Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
What a wonderful day it was today to be on the water off Victoria! We set out on the Orca Spirit to search for local wildlife south of the harbour near Constance Bank. An underwater mountain exists here which creates masses of upwelling nutrients as the current flows over the peak. This bounty of food attracts small fish who are eaten by larger fish, seals, sea lions and birds. Whales are attracted to the area to also feast on the plankton, fish and marine mammals. We encountered several wide-eyed Harbour Seals and a huge group of Harbour Porpoises! Harbour Porpoises are very fast swimming marine mammals as they have thick, muscular bodies and powerful tail flukes. We have one other species of porpoise in our waters called Dall's Porpoises. Both populations have experienced population declines and have now been interbreeding. The most interesting fact about this cross-breeding between the two species is that the offspring are viable or able to have their own offspring, something not often seen amongst hybrid progeny.
After a fantastic visit with the porpoises we headed west to look for more animals in the Salish Sea. We scanned out west before turning towards Race Rocks Lighthouse. As we approached the historic landmark, we saw the large honey brown coats of Steller's Sea Lions. These 2,500 pound males were basking in the sun, not causing too much trouble amongst themselves. We were also treated to a gathering of female Elephant Seals, lying in their usual spot these past few weeks. These females are molting right now, shedding their old worn coats and growing in a healthy new layer of fur. Harbour seals, many of them pregnant females, dotted the bottom of many of the rocky islets. The females will be giving birth in June and July, we anticipate the little pups arriving! Eventually it was time to head back to the dock in Victoria after a lovely day on the water.
If you are interested in reading more about the hybrid porpoises, click on the link below!
Hybrid Porpoise Strands - Whale Museum