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. 

 Stellers on the move! Loving the goofy one in the top right hand corner. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

Stellers on the move! Loving the goofy one in the top right hand corner. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

 A bunch of sea lions in the water - you're looking at a raft! Photo by Alanna Vivani.

A bunch of sea lions in the water - you're looking at a raft! Photo by Alanna Vivani.

 Harbour seals taking a well deserved (?) rest on a hot summers day. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

Harbour seals taking a well deserved (?) rest on a hot summers day. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

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.

 Bald eagle perched on the top of a tree, look how thin the branch looks beneath its talons! Photo by Alanna Vivani.

Bald eagle perched on the top of a tree, look how thin the branch looks beneath its talons! Photo by Alanna Vivani.

 Oystercatcher showing off some balancing skills on one leg. Iconic orange beak against a small black body. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

Oystercatcher showing off some balancing skills on one leg. Iconic orange beak against a small black body. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

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.

 A member of T99 pod surfacing. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

A member of T99 pod surfacing. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

 Saddle patches range in intensity of white, this one is quite bright! Photo by Alanna Vivani

Saddle patches range in intensity of white, this one is quite bright! Photo by Alanna Vivani

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.

 Three members of T99 surfacing with T99B (far left) displaying the nick. Photo by Val Watson.

Three members of T99 surfacing with T99B (far left) displaying the nick. Photo by Val Watson.

 Harbour sealed (left) hauled on near Miami Island and a cormorant to the right. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

Harbour sealed (left) hauled on near Miami Island and a cormorant to the right. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

 Black turnstone foraging on the rocks. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

Black turnstone foraging on the rocks. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

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. 

 Here you can see all four members surface for some air. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

Here you can see all four members surface for some air. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

 Orca surfacing just off the coastal shores. Photo by Val Watson.

Orca surfacing just off the coastal shores. Photo by Val Watson.

 Check out the orca in the back surfacing, hasn't broken the water line yet and it looks so cool. Photo by Val Watson.

Check out the orca in the back surfacing, hasn't broken the water line yet and it looks so cool. Photo by Val Watson.

 Love to see the eyespots as they surface. Photo by Val Watson.

Love to see the eyespots as they surface. Photo by Val Watson.

This was a perfect opportunity for us to stop by the rocky facade off Gabriola Island and take a closer look at the cormorants. 

 Gabriola Island? More like Cormorant Island!! Photo by Alanna Vivani.

Gabriola Island? More like Cormorant Island!! Photo by Alanna Vivani.

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!

 T99 family surfacing all together. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

T99 family surfacing all together. Photo by Alanna Vivani.

 T99B surfacing in the foreground with two other members surfacing in the background. Photo by Val Watson.

T99B surfacing in the foreground with two other members surfacing in the background. Photo by Val Watson.

 Orca surfacing in the afternoon sun, you can see where the blowhole is located from the slight indentation near the head. Photo by Val Watson.

Orca surfacing in the afternoon sun, you can see where the blowhole is located from the slight indentation near the head. Photo by Val Watson.

Jilann LechnerComment