July 28th - Pod of transients heading towards Nanaimo!
This was an absolutely incredible day viewing TONS of wildlife throughout our trips in the morning and afternoon. As we left the harbour in the morning, we set our sights on Entrance Island just off the shores of the northeastern tip of Gabriola Island. Entrance Island is a manned lighthouse station where you can usually find some marine mammals hauled out on the rocks. Lucky for us, we not only saw the cute little harbour seals but those noisy Steller sea lions as well! The sea lions quickly scrambled into the water as we approached, but not for long, as 20 seconds later they were back on the rocks growling away crawling over one another. They are a territorial species, so if one sea lion is interested in a piece of land that another sea lion is occupying, they will start vocalizing even louder and nipping at one another until one gives up.
From there, we made our way through Gabriola Passage and entered into the Southern Gulf Islands where we spotted some bald eagles perched on the tops of trees and even more harbour seals on the little rocky islands scattered around. The added bonus was seeing some oystercatchers and black turnstones scurrying around on the rocks, both birds have pretty self explanatory names. The oystercatchers are small black birds found on the intertidal, with their bright orange beaks they tend to stand out. Not only do they eat small oysters (hence the name), but they also feed on many other shellfish found in the intertidal, such as limpets, small mussels, and sea snails too. Don't get too close to their nests though! They are very protective and territorial and you'll surely hear their high pitched calls from above. The black turnstones got their name from their foraging techniques too, by turning over stones and other items in order to search for prey, many aquatic invertebrates.
Now, the time that everyones been waiting for - the killer whales!! We travelled a little further south through Stuart Channel and caught up with the orcas who were travelling north around Parminter Point off of Saltspring Island. The pod was the T99's, the same group we saw yesterday! A mother and three of her offspring continued travelling north, engaging in some longer dives - making sure our guests had their head on a swivel to find where they would surface next. If you take a closer look at some of the pictures, you'll see one of the orcas, T99B, has a little nick on its dorsal fin, helping with the identification. As our time with the killer whales came to a close, we continued north and took Dodd's Narrows as we made our way back to the harbour. Before heading to the dock, the guests got to see the Gabriola rocks where the cormorants nest and take a look at some of them drying their wings off in the sun.
In the afternoon we travelled through Dodd's Narrows, in between Vancouver Island and Mudge Island. Just south of there, Cascadia caught back up with the T99 pod as they continued their travels north, while Keta took a little detour to see the harbour seals, cormorants, and black turnstones.
While watching the T99 family, their travels brought us right back home into Nanaimo, how considerate! As we followed them between DeCourcy Island and Gabriola Island, the whales were being little tricksters and went right through False Narrows. This passage of water lies between Mudge Island and Gabriola Island and is too shallow for the boats to pass through so we double backed, looped around, went through Dodd's Narrows and caught them on the other side of the channel as they made their way closer to Nanaimo, hugging the coast of Vancouver Island. You could see them pass right by Harmac, the pulp mill located in southern Nanaimo and passed Jack Point, just north of the Duke Point Ferry Terminal.
This was a perfect opportunity for us to stop by the rocky facade off Gabriola Island and take a closer look at the cormorants.
Check out some more photos below :) with the beautiful weather lately, everyday on the water has been so enjoyable, come and join us as we watch the healthy, growing population of transient killer whales!