Victoria Whale Watching Report: Orca in the Victoria Harbour!
August 9, 2019
Well, some days things happen that will make you remember that day for a lifetime- today was one of those days because…
THERE WAS AN ORCA IN THE HARBOUR! WHAT?!
Yes, we thought we had Deja Vu as we watched the tall dorsal fin of T65A2 cruising into the Victoria this morning because he actually did this yesterday evening. It is incredibly rare to see whales in the harbour, let alone twice in just 15 hours. This 15-year-old male was likely looking for a Harbour Seal that was not expecting to see their predator in such a cosmopolitan area. T65A2 went way further this morning than he did yesterday, making his way up to the Harbour Air Seaplane Terminal and our very own floating Wharf Street office. After scanning the area and not seeing any good breakfast opportunities, he headed back out onto the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
We decided to search for more wildlife, heading west and south of the city. We came across a few humpbacks that were accompanied by a giant male Steller Sea Lion. We shut off our boat and watched as the sea lion surfaced close by. He would just log at the surface, look around above the water and roll into the waves. Then we got some great looks at a second whale species- the humpback! DOUBLE CREATURE FEATURE! With so many humpbacks feeding in the area, our chances of seeing two types of whales has gone up in the past few weeks!
We were not done exploring the Salish Sea as we headed over to Race Rocks Lighthouse where we found more Steller Sea Lions and a heap of the chocolate-brown California Sea Lions. Harbour Seals looked on with their big, round eyes, new pups close to Moms on the rocky shorelines. We even spotted a regal Bald Eagle as we started to pull away from the area. Before reaching the Victoria Harbour, we were able to stop and see T65A2 again as he patrolled the shorelines of Esquimalt, determined to find a seal to eat! It was a wonderful and memorable morning for all on the water!
This afternoon we headed out East into the Juan De Fuca Strait.
We didn’t have far to go for our first stop, which was at Trial Island. Here we spent time with a lone male Transient Killer Whale known as T65A2! He is only 15 years old and yet he has left his mother and four siblings to travel on his own.
We refer to killer whales at this age as “sprouters” because he is in the process of growing and straightening out his dorsal fin. Fully grown, this dorsal fin will be around 6 feet tall! This type of killer whale eats marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, porpoises and even other whales. He snuck up on our boat and we were able to see the cut that he has in his dorsal fin. This is how we were able to identify him as T65A2. All of these animals have unique dorsal fins and saddle patches, so we are able to tell families and individuals apart!
After spending some time with him, we decided to continue South to look for some other animals! It took some time, but our second stop was in American waters with a Humpback Whale! This whale was lingering quite close to the surface, so much so that we didn’t see it fluke and go on a deeper dive. Because of this, we weren’t able to identify the individual we were with, but we got some great views of this animal surfacing. For this type of whale, the underside of the tail is how we tell them apart. Each of them vary with the amount of white pigmentation and markings. We then left this animal to go look at some more wildlife at Race Rocks.
We quickly passed through Race Rocks, which is an ecological reserve because of the rich communities of life here. We were able to see several of our Pinniped species! There were Harbour Seals hauled out on the rocks, as well as Steller and California Sea Lions. The main differences between these two types of sea lions are that the Stellers are a paler brown colour and they are also larger than the Californias! The California Sea Lions are those that make a barking sound whereas the Stellers growl!
It was then sadly time to head back to Victoria after an amazing afternoon of wildlife viewing!
Our evening tours headed south and west of Victoria into Juan de Fuca Strait. Passengers aboard the Catalina Adventure and Pacific Explorer were privileged to see humpback whales foraging in the nutrient-rich waters of the Salish Sea.
Aboard the Pacific Explorer, we saw at least two different humpback whales. We were able to see the signature humpback behaviour – the raising of the tail flukes. However, we were unable to get any high-quality identification shots.
A visit to Race Rocks and its many pinnipeds and another incredible sunset concluded another incredible adventure on the Salish Sea!