Another day of magic on blue waters with Orcas, Humpback Whales and so much more!

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Black Oystercatcher

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Common Murres

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Our sightings: Biggs (Transient) Orcas, Humpback Whales, Steller Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets, Red-Necked Phalaropes, Common Murres, Bald Eagles, a Great Blue Heron, Black Oystercatchers, Pigeon Guillemots, Surf Scoters, an American Robin and Gulls.

It was a glorious day that grew even more beautiful later into the morning when we departed on our tour. Once again it was Biggs (Transient) Orcas who were in the area today, this time they were identified as the T002Cs of which we had some exceptional viewing.

We observed a Humpback Whale identified as Argonaut who was taking long dives and working the area while feeding in wide circles; our passengers enjoyed a beautiful close viewing on one passing!

There is increasing evidence of bait balls and birds gathering to feed with increasing numbers especially of Common Murres who have been late arriving into our area this season. The wonderful mix of Steller Sea Lions, Seals and birds that we saw while cruising slowly through some quiet island waterways where Bull Kelp forests sparkled in the sunlight was just as fascinating as all of the other magic that we witnessed today!

Photo credits: Muriel Halle. All photo’s have been cropped and taken with a telephoto lens.

Orcas and Humpback Whales in an ocean of blue!

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Today’s Sightings: Northern Resident Orcas, Humpback Whales, Dall’s Porpoises, one Harbour Porpoise, Steller Sea Lions hauled out and swimming, Harbour Seals, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets, Red-Necked Phalaropes, Bald Eagles, Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, Black Turnstones and Gull species.

The weather did not disappoint us today and neither did our sightings of Orcas. They were the same two family groups that we have seen in recent days, the A30s and A42s. We encountered them travelling slowly west on the ebbing current in Blackfish Sound. They were milling around and briefly stalled just west of Flower Island, it was near Bold Head they appeared to gather more speed. Perhaps they were waiting for the current to turn back to flood and for them to turn back east once more was a thought that occurred to us but we will have to wait and see!

During our viewing of orcas, we also encountered seven or more Humpback Whales; three were in Blackfish Sound, two (possibly more) we sighted off Bold Head and at least two more near Stubbs Island. They were all on the move looking for food as were the birds common to our area at this time of the year. It was good to finally see a herring ball with gulls feeding upon it for the scarcity of bait balls and birds this year is of great concern to everyone.

The food chain from which all ocean species feed on, big and small, appears to have many links that are missing in our local waters this year! The sightings of Rhinoceros Auklets are very few and Common Murres are barely seen, just a single one or two can be observed on occasion. When compared to hundreds, if not thousands usually seen at this same time last year and years before, something is seriously wrong!

It was a special treat today to have a small group of Dall’s Porpoises ride alongside and at our bow briefly, we also saw another group rooster-tailing along in the current, they are so fast! The blue ocean sparkled in the bright sunlight and fluffy white clouds drifted on in a gorgeous blue sky, it was a beautiful day that we all enjoyed.

Photo Credits: Muriel Halle and Seasmoke Whale Watching.                                                                       Photos taken with a telephoto lens and have been cropped.

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A fantastic day with so much going on ~Humpback Whales, Orcas, Dolphins, Porpoise and swimming Bald Eagles……..!

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Today was an incredibly interesting day with so much to see beginning with sightings of bald eagles, pigeon guillemots, black oystercatchers, black turnstones, gull species ++(glaucous-winged, mew and herring) and hauled out harbour seals and then 100’s of gulls massed together (with common murres and rhinoceros auklets), sitting on the water, while 100’s more were flying in circles, as were bald eagles, all of them gathered where herring had also gathered in the flooding current passing through Weynton Passage into Johnstone Strait.

We initially sighted a humpback whale fluking in the distance at the top end of Blackfish Sound and travelled on further east to where more humpback whales were seen, all of them focussed on feeding in specific areas in Blackfish Sound. It was difficult to keep count of them and their movements in the flooding current; there were at least five that we saw, Guardian, Ripple and Conger were among them! A stellar sea lion was actively fishing in their midst as were pacific-white-sided dolphins and dalls porpoise, it kept us all busy looking from one side of the boat at the sea lion and to the other side to watch the dolphins and porpoise and humpbacks, three humpbacks were seemingly following one another at one point!

A bald eagle was sighted near Little Hanson Island, it was in the water swimming towards the shoreline and we were intent watching it from a distance, all of us were relieved when it hauled itself ashore with a large salmon and dragged it up onto the rocks, just ahead of a cruise ship navigating its way through Blackney Passage and several humpback whales! It seems that two other bald eagles were in the water and swimming with a salmon in their grasp around the same time that we were watching our eagle! Meanwhile a black-tailed deer was seen grazing up on the shoreline…it was busy out there today!

