Weekly Sightings Report June 2-9

June is off to a killer start (pun intended)!

As the unofficial start to our peak season, everyone has high expectations for the beginning of June, and 2016 did not disappoint.

The steady increase of transient orca over the past years has not abated; sightings that used to feel like a rare treat, or an unpredictable bonus, are rapidly becoming a staple in our shoulder seasons. Unsurprisingly, given their name, transient orca are constantly moving, rarely staying in one place for more than a few days, but as their numbers rise, when one family leaves an area, more often than not it seems, another one appears!

In addition to T’s, we have had to joy of hosting the first humpbacks of the season. While a rare and stunning sighting keeps us guessing in the winter months, the humpbacks don’t typically arrive in large numbers until summer is in full swing. This year however they are already making their presence known in the spring, and we’re not complaining. Big Mama,

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Baby Boooooooom!

It seems cliché to start a post with “WOW,” but sometimes even those of us with a preclusion to prose are left speechless by the circumstances. How do you summarize a year in 600 words? Most of the time you can’t, and you just shouldn’t even try, but 2015 was so spectacular, so uplifting and heart-healing that we need to talk about it.

I’m talking, of course, about the baby boom.

It actually started in December of 2014, when J50 aka Scarlet appeared. She was the first new (surviving) calf since 2012 and everyone was cautiously thrilled. The birth was sensational in more ways than one, as her early life was unusual: she was seen wandering off on her own, it was unclear who her mother was, and she was covered in rake marks (scratches from whale teeth). Researchers eventually put together a hypothesis that she became stuck in the birth canal and her sister (J36/Alki) assisted her mother (J16/Slick) during the birth by pulling her out. This is the first known case of orca midwifery!

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Sightings Report July 19-25

What a week of wild weather! Wind to start, rain the finish, and whales in between.

This week started out with some crazy wind that caused the cancellation of a few afternoon trips, as well as several Harbour Air flights. We soaked a few boatloads of passengers, but no one was worse for wear, just rocking some trendy “sea spray” hair! Later in the week brought much needed rain to the island, which we are thrilled about! And of course we don’t cancel trips due to rain, cause the whales don’t dare; they are already wet!

The residents continued to make regular appearances in some of their favourite spots, and often we had humpbacks nearby enough to make many trips in to multi-species excursions!

This week we also had the unique experience of our Vancouver boat seeing different whales than our Victoria boats. Ocean Magic comes down from Vancouver every day on the Ultimate Day Tour, and several day this week, the J2’s (Granny’s matriline) as well as sub-group of K-pod were spotted hanging out very close to Vancouver. Meanwhile, the two other groups of K-pod were being watched by boats closer to Victoria or the San Juan Islands.

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Sightings Report July 12-18

We had another gorgeous week this week, with killer whales and/or humpbacks stealing the scene. While it was “and” more than “or”, there was a day or two where the killer whales failed to make an appearance, but the humpbacks more than made up for their absence. 

We’ve been seeing a lot of “X” humpbacks recently. No, that doesn’t mean they’re mutants, it’s part of numbering system we use to identify individual humpbacks. X means their flukes are mostly black, or 0-20%. Y means they’re 20-60% white, and Z is mostly, or over 60% white. Big Mama, for example, is BCY0324, which means her flukes has a bit of white on them. X humpbacks are the hardest to identify, because, with less white, there are fewer obvious variations, they all just look black. As a result, much of the last week, we’ve just been reporting seeing A humpback, instead of an individual. 

However, one humpback was recently identified by skipper Mark Malleson as BCY0324’s 2014 calf! We’re always excited for calves to return to the area, and we’re thrilled to hear the report that Big Mama’s most recent calf is making the Salish Sea its summer home and thriving. 

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Sightings Report July 5-11

If you’re a regular reader of mine (I know there’s a few of your out there!) you’ll remember last week I talked about how, this time of year “we settle into a lovely consistency. The search for whales is not frantic, but more of a casual stroll, with whales almost around every corner.” This held true for the first part of the week, but things got turned on their head a little today. More on that later.

Unlike last week, we saw a wider variety of resident killer whale groups this week, with members of all three pods making an appearance on Sunday, and a mixed bag throughout the rest of the week. As usual, we definitely saw a lot of J-pod, and one of the highlights of my week was encountering about half of the pod, the J2’s and the J19’s, quickly transiting the Victoria waterfront! Seeing them so close to home is a thrill, and seeing them move at high speeds is my favourite. The faster they go, the more of their body comes out of the water.

