queen Charlotte Strait and Blackfish Sound waters today with one of our passengers counting 10 whales in the vicinity of our boat at one point which was indeed remarkable.  It became difficult keeping track of all of the whales who were constantly moving about the area with Slash and her calf and Freckles being amongst some of the whales that we identified today. Also seen: Harbour Seals, Stellar Sea Lions, Red-necked Phalaropes, Fork-tailed Storm-Petrels, Surf Scoters, a Sooty Shearwater (our first for the season), Pelagic Cormorants, Bald Eagles and a beautiful ribbon of migrating birds flying high!

Numerous Orcas on the move in the Queen Charlotte Strait ~

IMG_9836 IMG_9840 IMG_9842 IMG_9863 IMG_9846We headed out this morning in heavy fog with the knowledge that several pods of Orcas were quickly moving out through Blackfish Sound on the fast ebbing current, among them reported were the A36 brothers, the A30’s, I15’s and A34’s! It was a day of patience, persistence and a profound knowing that orcas in the wild go where they want to, no matter what the weather conditions are and where to, only they truly know. They can travel vast distances in 24 hours and the flooding and ebbing currents do not always result in their turning back just because the tide is turning; they are constantly on the move as was evident today.  It took time and effort by all of the whale watching vessels out there today, all sharing information, all listening for blows and for vocalizations via hydrophones and then finally sighting orcas ahead so that all of us could see orcas spread out in the Queen Charlotte Strait, some as far over as the Foster Islands while others were across the Strait, following more closely along the Malcolm Island shoreline. It was amazing to see them and while the fog persisted, the specific family groups could be seen. The I15’s  appeared to have taken the route closest to the Foster Islands with one of the Matriline groups, the I16’s being nearest to Malcolm Island yet still a distance away. We enjoyed a beautiful encounter with I51 and her youngest calf I129 when they stopped to rest, it was exquisite viewing. The A30’s were closest to Malcolm Island and appeared to be the last family heading west, A39 was ahead of his family foraging while A38 was seen alongside one of his sisters and her calves, while his other sister and her calves were just ahead of them. En route to the Orcas we were also fortunate to see a Humpback Whale in passing, we also had a small group of Pacific White-sided Dolphins swim alongside and join us briefly at the bow of the boat and Dall’s Porpoises were also seen porpoising amongst the A30’s.

Extraordinary Humpback Whale watching and also Orcas!

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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.

Beautiful day ~ Orcas & Humpback Whales ~ amazing sightings!

IMG_6994IMG_7047 IMG_7012 IMG_7019 IMG_7087 IMG_7079 IMG_7077 IMG_7076 IMG_7060 IMG_7026 IMG_6997 IMG_6995What a fabulous day we all shared. We began our day with fog and the sun shinning high as we made our way initially in Johnstone Strait but, with a report of orcas heading into Blackfish Sound we headed in that direction via the Plumper Islands and it was not long before we caught sight of a tall fin (male orca A66) foraging nearby in the fog. Soon after, blows were heard and other orcas were seen, all of them foraging and moving west in the Sound in the vicinity of Bold Head. The A8’s went by us first with the A30’s behind, A38 and A39 were spread far apart and foraging while the A50’s and A54’s (two sisters and their calves) travelled in close proximity to one another and they too were foraging. All of them were relaxed, spread out and foraging and their A-Clan calls were wonderful to listen to. With our engine cut and the boat drifting in the flooding current, they would forage away from us and then turn and make their way back towards the boat, their echolocations were clearly audible via our hydrophone. The lighting was superb when the Coast Range Mountains came into view as the fog lifted and the Queen Charlotte Strait was revealed as being blue, calm and glorious today, speckled with a myriad of birds and orca fins and also the unmistakable arching back and flukes of several humpback whales, some near and some far, it seemed they were in all directions and also in Blackfish Sound, there were at the very least five humpback whales in the near vicinity, three of them were off Bold Head. As we sat drifting in the current, we so enjoyed our time with the A30’s, especially A38 who came by foraging close, circling around the boat, passing along our starboard side and then off our bow, as did A86 & A93 who were foraging back and forth around us. What a wonderful day we all so enjoyed with the humpback whales adding greatly to our pleasure. Also seen: Harbour Seals, Dall’s Porpoises, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Red-necked Phalaropes, Fork-tailed Storm- Petrels, Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers and Gulls++.