After the cruise ship had passed we enjoyed watching Conger, realizing the whale was trap feeding (a variation of trap feeding where the whale opens its mouth and closes it after small fish/herring has swam inside its mouth, different from lunge feeding). Conger is one of just a few humpback whales who has been observed trap feeding in our area so this was really good to see today! After viewing time with Ripple, Guardian and Conger we headed for home in Johnstone Strait and were nearing Turn Point and while scanning backwards to the east, a broadside view of a fin was suddenly visible…ORCAS!  Indeed orcas were seen, three of them, two swimming together and another male further behind. Initially it was thought they were Biggs Transients but it was later confirmed as being some of the I11’s. What a fantastic day that just kept on surprising all of us!

**Update: The I11’s continued travelling to the west, reported being off the Stephenson Islands in Johnstone Strait around 3:30 p.m. Meanwhile, passengers from our tour today, driving to the end of Fir Street in Alert Bay, saw three orcas entering into Pearse Passage around 4.00 p.m. and swimming between the reefs, close along the shoreline while a humpback whale surfaced and dived nearby. They watched as the orcas continued around the NW corner of the Pearse Islands where they lost sight of them, at that time they were seen heading east in Cormorant Channel in the direction of Weynton Passage.

Today’s penned comments: “Thank you for this very nice trip. We really enjoyed watching the whales and we loved your muffins. It was amazing! Thank you. ” Mark & Rebecca, Netherlands

“Maureen and Dave, What a delight it was to join you on this whale watch trip. You took great care of us (delicious muffins, scones and tea!) and found the whales – my first time seeing a humpback! A stellar sea lion, an eagle swimming with a fish, how often does one get to see that?! AND even ORCAS even though it was unlikely that we would see them. We enjoyed the small intimate group feel and Maureen, your squeals of delight! Thank you and all the best.”                                      Jane and Sean from the Sunshine Coast, BC

Thank you so much for another amazing trip out on the boat: I enjoy it every time I come out for a visit. I really enjoyed seeing all of the wildlife and I’m glad that we had a surprise of seeing the orcas towards the end! Thanks again, your great niece Emma”. New Bruswick

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In the stillness of the morning fog, we entered into a mysterious viewing of orcas ~ superb and surreal imagery, the contrast of black against the white of fog~ extraordinary!

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The fog was thick today but despite it, we were able to find the A30s, a family of resident orcas. They were in a beautiful resting line and travelling slowly along the Hansen Island shoreline in Johnstone Strait. We had some wonderful viewing and seeing them in this manner was indeed mystical. Listening to their dive sequence, synchronized and wonderful, in the silence before, and after, added an even greater depth to our viewing. As we made our way slowly along, we also had sightings of rhinoceros auklets, common murres, bald eagles and gull species, several harbour seals and even a stellar sea lion swam by!

Dall’s Porpoise ‘rooster tailed’ around us as we listened for humpback whale blows, we heard a few around us but did not see one until the fog was clearing and the sun shone through, sparkling on the big whale’s back! Around this time we also encountered another group of resident orcas, they were making their way into Blackfish Sound and we were thrilled to hear them vocalizing. We had our afternoon tea, listening to orcas calling out to one another in the mysterious fog. It was extraordinary!

We cannot do much about the weather, but we can choose to make the most of what it has to offer and today, it was a little bit of magic that came our way! The sun was soon shining bright and the colourful scenery that emerged from the white expanse that we had spent part of our morning in was breathtaking and beautiful and so much more besides…..it was Paradise!

Update: The incoming orcas have since been identified as the A34’s and A46, joining with the A30’s (A1 Pods) in the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve around 3.00 p.m. this afternoon. How wonderful and timely!
Today’s penned comments:
“We had a really nice time “sailing” with SeaSmoke. Even though the first hours were foggy, we did see orcas, some seals, porpoises, and some bald eagles. Later the weather cleared and we saw a humpback! We really enjoyed the trip!”
Fam Schoots & Klaassen, Holland

“What a lovely trip with SeaSmoke. We loved the muffins and scones. The scenery was amazing. Although very foggy we saw orcas, porpoises, and sea lions. Thank you for this lovely morning!”
Fam. Barendrecht , Holland

“It was a magical trip. A little bit of everything and such a thrill to see the orcas and the humpback. Thanks for the good luck and great time.”

“A wonderful enjoyable voyage. The treats were amazing! Thanks for a memorable trip!”
Joanne

“Great look at orca whales – best muffins and scones I’ve ever had – a true Devonshire cream Tea was a lovely surprise. Thanks to you all.”
Mary, Merrickville, Ontario

“An amazing adventure! The fog was like entering a portal to another world. Thank you, thank you!”.

Humpback whales, bow-riding dall’s porpoises and a feasting stellar sea-lion

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While fog hung low throughout our tour, we so enjoyed viewing an abundance of marine life of various species, shapes and forms. The first humpback whale that we sighted was near the Plumper Islands. Listening for a blow and following the sound of its breath, we all waited in anticipation and suddenly we encountered the large fluke disappearing before us beneath the water.  When the whale resurfaced we counted it taking eight breathes and timed its dive of seven minutes, a pattern that was repeated. We next encountered a Stellar Sea Lion and observed its fishing antics with great interest, the sea-lion would dive and resurface with a good sized salmon each time, thrusting it about with vigour and attracting gulls by his action, all hungry to grab snippets of his feast.  It was exciting for everyone when we encountered a single Dall’s Porpoise riding alongside the bow of our boat followed by some 10+ other porpoises who rode alongside for several more minutes. Breaking out of the fog momentarily into the Queen Charlotte Strait we also observed three more Humpback Whales. Other species also seen today: Harbour Seals ++(hauled out and swimming), a Great Blue Heron, Red-Necked Phalaropes, Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets, Bald Eagles, Black Oyster Catchers, Ruddy Turnstones, Herring, Mew and California Gulls.

