Victoria Whale Watching Report: Multiple Humpback Whales & The Wildlife of Race Rocks Ecological Reserve!
October 24, 2019
We were excited to get on the water this morning and search for west coast wildlife in the Salish Sea!
After just thirty minutes traveling southwest, Captain Jordan spotted at least 5 humpback whales exhaling ahead of us! It was humpback-palooza out there!
We slowed our vessel down to a creep to make sure we were being as quiet as possible. All of a sudden we could see the cloudy plumes of mist bursting in the air in every direction we looked!
Huge tail fins waved above the surface as humpbacks dove down into the deep blue.
We were thrilled to see a mother and her “little” calf- when it comes to whales the word “little” certainly is relative! Calves spend just one year with their mothers, traveling from their birthing grounds to the North Pacific and back again. Each day the babies pack on an average of 100 pounds, nursing approximately 500 liters of milk from their caring moms. They also learn to eat krill and small fish over summer, which will become their full diet next season.
The whales were not going down for long periods of time, a perfect situation when you are watching them from above! We saw what we have coined “Swish Feeding”, a new feeding behavior recorded in September in
our area. They humpbacks appear to be lying on their sides and swishing their tails back and forth, stunning small fish. Then they quickly take a large gulp of their dizzied victims. It is a very cool behavior to get to see!
We also got some great views of their tubercles as they really punched above the surface of the water with their chin and heads. Tubercles are large, round bumps that have a stiff nerve hair at their centre. Scientists are not entirely sure how they work, but it is believed the nerve hair is used to detect prey.
With the black-and-white striped lighthouse tempting us to come over, we set off for Race Rocks Lighthouse Ecological Reserve. A bounty of wildlife greeted us as we slowly drifted through the islets. We spotted three adult Bald Eagles and 2 juveniles! This is the most Bald Eagles we have seen in a long time as they have been spending most of their time along the coastal rivers hunting salmon. It appears that one of our local mating pairs has successfully reared 2 healthy chicks!
Comical as always were the California and Steller Sea Lions that cover almost every little island in the area. The Steller Sea Lions are the largest of their kind in the world, weighing up to 2500 pounds. Despite their giant size, they are quite cute with those big, round eyes and awkward looking giant flippers.
We also got some great looks at the most abundant marine mammal in B.C., the Harbour Seals! They sport a multitude of coat colours including white, silver, tan, brown and black.
They often have spots or rings covering their bodies as well. They always seem much calmer and gentler than the bulky, loud sea lions! With our memory cards full of nature shots, we scooted back to the Capital City, full of joy from the morning’s sightings.