Superb viewing of the A30 matriline

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Today was one of those glorious days on the North Island, a day like so many that we have been fortunate to have this summer.  The fog cleared quickly  revealing a bright blue sky with a warming sun and calm blue sea stretching before us. Happy hearts and smiling faces set the mood onboard the boat as we made our way east after leaving Alder Bay this morning. Adding to the excitement was the early sighting of a Black Bear on a beach by one of our passengers and we stopped to observe it as it foraged, before crossing over to enter Weynton Passage. The A23’s and A25’s were reported easting in a resting line off Kaikash Beach while the A8’s were westing near Stubbs Island and the A30’s were reported at the mouth of Blackney Passage as we neared the Stephenson Islands. We continued in the direction of Stubbs Island in the fast ebbing current with a huge fog bank looming ahead of us. While the A8’s were quickly engulfed in the fog as they made their way to the west off Donegal Head we stayed in the sunshine and turned east towards Blackfish Sound, paralleling a Humpback Whale as it too made its way east while another Humpback Whale was sighted against the shoreline near Bold Head. Fog still partially obscured the bottom portion of Blackfish Sound but soon the unmistakable single black thrusting fin of a male orca (A38) could be seen coming our way out of the fog mid- Strait in the Sound while smaller fins began appearing closer to the Swanson Island shoreline. And so began for all of us some wonderful viewing of the A30 matriline, spread-out and foraging into the Queen Charlotte Strait, they were intensely riveting to watch.  Sequences of A50 and her calves, of A54 with her playful trio of calves including her newborn, her oldest daughter, A75 and her calf, as well individual viewings of A72 and  A38 with A84 keeping pace with A39 was immensely exciting to see. While listening on our hydrophone, we could hear echolocation and briefly some resting calls but they were surprisingly silent as they foraged and rested briefly with playful interactions observed between the younger siblings with tail slaps, spy-hopping and porpoising behaviour observed. Watching A39 foraging under the water alongside the boat as it sat drifting with the engine off and A75 and her calf swimming alongside was breathtaking and the highlight for everyone today. Turning back, two Humpback Whales were soon sighted in Blackfish Sound, one was also seen coming in the direction of Donegal Head and finally on nearing Weynton Passage we encountered another. The day was a remarkable one, the snow capped Coastal Range Mountains looked majestic in the background, all of it was beautiful and unbelievable!. Also seen today: Dall’s Porpoises, Harbour Seals, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, Herring Gulls and Black Oyster Catchers could be heard++.

A30 Orcas and Humpback whales in Blackfish Sound & Weynton Passage ~ Brilliant viewing!

What a relaxed and magical day we all shared, it was absolutely wonderful. Beginning with an early sighting of a Humpback whale passing by us on a long dive as it travelled quickly to the west, shortly after we left Alder Bay this morning. Cutting across  Johnstone Strait and through the Stephenson Islands, we observed the A30 Matriline at first from a distance and then following from behind. After they had traversed through Lulu Island Pass (Plumper Island waterway) and turned into Blackfish Sound, A38 and A39  commenced foraging to the west at the top end of Blackfish Sound while their sisters,  A50 and A54 and calves were further east, all of them spread out and foraging. We listened and heard their beautiful A-Clan calls via our hydrophone while they foraged, there was  a lot of interaction between A50’s younger calves with spyhopping, breaching and tail slapping behaviour observed; their playfulness kept us watching with much intrigue, anticipation and amusement, it was so special seeing them in this intimate and relaxed manner. Throughout the tour we could see them foraging, resting and suddenly moving forward towards the Queen Charlotte Strait before being swept back into Blackfish Sound with the flooding current.  Adding to the contrast and diversity of the day, there were five Humpback Whales that we also encountered in the area including the first one that we sighted near Alder Bay in Johnstone Strait and also the one in Weynton Passage on our way home.  The highlight of the day for some was the magnificent spontaneous single breach of a humpback whale, an unbelievable sight to those who were lucky enough to be watching! While A50, A54 and calves were relaxed and resting much of our viewing time,  A38 & A39, foraged more intensely, they were exciting to watch and the Humpback Whales appeared effortless in their feeding, passing us nearby and also into the distance we could see them. The day was warm, the sea calm and it was so good to share this day in the company of so many Cetaceans. We also sighted: Dall’s Porpoises, a single Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Harbour Seals, Black Oyster Catchers, Ruddy Turnstones, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres, Belted Kingfishers, Bald Eagles, Red-necked Phalaropes, California, Herring and Glaucous-winged Gulls.