Humpback whales+++ and Northern Resident orcas: A23’s & A25’s

Where to begin on such a wonderful day of watching whales in Blackfish Sound and Johnstone Strait? When we headed out this morning the wind was still a light NW wind and on leaving Alder Bay we hoisted our main sail and headed in the direction of Weynton Passage where almost immediately we sighted a humpback whale, the first of many that we saw today. The current was ebbing and we were soon in Blackfish Sound and viewing humpback whales, we were seeing them in all directions, near and far away! It was fantastic seeing some 8-9 individual whales, some far out into the Queen Charlotte Strait and others in Blackfish

Cracroft Point ~ webcam www.orca-live.com

Cracroft Point ~ webcam
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Altogether: A23's & A25's

Altogether: A23’s & A25’s

Sound and Weynton Passage. While making our way down Blackfish Sound viewing humpback whales along the way we were keeping track of the whereabouts of the A23’s & A25’s who had been foraging in

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the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve slowly making their way to the west and on them leaving the Reserve Boundary we were at Cracroft Point in Johnston Strait with our mainsail down and our staysail up. The strength of the NW wind had picked up and the stay sail maintained our sailing ability and also our vessel stability, giving us a comfortable  ride. It was fabulous sailing and suddenly we were seeing the A23’s & A25’s, nearby in a resting line and then grouping together and making headway towards Cracroft Point in the choppy waters. The A23’s were in the lead with the A25’s behind, all of them foraging close along the shoreline just east of Cracroft Point on West Cracroft Island and with our hydrophone trailing we briefly heard some A-Clan calls. Suddenly, A60 appeared just off the bow of the boat, accelerating rapidly he was soon behind us, chasing salmon along with A61 & A85 who had been seen only moments earlier foraging behind us. Everyone was thrilled at seeing A60 as he raced on by and the powerful intent and energy that he displayed, it was breathtaking watching him in those moments. We carried on to the west as the orcas made their way west along the Hanson Island shoreline and getting ahead of them we made our way back into Weynton Passage and the Plumper Islands, viewing yet another humpback whale who suddenly surfaced and dived near the bow of the boat, surprising all of us and leaving a lasting impression with us, especially for those seated near the bow of the boat! Also seen today: harbour seals, a stellar sea-lion, dall’s porpoises, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon gullimots, black oyster catchers, ruddy turnstones, belted kingfishers, 3 great blue herons, california, herring and glaucous-winged gulls, bald eagles and an eaglet in the nest.

Sail with the whales ~ orcas ~ minke and humpback whales also seen!

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minke whale

Double crested cormorant

Double crested cormorant

It was a fantastic day for seeing cetaceans but also for sailing in Johnstone Strait. Our tour began with an early sighting of a minke whale close to the dock in Alder Bay and after some very good viewing we carried on and soon received a

harbour seals: mother and pups

harbour seals: mother and pups

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report of six orca’s (A23’s/25’s) foraging in Blackney Pass and looking as though they were heading into Blackfish Sound however, they carried on and began making their way foraging along

A61 foraging

A61 foraging

A23's travelling east in Johnstone Strait

A23’s travelling east in Johnstone Strait

the Hanson Island shoreline. The wind was light and perfect for sailing and with our main-sail hoisted we were soon sailing while trailing our hydrophone behind us.  A61 (A25’s) was the leading orca travelling on his own ahead of the others and had already gone by us when the other orcas were observed angling

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A61

over in the direction of Vancouver Island turning back to the east, at the same time we heard a few A-Clan calls on the hydrophone. The sail down Johnstone Strait was phenomenal and exhilarating, we were going at the same pace as the orcas and observed the A23’s coming together forming a travelling line of four orcas and closest to Vancouver Island

Common Murre

Common Murre

while the A25’s had also come together and side by side were seen swimming parallel to the A23’s. It was absolutely wonderful! Leaving the orcas we turned back and made our way towards Weynton Passage, the current was still flooding++ and near the Plumper Island we saw three stellar sea-lions swimming close to shore in a back-eddy, up in an eagle’s nest we saw one of the eaglets sitting high in the nest, another stellar sea-lion went by us in the current and two humpback whales were also seen. It was an amazing day that continued on when passengers sighted yet another minke whale crossing just ahead of us in Pearse Passage on our approach to Cormorant Island on our way home. As one of our passengers from Scotland commented on when leaving the boat, “seeing six orcas, four stellar sea-lions, two humpback whales and two minke whales, we think we’ve had  a pretty good day”! Also seen today: harbour seals, dall’s porpoises, a double crested cormorant, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, red-necked phalaropes, herring and glaucous-winged gulls and belted kingfishers.