The summer orca “season” in Johnstone Strait began on June 19th with a marvelous visit by Simoom’s “A34” family. We first heard them just after they entered Johnstone Strait, via Weynton Pass, at 12:25pm, after which they headed east casually, spread out. When they were first sighted, off Big Bay on Hanson Island, by Jim Borrowman on the Gikumi, Echo (A55) was out in front, as is his habit. A few minutes later, a mum with a very young baby beside her came along. Because the 3 adult females in Simoom’s family have very similar dorsal fins, it is difficult to tell them apart, so it wasn’t clear which mum this was. She could have been Simoom herself, or one of her daughters, Misty (A62) or Eclipse (A67). Jim took some photos, one of which is shown on our front page. Our thought is that this is a photo of 13 year old Eclipse (A67) with her first baby, but we will wait for confirmation before being certain. Shortly afterwards, a group of 3 came along – a mum with 2 youngsters beside her, one of them very young. Most likely these were Misty (A62) with 4 year old Dusky (A83) and Misty’s new baby. The little one was energetically fooling around with his/her older sibling. After 4 years without additions, there are now TWO new babies in Simoom’s family, great news for Simoom’s line, and also great news for the Northern Resident community. More good news came from Jared Towers who followed the orcas as they made their way towards Robson Bight. Once there, they stopped for a bite to eat, and were successful. Misty was observed catching 4 salmon, and Jared (a DFO researcher) was able to collect scale samples from them. Eventually, we will know which fish Misty caught, but given what we know about orca food preferences, most likely they were springs. If it is true that spring salmon are already available to the orcas, Simoom’s visit, though possibly just 3 days long – she headed “out” on Sunday morning, June 21st – may signal a much better beginning to this summer than we (& the orcas) have had for a while.
Jim Borrowman, Jared Towers, Christie McMillan