September 20- 2 Species Out West

© Five Star Whale Watching/ Jo-Anne Lacroix. Image— Two Killer Whales (orcas) from a group seen today just offshore south of Victoria, near Race Rocks Ecological Reserve.

Today was an exciting day, as we not only saw a number of whales, but multiple whale species as well! It is always a special opportunity to be able to see the magnificent animals that call the Salish Sea home.

We decided to begin our search for animals in Juan de Fuca Strait. This is a large body of water south of Victoria. While in the Strait, we proceeded west towards an area known as Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. This is a protected marine area, and often a frequent rest site for pinnipeds (like Sea Lions or seals).

While near Race Rocks, we spotted some Bigg’s Killer Whales, or Bigg’s Orcas. There were multiple individuals present, and it appeared there was also a small juvenile! They were close to shore, and it was possible they were visiting the area in search of possible prey, as this type of orca often feeds on Sea Lions, Harbour seals and porpoises. We saw some exciting behaviours from these individuals. One whale lifted its tail into the air, swinging it horizontally, in a behaviour known as “tail-lobbing”. Another animal spy-hopped, lifting its head clear of the water (see above image). It was amazing seeing these intelligent top predators in their natural habitat.

Our encounters were not over yet, as we witnessed some of the largest whales in the Salish Sea! These were Humpback Whales; they are a baleen whale that feeds on mainly krill and small schooling fish. Near Race Rocks, we saw two whales beside each other, as they surfaced and lifted their massive tail-flukes above the surface; this is known as tail-fluking and is often seen prior to a deep dive. It is not always that we see multiple Humpbacks together, as they can often be seen to travel alone. These whales have thunderous breaths and are remarkable to see.

Among these distinct and equally inspiring whale species, we were fortunate to see several pinnipeds such as Sea Lions (both in the water and on the rocks) and Harbour seals. These are prey items for the type of orca we observed here! Before heading back east, we even caught a glimpse of a majestic Bald Eagle. It was an awe-inspiring day on the water today, and all were excited to have seen so many unique species.

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

September 20th- Humpbacks and Orcas out West

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