Written by: Lori, Naturalist – The week of September 6th, 2021.
As always, this past week has been full of excitement and indescribable moments with some of our favourite creatures of the Salish Sea. We have encountered humpback whales, transient killer whales, steller sea lions, California sea lions, harbour seals, and a wide variety of different marine birds. We have been fortunate enough to have some incredible weather so far this September, and each day we have been thrilled to depart the harbour with the wind at our backs and the sun on our faces. The weather has been nearly as amazing as the wildlife sightings!
We have been very fortunate this week to observe a behaviour that is quite rare to see on our tours known as kelping. Kelping is where whales will drape kelp over their dorsal fins, pectoral fins, and tail flukes. It is quite a sight to see, and we were lucky to see a large humpback whale partaking in this behaviour. The humpback whales’ movements were slow and relaxed, and it seems fit that the main theory behind why they perform this behaviour is that it simply feels good for them!
One group of transient killer whales that we love to see are the T060’s. This week we were able to spot them near Race Rocks, a Marine Ecological Reserve with an incredible diversity of wildlife. There is no doubt that the T060’s were looking for a meal while in this area. The reserve is covered in harbour seals, steller sea lions, and California sea lions – some of the favourite prey of transient killer whales.
Over the past few months, steller sea lions and California sea lions returning from rookeries have certainly overtaken the rocks at Race Rocks Lighthouse! We often spend a portion of our tours watching them frolic in the waters surrounding Race Rocks, and compete for space on land. If we look closely, we can also spot the much smaller harbour seals on the rocks as well. Harbour seals spend about 80% of their time in the water, so it is always nice to get some good looks of them when they are hauled out on land! When they are on land they are often sleeping or warming up in the sun. If there are no suitable haul-outs for harbour seals to sleep on, they are fully capable of sleeping on the seafloor as well, and will surface every 5-7 minutes or so to take a breath.
After such an incredible week, it is no wonder that we always look forward to what each new day has in store for us! We cannot wait to go back out on the boat, and see some more of the incredible wildlife we have here in the Salish Sea.