Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
It finally felt like spring today with sunshine, blue skies and placid waters! We headed east with our guests on the Orca Spirit, with word that some Transient Orcas were traveling up San Juan Channel. After crossing into American waters, we rounded the north end of San Juan Island. With calm seas it was not difficult to spot the black dorsal fins of several mammal-hunting killer whales. The first group we encountered consisted of a female, an adult male and a small calf. The trio was likely a family group as transient orca offspring will remain with their mothers for life as long as their group does not get too large. The male had a very wide base to his dorsal fin which also leaned slightly to the left. The whales appeared to be chasing prey initially, but they behaviour changed once they met up with a second group.
Transient groups will meet up throughout the year to socialize, mate and cooperatively hunt. The second group we spotted was made up of 3 to 4 individuals. Once the two groups merged, the large male entertained whale watchers as he swam with his belly up, raising his tail above the water to propel himself along. One of the ladies in the second group must have looked pretty good today, as our male showed his interest and affection by displaying the ‘pink salmon’! Killer whales do not interbreed so meeting another group is an excellent opportunity to attempt to increase the population. We followed the whales until they crossed into Canadian waters as we approached South Pender Island. It was a spectacular day to be on the water and spend time with the ocean’s graceful black and white top predators!
We had a guest today who asked if their was a radio frequency to listen to the hydrophones that are placed around San Juan Island. I checked it out and there is a website that allows you to listen to the hydrophones online. Visit http://orcasound.net/ to see if you can hear the calls, squeaks, whistles and grunts of the orcas! With enough practice, you will be able to tell the difference between J, K and L pod! Transients can sometimes be heard, but they tend to be quieter so that their prey cannot detect them coming. Good luck and enjoy learning the complex language of orcas!