Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
July 21, 2011
The first glimpse of sun for several days saw us out into the Salish Sea this morning. A breeze ensured plenty of fresh air as we made a heading for the west coast of San Juan Island, a favourite place of our resident Orca pods. Today the L-pod were around and we cruised beside them, watching as they dove around hunting Chinook Salmon. There were several individuals present, the majority from the L12 subgroup. Because the L-pod is so large (around 40 whales!) they tend to split up into several sub-family groups in order to hunt more efficiently. The L12s are lead by a 78 year old female known as L12 or Alexis. 20 year old Mystery (L85) was also with Alexis, though they are not directly related they are often seen together, likely because Mystery is an orphan and has taken Alexis to be his surrogate mother. We enjoyed the company of these two whales, Alexis with no surviving offspring and Mystery, an adopted orphan, popping up through the waves side by side. When it was time to head for home we made sure to stop at the Chain Islands in front of Oak Bay in Victoria and Trial Island with its signature red and white lighthouse. Some harbour seals were spotted there with new pups and gulls surfed the air currents over the point of Trial Island. It was a morning filled with both brisk adventures and breezes.
The afternoon took us back to the favourite San Juan Island on Washington's northern coast. A few more individuals from the L12 subgroup were identified including the female - L77 (Matia) and big, handsome male - L41 (Mega). They had had enough of cruising around during the morning tides and were actively hunting out something to eat. The Salmon were fleeing for their lives as Mega swerved and zig-zagged through the waves, his huge dorsal fin waving from side to side. He showed off his incredible bulk time and time again, rolling through the waves after panicked fish. Eventually they would pause the action to eat some of their catch just below the surface before moving back into action. It was quite a spectacle with tails and fins slapping the water all around. Finally the wind began to increase and it was time to make way back to Victoria. A little bit of bumping and rolling in the waves through Haro Strait got us to Oak Bay in greater Victoria, where we took a brief break from the wind and enjoyed the scenery of the local Chain islands. Then a quick trip across the south-west portion of Vancouver Island and safe and sound in the Harbour. If the morning was full of brisk adventures and breezes, this afternoon was completely engulfed with fresh air and fast-paced Orca action!