July 10th - Humpbacks and Orcas in the Southern Gulf Islands!
July 10th was a very exciting day out on the water! During the morning tour we got to see a pair of humpback whales travelling and feeding together and in the afternoon were lucky enough to some very active orca!
We found the humpbacks travelling along the coast of Saturna Island doing a lot of deep dives, meaning they were most likely feeding. The two whales that we saw are named Raptor and Heather. Each whale can be identified by the shape of their dorsal fin, the markings on the underside of the fluke (tail fin), and by notches or shapes on the edge of their fluke. When going down for feeding dives they will arch their backs and put their flukes into the air to give extra momentum for diving.
These humpback whales have recently returned to the waters in the coast of BC from their migration down to Hawaii or Mexico where they breed. Our nutrient rich waters provide them with food during the summer months so they build fat reserves which they survive off of while breeding down south.
Typically humpback whales will be solitary when feeding in these waters so getting to see two together is a special treat!
After spending some time with Raptor and Heather we saw some seals which were being watched over by a bald eagle. We usually find this eagle perched on the sign here, probably because it gives a great vantage point into the waters within Portlier Pass. It is likely looking for fish near the surface to catch.
In the afternoon trip the guests got a special surprise when they got to see some orca being very active at the surface. A large group of whales, the T124A's and the T36A's, were found off of Prevost Island and there was lots of excitement! We were greeted with plenty of tail slaps, fluke waves, and even some breaching!
During hunting there can be a lot of surface activity with the whales coming up for breaths, tail slapping to stun the prey, and breaching when the whales get excited.
On the surface the hunt may look hectic but under the water these animals are killing machines. They use the size of their pods to their advantage, working together to attack the prey so each whale won't become to tired and let the prey escape.
They use a combination of physical, visual, and verbal communication while hunting and it is usually the matriarch which will lead the others.
There were tons of examples of all these surface activities while we were with the whales, but I'll let you take a look for yourself! A picture is worth a thousand words after all.
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