Victoria Whale Watching Report: Mother & Calf Humpbacks
May 12, 2019
Happy Mothers Day!
It was another lovely morning in Victoria with slightly cooler temperatures than we have recently experienced, but fortunately, the air temperature does not affect the wildlife in our area- they live in 12 degree Celsius water year round!
We decided to start our search by heading west of Victoria. Other vessels in the industry spread out in different directions so that we get full coverage of our local waters.
Well, today we got to place the Whale Finder Feather in our hat because …
we found the whales!
Today we discovered a mother and calf humpback just a few miles west of the harbour. This was extremely exciting as there have only been a couple of sightings of humpbacks this spring so far! Food determines when and where the whales will be, so we are always anxiously awaiting the big return of the humpbacks, one of four main species we see in our area.
It was beautiful to watch this pair as Mom would raise her tail high for a long dive and her calf would try its darnedest to mimic Mom, but he or she was just too small to arch high enough above the surface. Humpbacks are amazing mothers, staying in touching range of their little ones in their first year of life. They need to feed their little calves approximately 500 litres of milk per day, which is so think, it has the consistency of soft butter. Not only is their milk rich in fat, but it is also pink!
After many great looks at Mom and baby humpback, we cruised to nearby Race Rocks Lighthouse to check out more wildlife. The waters were littered with the sharp-looking Pigeon Guillemots who sport black feather and beak with a large white patch on their sides and bright red feet. They are amazing divers reaching 45 meters in depth and they can fly 77 km an hour!
Below the lighthouse that was built in 1860, were comical California and Steller Sea Lions who growl, roar and bark at each other, all vying for the best spot in the sun. The California’s only reach approximately 900-1000 pounds, whereas the Steller Sea Lions can weigh in at a hefty 2500 pounds, so you can guess who wins any battles for prime locations.
The Harbour Seals are more modest than the sea lions, quietly resting on the smaller islets around the lighthouse. We are excited for the arrival of this season’s new babies, who start to appear around mid-June. We also spotted a sea otter we call Ollie who loves to roll and play in the turbid waters of the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve and Marine Protected Area. He is a bachelor but seems to make out just fine, eating shelled prey to his heart’s content and napping in the Bull Kelp beds. It was a wonderful morning with so many different species of wildlife that live in our ‘backyard’!
We were delighted to spend this special day with families looking to treat their moms in a special way. The day was chilly, but the wind was minimal, making it a great day to spot some gentle giants!
Less than 10 minutes into the trip, the captain slowed to a stop, and announced that there were whales in the area! It appeared that there were 2 whales, a mom and a calf in the area. How fitting! The mom was likely spending the afternoon teaching her young calf how to feed and “whale” in our cold nutrient-rich waters. The whales, especially the young one, seemed to be spending a fair amount of time at the surface, rolling around, and playing. The mom showed her fluke a few times, and the baby tried to copy her! Through pictures of her dorsal fin, we were able to figure out that the big mom is Slate (BCX1210). The first time she was spotted around Vancouver Island was in 2017, since then she has come back to feed both in 2018 and 2019.
We left the whales and headed to Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. This while home to the second oldest lighthouse on the BC coast is also home to a large variety of species were are fortunate to have in the Salish Sea! We got to see Olly the one and only Sea Otter around Victoria, many Harbour Seals hauled out on the rocks, Steller Sea Lions, Californian Sea Lions, and Northern Elephant Seals! Northern Elephant seals are the largest pinniped we have in our waters. The males can get up to 6,000 pounds (2,700 kilograms)!
We headed back to the harbour, happy that we got to see all the Salish Sea has to offer!
What a great day to celebrate moms!