Written by: Lori, Naturalist – The Week of September 14th, 2021.
It has been an incredible week here at Orca Spirit Adventures, filled with fantastic sightings of some of our favourite creatures of the Salish Sea. From harbour porpoises, to humpback whales, to transient killer whales – there is seemingly no end to the plethora of incredible animals we encounter on our tours. Each and every trip is unique, and each one offers a new opportunity to engage with our environment and different creatures.
We have been very fortunate this week to spend a great deal of time with one of our favourite transient killer whale families – the T018’s. This is a group of 4 mammal-hunting orcas that includes two adult males and two adult females. The two males, Galiano (T019B) and Spouter (T019C) are very famous on our coast because of their massive dorsal fins! They are an incredible sight to behold as they break the surface of the water.
We had some incredibly calm seas when we were viewing this family, and this enabled us to also catch sight of many harbour porpoises! Harbour porpoises are extremely small, and it can be incredibly hard to see them if there’s any chop on the surface of the water. They are the smallest cetaceans we have here in the Salish Sea. Harbour porpoises are only about two metres long and weigh under 150 Ibs, and we are lucky if we catch a glimpse of their backs and small dorsal fins! Next to harbour seals, they are the second favourite prey of transient killer whales, likely because they lack the speed to escape once they are detected.
No week would be complete without a humpback whale sighting, and we have been fortunate to see humpback whales on nearly all of our tours this week! We were fortunate to find many mother and calf pairings travelling together. The mother and calf pairing is the strongest bond we find with humpback whales. A female humpback has an 11.5 month gestation period, and will give birth to a single calf during the winter. Calves will nurse for almost a year but can feed independently after about 6 months. A mother humpback is incredibly protective of her young calf, and will defend it from transient killer whales to the best of her ability during the time that they are together.
After so many incredible sightings, we can hardly wait to see what we’ll encounter this upcoming week! In our little corner of the world, the ocean abounds with mammals, birds, fish, and invertebrates. We can’t wait to see more!