One of those 'we are so lucky to be in such a beautiful city' type of days! http://t.co/pmkVhOHZ44
August 29, 2011
This morning, we headed out aboard the Orca Spirit in search of whales and other wildlife. We decided to start our tour at Race Rocks, and arrived there about 25 minutes after leaving the harbour. Just as we were about to enter the reserve, we noticed it. Captain Lyle and I (naturalist Corey) spotted a large dorsal fin almost simultaneously - orca! It was a lone male transient known as T31. This meant that we could not enter the reserve and the sea lions and seals would have to wait. However, our guests were not disappointed. We headed out of the reserve and into Race Passage and travelled with T31 as he headed towards Bentick Island. We watched as he hunted along the shoreline. He stalled out and was hunting so tight to the shoreline that we were wondering if was hunting harbour seals against the steep-walled shores.
After the great orca encounter, we headed back to Race Rocks. We were able to see several sea lions of both the California and Steller variety. The sea lions were a little rowdy and definitely practicing their fighting skills. On their breeding grounds, sea lions have harems. Males fight for the right to breed with as many females as they can. The little territorial battles the males have here are probably very important. We also saw several harbour seals - the favourite food for a lone orca like T31. After leaving Race Rocks, we took a wide arc south of Victoria in search of humpback whales. Although we were unsuccessful in our search, we did have an interesting encounter with a baitball and the numerous gulls and other seabirds that feed on the small baitfish before heading back to the harbour.
By the afternoon trip T31 had made his way east along the waterfront and we encountered him near Trial Island. He made his way slowly by Trial Island and towards the Victoria Golf Club. There were no golfers on the oceanfront tee box. They missed out on a rare treat. We had a great pass from T31 as he crossed from the golf course to the many seal haulouts. Guests were astounded just to see how close transients can hunt to shore. The big old lone male (estimated birth date <1955) dispatched at least one harbour seal this afternoon. We were able to view many harbour seals hauled out on the rocks in the Chain Islets before heading to Chatham Island where we had a neat wildlife tour with more harbour seals and a wonderful encounter with a great blue heron. After our little wildlife cruise, we headed back to the dock after an excellent day on the water.