This week also brought what appeared to be the end of the world. A massive smoke plume drifted across southern Vancouver Island from the numerous forest fires burning in BC and Washington on July 5th.

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Sightings Report June 28 – July 4

Helllllllo summer!

Wow! What a week! Resident killer whales every day, doing the San Juan shuffle, and humpbacks and minke whales coming out of the woodwork left, right, and centre.

The days of multi-species trips are upon us! This is actually early in the season for such a high success rate involving multiple species. Usually we don’t start getting large numbers of humpbacks until August, but their early appearance this year is not bothering anyone.

June wrapped up with an official success rate of 96% and July is off to a whopping 100% success rate for whale sightings! Yes, I know, we’re only 4 days in to July, but it’s still exciting ok?

We are firmly in our peak season now with things picking up both on the water and in the city of Victoria. This week we celebrated Canada Day, and every weekend brings in cruise ships, exciting festivals, and events in the downtown core. We couldn’t be more excited to be right in the thick of it; we really work in the best place in the world!

As far as whales go, we’ve been seeing mostly J-pod in recent days,

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Sightings Report June 24-27

My apologies for doubling up on the sightings reports this week, there’s just too many good sightings to talk about!

The last few days have been all killer whales, all the time! We had several days of both residents AND transients, with a humpback or two thrown in for good measure. We’ve also seen whales every day, on every trip, since June 19th!

The westerly winds that gave us a little bit of trouble last week have died down significantly in favour of a heat wave! Normally people are shocked at how cold it can get on the water, but the last few days we’ve had many passengers relieved to escape the heat. Keep in mind though, the difference is extreme, so while you might feel crazy standing on the dock sweating in you sweater or windbreaker, you’ll be thankful for it once we get up to speed.

While there still hasn’t been a super pod reported, members of all three pods were seen regularly this week. We’ve also been seeing a lot a pod switching going on. We’ll be observing a pod, doing our best to ID as many animals as we can,

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Sightings Report June 14-23

As June winds down, it’s time start thinking about reflecting on what this month has been like, and as you can imagine, these things can be tough to sum up. This June has exceptional and exceptionally average in a few different ways.

What could I possibly mean by that? Well each month has a few characteristics that make it a special time of year. The wildlife are doing different things, conditions are variable, and even our passengers change as the summer rolls on.

June has been showing off everything it is famous for, with a few amazing treats thrown in. The westerly winds that typically dominate the forecasts this time of year have reared their ugly heads more than once. Fortunately we have those forecasts ahead of time and can predict at what times the conditions will be prohibitive to safe whale watching. We discourage passengers from booking at these times, meaning we rarely have to cancel due to conditions.

As an aside, remember to always follow the instructions of your booking agent when you receive conditions warnings or clothing recommendations. When we say it’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be COLD! Of course it wasn’t all bad,

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Sightings Report June 6-13

This week saw the return of L-pod, hopefully for the long term, which is our largest family in the Southern Resident Killer Whale community. Up until this point we had only seen J-pod, and two brief visits from L-pod last week. And there were members of K-pod mixed in there as well! We don’t have any confirmed incidents of a super pod (which is all members of all three pods) but we’re getting closer!

It’s really starting to feel like summer with all the families coming back! And the weather is cooperating as well, it’s been non-stop sunshine all week! We did have a few rough days of wicked westerly winds coming in, and one day where we had to cancel a couple of trips, but in general, it’s been whales and wonderful weather all week.

Our residents have been hanging out in some of their favourite spots, as well as branching out into some new areas. We made a big run to Rosario Strait to catch up with J-pod as well as a couple of humpbacks on June 8th. San Juan Island has been its usual hive of activity, and we’re always keeping our eyes to the west,

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Sightings Report May 31 – June 6

All killer whales, all week again!

June is off to a great start with both ecotypes of killer whales making strong appearances, and the odd humpback and Minke whale showing their smiling baleen faces.

The residents seem to have started to settle into their favourite summer spots. J-pod were often hanging out by San Juan Island, with the occasional foray up to Tsawwassen, and L-pod made their first appearance of the year on June 3rd!

As is typical with L-pod, they left soon after. Their first visit is always a short one, but no worries, J-pod stuck around, and there were plenty of transients hanging out as well. So there was never a shortage of killer whales, and, wouldn’t you know it, L-pod returned today!

We had so many whales around this week, that quite often our boats were all going different ways. We like to spread out, and have eyes on as many animals as possible, so sometimes trips leaving at the same time would speed off in opposite directions! Whether it was J’s at San Juan, or transients in Haro Strait, everyone was seeing whales!

Killer whales are almost always our priority,

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