September 22- A Family and Giants

© Five Star Whale Watching/Andrew Lees. Image — Two Bigg’s Killer Whales (orcas) surface southeast of Victoria this morning; note the juvenile on the right of the above image.

We had a remarkable day on the water, being fortunate to encounter a variety of species on our trip.

We began by heading southwest into Juan de Fuca Strait, and eventually neared Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. This is a frequent haul-out area for pinnipeds like Sea Lions and Harbour seals. While at Race Rocks, we spotted our first whales species of the day! This species was the Humpback Whale, and is the largest species we have the opportunity to see in the Salish Sea. It is one of the largest whales in the world, but feeds on some of the smallest prey; primarily krill and small schooling fish like sardines.

It was remarkable to witness the sheer size of these animals as they surfaced with their thunderous breaths! Their exhalations (blows) may ascend ten feet in the air! While at Race Rocks, we could observe some interesting pinnipeds, such as Sea Lions and Harbour seals hauled out on the rocks. In the kelp, we noticed a Sea Otter as it floated on its back!

We continued on our journey, heading east to search for more animals. A few miles east of Race Rocks, we encountered a different whale species. These animals were Orca, or Killer Whales, different from the Humpback Whales. They were Bigg’s, or transient orcas, which means they feed on marine mammals. Their dorsal fins rose above the water as they surfaced in unison. We could identify individuals belonging to the T35A family; orcas can often be identified by their unique markings or the size and shape of their dorsal fins. We even spotted a juvenile with the larger adults (see above image). The orcas were hunting, and appeared to eventually make a kill. Orcas will share their prey, as they hunt cooperatively and have close social bonds. These orcas were very active, and it was amazing to see these top ocean predators.

While out on the water today, we had some memorable encounters with not one, but two whales species, in addition to other special Salish Sea animals! It was a fantastic trip, and we headed back home to Victoria.

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

September 22nd- Humpbacks and Transients in the Morning

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