Victoria Whale Watching Report: Local Killer Whales, Humpback Whale & More
August 27, 2019
It was a gorgeous morning as we left the Capital City and we were greeted by glass-like waters on the Juan de Fuca Strait. Whales use all areas of the Salish Sea, so every day is a new adventure in whale watching. We decided to comb the shoreline as we travelled west along Vancouver Island. We were fortunate to come across two families of local Bigg’s Killer Whales just a few miles out!
We soon recognized the fins of the T10 and T109A matrilines! T10C is vert distinct with his tall dorsal fin, but no one catches your eye like his mother T10 because of the giant nick she sports on the back edge of her dorsal fin. The T109A family is an exciting bunch with 8 members in the family including 2 calves born in the past year! They are a rowdy bunch and one of the largest mammal-hunting orca families on the coast!
We watched as the whales slowly searched the shoreline for Harbour Seals. They had trouble pushing through the massive Bull Kelp beds either as they tried to see if anyone was hiding among the giant seaweed forests. This big group would need to catch many seals in one day just to make sure the troops are fed!
After an astounding visit with the orcas, we checked out Race Rocks Lighthouse. Her we found the California and Steller Sea Lions kept company at a distance by Harbour Seals. We even had time to search further south and west which turned up two more orcas! These two are brothers known as T60E and T60F. They are young boys to be out on their own, but we are sure Mom and their siblings must be nearby. It was an unforgettable morning on the waters of the Salish Sea!
This afternoon was set to be a great tour on the Straits surrounding Victoria. We headed southwest in search of the orcas we saw this morning. Instead of sulking along the shoreline as they did in the morning, we found them further offshore, slightly spread out to cover more area in search of food. We ended up seeing 10 whales which are a large group for local Transient (mammal-hunting) orcas! Two families were spending time together, the T10 and the T109A families. Orcas are highly social animals and they love to socialize, hunt and mate with other matrilines in their population. There are over 500 individuals within the West Coast Transient Orca population. This makes sightings very exciting as we are always seeing different groups visit our waters.
Among the whales was T10C who is the largest member of the families.
T10C is now a mature male with a six-foot dorsal fin towering above his back. The T109A family is HUGE with two new calves who were both born in 2018. The family now spans three generations and all the youngsters love to play and romp around the salty sea together. Each one is unique because they all have different dorsal fins and saddle patches, making it possible for us to identify everyone.
We then moved to a slightly different area where the graceful flukes of a humpback whale caught our eye! TWO SPECIES IN ONE TRIP!
Humpback whales are amazing creatures, with the ability to dive deep and eat enormous amounts of food as they bulk up on fat stores in preparation for their upcoming migration south. With a bit of time to spare, we headed to Race Rocks to view the pinnipeds- sea lions and seals- who call this area home. Their giant size and grumbly noises make them very entertaining to watch! We are fortunate to have two species of sea lions, the California and Steller. They live at Race Rocks for about 10 months of the year, only leaving to mate. It was a great way to complete a wonderful tour on a beautiful afternoon!