Victoria Whale Watching Report: Humpback Whales & Race Rocks Ecological Reserve
August 30, 2019
This morning we headed out West into the Juan De Fuca Strait.
After a short while we came across a Humpback Whale! This type of whale is migratory and spend time in our waters from Spring until Fall. This area serves as their feeding grounds. They will then head South for the Winter to places such as Mexico, Hawaii, and Costa Rica. Their goal out here is to gain as much weight as possible because once they leave they won’t be eating until they return. They eat krill and small schooling fish such as herring and sand lance. This is because their throats are too small to swallow anything larger. The whale we were with was going on long dives, so we decided to continue and see what else we could find.
Slightly further ahead of us were two more Humpback Whales: a mother and calf! They only spend one year with their mothers. When they are first born they are drinking around 500 litres of milk every day and gaining 100lbs every 24 hours! When they arrive here to their feeding grounds, the mothers will teach them feeding techniques so they can learn to eat on their own. It was really beautiful to watch these two swim together side by side.
After spending some time with these two, we decided to take a look at some more wildlife at Race Rocks. This is an ecological reserve area because of the rich communities of subtidal and intertidal life here. This is where we see many of our Pinniped species! There were Harbour Seals, Steller’s and California Sea Lions. The Steller’s Sea Lions are larger than the California Sea Lions and they are a paler brown colour as well. Audibly we can tell them apart because the Steller’s growl and the California’s bark!
It was then time for us to make our way back to Victoria after a wonderful morning of wildlife viewing!
It could not have been a calmer day on the water this afternoon on Juan de Fuca Strait! We could see for miles and signs of whale activity emerged with the sights of misty exhales coming from a humpback in the distance. The skies were bright grey and the waters too, so the humpback blended into the ripples of the water. It seemed to be enjoying the late afternoon with slow exhales and gentle dives. We did have to wait about 10 minutes after it would fluke, but it is worth it when you get to see such a magnificent creature of the deep!
We decided to search furth west and see if other whales could be out there. And there was! Another humpback whale broke the surface and rested at the surface for several minutes. With the capacity to hold over 80% oxygen in their blood, whales can hold their breath for huge lengths of time- humpbacks can stay under for over 40 minutes. This is not something we experience, but males do stay down this long when they are on the mating grounds of Costa Rica, Mexico, or Hawaii where they sing.
After a serene experience watching the baleen behemoths, we cruised over to Race Rocks Lighthouse, a beautiful black-and-white lighthouse that was built in 1860. We enjoyed watching the comical California and Steller Sea Lions that make this special place their residence. They bark, growl and roar all day long as they rest on the islands. We also found the much smaller but very cute Harbour Seals. They were also enjoying the calm day and misty fog patches. It was a great end to a wonderful afternoon!
This evening was not a long trip to wildlife with a call regarding orca just outside of Oak Bay! As we made our way east we quickly spotted the two brothers swimming close to the shoreline. It is not uncommon for these animals to hug the shorelines when hunting, especially for the Biggs orca. Depths of water range from 200-800ft right off the coast, which is the prime hunting ground for seals and sea lions that like to hide in the rocky outlets.
We were able to watch these two boys make a few kills along the shore heading back to the harbour. After using photo identification these two boys were discovered to be T60E and T60F. They both are quite young males, still going through puberty, as their dorsal fins are still in the midst of straightening out to become those iconic tall, pointy dorsal fins. Once they reach age 18-21 the males will be full-grown with sturdy dorsal fins and a very girthy body.
After following the brother’s past clover point, we headed west towards Race Rocks. Here we enjoyed one of Vancouver islands iconic sunsets amongst one of Canada’s historic lighthouses. This lighthouse is a little bit different than others with its thick black lines, painted on to help it stand out in the thick fog we get in the area. It was built in 1860, delayed by a year due to awaiting a shipment of Scottish granite. Such material was chosen for its hardiness in rough weather as well as sturdiness over time. The same granite used for the streets of London was used for this lighthouse. Amongst the rocky islets of Race Rocks, we were also able to get some great views of the seals and sea lions.