Summary: February 2023

Orcas: A23s, D01s, A42s, A94, A34s, Bigg’s

Sea Lions

Orcas: A23s, D01s, A42s, A94, A34s, Bigg’s

Sea Lions

Even though the shortest month of the year, February 2023 was packed with unexpected events. We say “packed” because this winter month is part of our “off season” when things are supposed to be quieter, yet there were many reports of Northern Residents!

Holly’s family had already travelled to Georgia Strait in January shortly after Fife’s family departed to the north with their A clan companions, the D01s. Holly stayed in Georgia Strait the entire month of February. Although this area has been much favoured in Holly’s past winters, the news this year was not at reassuring.

Holly’s oldest son, Surf (A66) was last seen on 20 January after he was looking thin. Sightings in February did not provide any comfort either. After a bit of a gap Holly and family were seen later in February, still in Georgia Strait, near Powell River. Surf was still missing. The last report gave us further pause as the young A4 pod male, Mystery (A94) who has been regularly travelling with Holly’s family was not seen either. For a while we entertained the idea that neither were really “missing” but off somewhere together. Not so, Mystery was back with Holly when she reversed her travels and departed for the north on 1 March. Surf was not there.

We have myriad memories of Surf starting from just after he was born in 1996. On a cold, clear beautiful day in February we found ourselves in Johnstone Strait and came across his family travelling east toward the Ecological Reserve. There was a fresh fall of snow on the mountains and the sea was dark and still in the late afternoon. Holly was with baby Surf but protectively not letting us near. We stood back to give her space and they went on their way. Trailing behind was Holly’s daughter Ivy travelling in the same direction with a lone dolphin. We would learn later that Ivy was probably very ill at the time as she died as the result of an infection that same winter, touchingly in Georgia Strait also. Fast forward, there was the time Surf, as an adult, deliberately put himself between an energetic research boat attempting repeatedly to “tag” his young sister Cameleon (A88). We watched his successful manoeuvres from the Lab deck, definitely siding with his efforts. Our memories include his multiple enjoyments of the rubbing beaches. Once, his huge dorsal fin neatly scraped past the “Main” beach underwater camera as he glided sideways over the the pebbles. That same distinctive dorsal fin also featured prominently in any family portrait – a focal point for all who looked. What can one say? Surf was 27 years old in 2022, just slightly under the average age for male orcas. He led a full life, enjoyed four other siblings after Ivy, and the nurturing protection Holly provided. We will now refocus our thoughts on the rumour and hope that 15 year old Cameleon has had a baby. If true this will be Holly’s second grand offspring.

So what of the rest of February? Earlier in the month we were treated to the return of Simoom’s family on 19 February. This was a unique event as Simoom’s family had never before come in February and was a great follow through to their visit late the previous November and December. This latest encounter lasted but one day as they ventured in, had a rub and then turned back and away. For a while that afternoon it seemed as if they might try to come back again but the current in the late afternoon proved too much and they retreated north. Our colleague Jared Towers, while documenting this encounter noticed that Misty’s two year old youngest, A130 (no nickname yet) is a male. This means Misty now has four sons! That’s a handful.

Bigg’s (Transient) orcas made their presence known a few times during the month as they searched for other marine mammals such as seals, dolphins and sea lions to feed on.

The sea lions were still abundant and still hauling out on the local rocks.

For our winter caretakers, Cam and Mat, February was their last full month at the Lab. We suspect they will carry with them many good memories as they have recognised the specialness of this small corner of the world in which they landed just a few short months ago.

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