Victoria Whale Watching Report: Southern Resident Killer Whales – K Pod and Race Rocks!
September 27, 2020
Sunday, September 27th, 2020 – 12pm Covered Vessel Tour
This afternoon, we headed out into the Juan de Fuca Strait with gorgeous conditions for finding wildlife in the Salish Sea.
We travelled South West for a while with beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains and saw several Harbour Porpoises in the area. These are the smallest Cetaceans we have in our waters and typically don’t stick around for long. It didn’t take very long until Captain Jordan slowed down the boat, spotting a blow ahead of us! He had found a Humpback Whale! This species of whale will soon leave our waters to return to their breeding grounds in places such as Mexico and Hawaii. While they are here, they spend their days eating in order to gain as much weight as possible. After they leave, they will hardly eat, if at all, until they return next Spring. We saw this whale fluke and go for a dive and decided to carry on in search of other wildlife.
It didn’t take long before we spotted another species of whale- the Killer Whale! There were several spread out around our vicinity. Thanks to our crew member’s camera lens we were able to determine that these were members of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population. More specifically, they belonged to K pod. This is the smallest of the three (J, K, and L) pods with 17 individuals total. There are currently 74 whales in this population, after two J pod births this month! Tahlequah, or J35, gave birth to a boy at the beginning of September and Eclipse, or J41, gave birth on the 24th just this past Thursday! This event was actually witnessed on this boat, the Pacific Explorer while out on a tour that day. Although these births are cause for great celebration, the population is still critically endangered and face many threats to their survival. They rely on Chinook Salmon as their primary food source and face starvation if these stocks continue to decline in the manner that they are.
The members of K pod we saw today were identified as the K14s and K16s. The K16s are Opus, who was born in 1985 and her 18 year-old son, Sonata. The K14s include Lea who was born in 1977, her 17 year-old daughter Yoda, her 12 year-old son Kelp, and her 27 year-old son Lobo!
We then left K pod to head towards Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. Coming here is always exciting, as the rocks are littered with Harbour Seals, Steller Sea Lions, and California Sea Lions. We saw the sea lions swimming amongst the Bull Kelp, fighting each other on the rocks, and calling out as we passed by. They were incredibly loud and their stench filled the air around us! The black and white striped lighthouse here is no longer manned, but is still functioning since its light was turned on for the first time in 1860. There is, however, a Guardian of the reserve who lives on Race Rocks year-round to monitor the area!
After passing through here, we made our way back to Victoria! It was an incredible day on the water for both weather and sightings!