Victoria Whale Watching Report: Humpback Whales, Orcas & So Much More
September 5, 2019
Another lovely morning was upon us in Victoria, with glassy waters and the sun high in the sky. With so many different species using our local waters to forage, socialize and transit through, every tour ends up being different from the next. We are very fortunate to see such an abundance of wildlife in our backyard!
We aimed our boat west with other whale watching boats spread out in different directions so that we collectively cover the greatest area of water possible. We were excited to eventually see the tell-tale signs of a humpback whale- make that two humpback whales! A mother and calf were elegantly surfacing side-by-side, gliding into the deep in time with each other. This calf has been soaking up all kinds of knowledge and skills from its mother as it only has one year to learn everything it needs to know about life. Humpback calves gain approximately 100 pounds every 24 hours as they consume 500 litres of milk per day!
With a great experience watching the humpback family explore their watery home, we set off to see the creatures of Race Rocks Lighthouse.
Nothing beats the excitement of seeing the giant Steller Sea Lions who were enjoying the lovely morning sun as they basked on the rocky islands. Joining them were the slightly smaller California Sea Lions in their chocolate- brown coats. The Sea Lions are not alone however, as the much smaller and quieter Harbour Seals make the area home as well.
With excellent photos of both the black-and-white lighthouse and its residents, we cruised back to Victoria enjoying the shorelines of the west coast.
As fall approaches, we are enjoying the notoriously calmer waters and beautiful sunny afternoons cruising the salty seas. We set course east and then north in Haro Strait. With everyone in the Pacific Whale Watch Association working as a team, we share reports of whales so that everyone gets to see the local giants of the ocean.
We made our way into the Gulf and the San Juan Islands. Here we spotted the T60 Transient (mammal-hunting) Orca family! This family has been present in local waters on many days this past couple of weeks. It may be because they have a brand new baby! T60 is the first female in the population known to have had 7 offspring! Congrats T60, you are such a successful Mom! T60 was born around 1980 and has 5 offspring travelling by her side. She is a busy Mom and spends much of her time hunting for seals, sea lions and porpoises to feed her ever-expanding family. They work together to find their meals, but it does take a lot of food to feed everyone!
T60C always attracts the most attention as he has a very tall and straight dorsal fin. At just 18 years old, T60C is a big boy! He is the third offspring born to T60, but the oldest child still travelling with the family. He remained very close to his new baby sibling, a sign of a very caring brother! Killer Whale families have very strong bonds and are known for taking care of each other. They always share their food and make sure everyone is accounted for. It was so exciting to watch this family interact and search for an unsuspecting meal!
We could not have asked for a more magical evening on the Salish Sea!
The sunset grew into a stunning sight, painted by nature. We made our way over to the west side of San Juan Island where we started to see the fins of many different orcas in all directions. As we captured some great shots of the whales, we were able to ID them as members of both J and K pods of the Southern Resident Orca population! The Southern Residents are struggling to find enough Chinook salmon to eat, and several years of food shortage has had a heavy toll on this family.
They have lost many members in the past several years which has been hard on the population and on those that love them so much, like the whale watching community. We are excited and cautiously hopeful about the birth of two new calves, one born in December and one born this past May.
We watched as the families spread out into many different social groups and they were definitely social! We saw so many breaches, we stopped counting! We also watched as they tail slapped, cartwheeled and pushed each other around with playful affection. It was exciting just to see them take some time to have fun rather than constantly search for food.
We hope their playful behaviour was due to full bellies.
We spotted members like Mike, Slick, Blackberry, Cookie, Rainshadow and Nova. We can ID members based on the shape of their dorsal fin and from their unique saddle patches. Some of the younger males are now reaching maturity, like Rainshadow, so their dorsal fins are becoming taller and straighter. It is such a privilege to get to watch them grow up!
We captured some fun pictures of the whales frolicking in the golden sunset and even caught a great shot of the moon high above us as we travelled back to the Capital City!