Captain’s Blog

Victoria Whale Watching Report: Seals, Sea Lions & Transient Orcas

May 3, 2019

Morning Tour

It was a perfect day on the Salish Sea to set out and look for marine life.  Since the Juan de Fuca Strait is the gateway to the inland waters, we decided to scan southwest of the Victoria. We were keeping our eyes out for splashes, fins and exhales on the horizon.

We searched the waters offshore before cruising along the coastline of Vancouver Island.

We reached the stone tower that is Race Rocks Lighthouse where we found many different creatures!

The Pigeon Guillemots with their white side patches and bright red feet were flying around the islets, hunting for small fish to eat. We soon spotted the much-loved resident sea otter named  Ollie swimming around one of the Bull Kelp beds. He appeared to be eating a shelled delight as he hammered it open using a rock on his chest.

Next on the cute list were the Elephant Seals who can’t not look adorable as they undulate like tubby worms on land.  Several pups were born over winter, thus we are often counting 7-9 of these massive pinnipeds when we visit the area.

Another big guy stole all the action as a California Sea Lion showed off his walking skills as he climbed up onto the stairs of the boat ramp.  From our angle, he looks almost as big as the boat that was docked there!

We also spotted the much bigger Steller Sea Lions basking in the warm air while Harbour Seals could be found both in the water and relaxing on the rocky shores.

It was an adventure full of iconic marine mammals of the west coast!  We cruised back to port with sounds of barking sea lions fading behind us.

Afternoon Tour

With new reports that orcas had been found, we anxiously left the cruise ship dock in search of black and white cetaceans!  Aboard the Catalina Adventure, we aimed east and then north into the San Juan Islands of Washinton.  It was a far stretch to get to the whales, but they are always worth the journey.

After passing a pile of Steller Sea Lions, we rounded the corner of Green Point to find plumes of mist and tall black dorsal fins breaking through the surface of the sea.

We had a large group of mammal-hunting orcas called Transient or  Bigg’s Killer Whales swimming in a tight formation.  Among the group was a young calf, approximately 6 months old and still sporting a peachy colouration.

We soon identified the group as a mix of matrilines including the T123’s and the T46B’s, nine whales in total!  It is common to see different Transient orcas meet up to socialize, hunt together, and mate.

The Transients slowly made their way towards the west side of Speiden Island and head into Haro Strait.

The Center for Whale Research was on the scene, capturing ID photos and behavioural data about the whales. With an increasing population due to the abundant food supply, the Transient Orcas may eventually be removed from the Species at Risk list someday!

They are very rotund whales and babies are popping up all overdue to healthy mothers having successful pregnancies. We eventually had to say goodbye although we could have stayed forever watching the top predators in the sea enjoying the company of their family and friends on a calm Friday afternoon.

 

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