Sunshine and zodiac tours watching transient Orcas - what a perfect start to this Sunday!
September 28, 2011
Today's whale watching adventure had us leaving the harbour with the sun shining and the waters nice and calm. Captain Brad steered us towards the Unites States, to a particular little island known as San Juan. This well known place is a favourite area of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population. It did not take long to spot whales hugging the shoreline to whales offshore and making their way north. We parked the boat and waited for the whales to pass by us. A small group of 3 made their way towards us and we were able to identify the large male as J-27, more affectionately known as Blackberry. He was accompanied by his little brother Mako, who is only 8 years old this season, and a female we think belongs to K or L pod, and this is why.... Orcas do not breed within their own pod, so they need to find a mate from one of the other 2 pods. Well let's just say that if good 'ole Blackberry could be a streaker at a sports game, he would have been today! Blackberry and the female were rolling around in the water and he was not shy about exposing himself! This behavior always gets a good laugh, but we are happy to see mating behavior as this population is endangered, and every new calf is a blessing. The live capture trade that existed in the 1960s and 1970s stole half of the Southern Resident population, including almost every mature male. Male orcas are not sexual mature until they are about 20 years old. So removing almost all the males has had a long term negative effect on this population. Whales like Blackberry (J-27), Mike (J-26), and Onyx (L-87), all turned 20 this season, so we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. After some great moments with this group of whales, we moved to a different spot, where we seen more females, a couple young whales and two more males, who we identified as L-87 or Onyx, and J-30 or Riptide. Throughout the trip the whales were traveling fast, courting, and towards the end, they stopped near shore and looked to be feeding. All the whales started to circle and lunge down as they fell below the surface. This is a great sign that the salmon runs are still strong right now. As most great moments go, our trip came to and end. We headed back to Victoria, happy to have seen so many orcas! It was a great trip for the records!