Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
July 2, 2011
Our whale watching trip had us rounding Ogden Point on seas so calm you could skate on them if they were frozen! None of the companies in Victoria or the US had reports of any whales, so we were in search mode. On our way out to Haro Strait we saw several Harbour Porpoises break the surface as we passed by. We started our search along the western shores of San Juan Island. There were all kinds of seabirds on the water from rhinocerous oclets to pigeon gillemots to seagulls, a sure sign that bait balls were scattered all over Haro Strait. Captain Brad caught the dorsal fin of a minke whale in the corner of his eye. We had a whale! Minkes are a type of baleen whale that does not have a migration route like grey whales or humpbacks. They are a slender whale with a torpedo shaped body. The north Pacific population is unique from other populations of minkes in that they have a white band on their pectoral fins. Our first minke of the day surfaced several times, even exposing its chin to us on several surfaces! This is not something we see often from the minkes! We moved on to Salmon Bank were hundreds of sea birds were floating atop the water. We soon saw no less than 4 individual minke whales among the bait ball we were sitting on. The most exciting part was that there was a mother and her calf, surfacing very close together! We could actually hear their breaths as they surfaced. The other two minkes were in different directions further off, but we got the chance to see them non-the-less. On our way back to Victoria we stopped by Trial Island to check out some Harbour Seals lying in the sun and the beautiful lighthouse standing tall along the rocky shoreline. It was a great day to be on the water, enjoying the many different marine animals we have in the area.
This afternoon, we travelled east aboard the Pacific Explorer. We had received reports of orcas southbound in Rosario Strait and set out on our way to find them. Shortly into our trip, we received a call from our zodiac captain Rodrigo, who encountered whales just south of Discovery Island. Arriving on scene, we saw a large group of resting whales. This behaviour is always a staff favourite, as the group of 10 to 15 whales surfaced and dived in unison in tight formation. We travelled with the whales as they crossed Haro Strait. We spotted Polaris and her young calf, Blackberry and several other J-pod orcas. As the whales neared San Juan Island, they woke up with some spectacular distant breaches and than a breathtaking encounter with an unidentified whale who did three spectacular breaches in succession!
After this wonderful encounter, we headed back towards Victoria and watched a bald eagle soaring overhead. Near the Chain Islets, one of favourite harbour seal sites we saw several harbour seals in the water. We had a great view of some young harbour seals swimming while we discussed the role of transient orcas in our area. It was another great adventure on the Salish Sea.