March 30- Whales and Wildlife

© Five Star Whale Watching/ Andrew Lees. Image — A male known as J27, or “Blackberry”, surfaces around the rest of J-pod in Swanson Channel today.

Today was a memorable and exciting day for all on board. On our journey we were fortunate to encounter a number of animals, aquatic and even terrestrial species included!

We journeyed north, all the way to an area known as Swanson Channel, located between several Canadian Gulf Islands, including Saltspring and North Pender Island. It was here we encountered our first marine mammals, orca whales.

These whales belong to the Southern Resident Killer Whale community (SKRW’s), and were of family J-pod. The SRKW’s are an extended family clan which is a part of a larger ecotype of orca that feeds primarily on Chinook salmon. The other pods that make up the SRKW’s are K-pod and L-pod.

These whales depend on Chinook salmon to survive, and unfortunately a lack of this food source has prompted them to become endangered. We are always happy to see them in the area, and hope that they are foraging successfully in their historical feeding grounds within the Salish Sea.

We were able to recognize one individual in particular, a large male known as “Blackberry”, or J27. He was swimming at a distance from the rest of his family and was clearly identifiable by his tall dorsal fin and unique saddle patch (markings) (see above image). Individual orcas can be identified by their unique dorsal fins shapes and sizes as well as markings such as their saddle and eye patches.

These animals were travelling north together; orca pods are matriarchal (female dominated) and bonded very closely with their strong family ties. It was incredible to witness these animals amidst the gorgeous backdrop of the Gulf Islands.

Our trip was not over yet however, and we would encounter more marine mammals before heading home! Heading south, we made a stop at Spieden Island. Here, we were able to see Steller Sea Lions as well as Harbour seals resting on the rocks. Further up the island, we were fortunate to see some of its unique inhabitants, Mouflon Sheep. The sheep are reminders of the history of the island when it was used as a big game hunting reserve in the 1970’s-1980’s.

We had an incredible day with a multitude of interesting species. It is always a remarkable experience to show our guests the various sights and sounds of the Salish Sea.

To view more images from today’s trip, click on the link below:

March 30th- J-Pod and Wildlife


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