Victoria Whale Watching Report: Scratchy the Humpback & Chain Islands Wildlife
August 7, 2019
This morning, we headed out on the Pacific Explorer in search of marine wildlife. Our morning tour started with a great encounter with Hemlock (MMY0080), a large humpback whale with a very distinctive fluke! We watched the animal for several minutes as it foraged for krill. We had several looks at the massive tail flukes, which is always a highlight of any humpback encounter.
The next part of our tour took us to Race Rocks. As the summer progresses, the number of sea lions continues to increase dramatically with large numbers of California sea lions joining the Steller sea lions that have been gathering. A highlight of the tour was an Ollie sighting! Our favourite resident sea otter was catching an early morning nap in the kelp forest. It was a fantastic way to cap another great morning on the Salish Sea.
We began our trip this afternoon by travelling south, ending up about halfway across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Here, we found a humpback whale named Scratchy!
Scratchy has its name because of the “rake marks” left on its fluke by killer whales, likely sometime during its first year of life. Many humpbacks are left with these markings. Transient (mammal-eating) killer whales prey on humpback calves, which is one reason that humpbacks migrate to the warmer waters that lack these predators, to give birth and mate.
For BC’s population of humpbacks, Hawaii, Mexico and Costa Rica are the breeding grounds from around December to April. In the remaining months, they will be feeding in BC waters on krill and small schooling fish, gaining as much weight as they possibly can (up to 17 tonnes!) before heading back down south, where they don’t eat at all!
We watched as Scratchy charged through the waves, giving us some great looks at its fluke as it disappeared on longer dives. Eventually, we left this whale to explore around the Chain Islands. Here, we saw dozens of harbour seals basking in the sun. Harbour seals are the most common and easiest snack for those Transient killer whales.
We also saw many marine birds including different species of gull and their chicks, as well as Brant’s and Double Crested Cormorants!
On our way home, we passed Trial Island, the Victoria Golf Course and the rest of Victoria’s beautiful coastline to wrap up a great trip on the water!