Victoria Whale Watching Report: T65A Family of Killer Whales
July 29, 2019
It was a gorgeous morning in Victoria where we set off to the east through the Juan de Fuca Strait until we rounded a corner and headed north through the San Juan and Gulf Island area. While enjoying the scenic islands and rugged coastline, we made our way to the north side of Spieden Island where we saw the tell-tale signs of orcas- big, black dorsal fins!
As we watched the family of killer whales move west, we got some great photos of their dorsal fins and soon realized we were in the presence of the T65A family! The T65A’s are a favourite of local whale watchers as we have gotten to know this big family of six. The leader of the family is T65A who was born in 1986 and now has 5 offspring! She has been a wonderful and successful mother!
The youngest of the family is not quite a year old yet and tends to be a spunky little whale. We got some great shots of the whole family surfacing side-by-side as they searched for seals, sea lions, and porpoises. Check the photos out on our Flickr page!
After seeing the whales, we checked out MandarteISland where dozens of cormorants are tending to their young chicks in cliff-side nests built of grasses and twigs. We also spotted several Harbour Seals around the island, soaking up the warmth from the sun as they nursed their tubby, little pups! With huge Bull Kelp patches in the area, we decided to pull a piece up onto the boat so that guests could see, feel and taste this very important kelp! With ribbon-like fronds that stretch for meters, it was awesome to check out the kelp close up. It even tastes pretty good too! It was a lovely trip back towards Victoria with blue skies, blue waters and warm sunshine!
This afternoon we headed West out into the Juan De Fuca Strait.
After some time travelling, we ended up just outside of Sooke with two Humpback Whales! We could tell right away that they were a mother and a calf because of the drastic size difference. The mother’s name is “Zephyr”. We are able to tell apart individual humpbacks by the underside of their flukes. Each one varies with the amount of white pigmentation and has unique patterns and shapes! Mothers will stay with their calves for one year and in that time they must teach them everything from the migration route to feeding strategies. When the calves are first born they drink 500 litres of their mother’s milk every day, gaining 100lbs in just 24 hours! These two were going on fairly long dives, but there were several more in our area to go see. We then stopped with another Humpback Whale to see if it would be a bit more active. This whale ended up surfacing within our 100-metre distance regulation, so we had to turn our engines off until it was seen a safe distance away from us. This one was called “Anvil”. We are fortunate enough to be able to see Humpback Whales in our area because this is their feeding grounds. They come up here in the Spring and will leave at the end of the Fall to head back to their breeding grounds in places such as Mexico and Hawaii for the Winter! After we left this whale, we headed towards Race Rocks to see what wildlife we could see there.
Race Rocks has been designated as an ecological reserve since 1980 because the strong currents here result in rich communities of subtidal and intertidal life. We saw several Harbour Seals hauled out on the rocks, as well as a large number of Steller Sea Lions! The lighthouse that we saw here is the second oldest in the Canadian Pacific, built-in 1860. Although it is no longer manned, there is a woman who lives here to act as a guardian for the wildlife.
It was then time to head back to a lovely evening in Victoria!