March at Orcalab typically means many changes are in the works. The weather becomes more unpredictable as the transition to Spring gets underway. This year March came in like a lion holding on to the vestiges of winter. By months end the lion had changed into a lamb. The days got longer encouraged by the shift from Standard to Daylight Saving time. Clocks were set forward, we lost that hour of sleep but slowly gained the long twilights and dawns that will be the reality until Autumn. The harbingers of Spring, the flowers and bees, came forth, adding pleasure to the sense of progress into the welcoming season. This is the time of year when we also typically say good-bye to the winter caretakers who have kept the site safe and thriving through the winter months. Camille and Mathieu left mid March heading back to Montreal. Cam would go on to France to visit with her family after three years away. Helena and Paul met up with them in Victoria and listened to their sadness about leaving and enthusiastic wish to come back. They had had a lot of encounters with marine life during their stay: Resident orcas, Bigg’s orcas, sea lions, seals, dolphins, sea otters, Humpbacks and a myriad of birds large and small.
On 1 March, Holly’s family came back from their winter sojourn and travelled up Johnstone Strait in the early hours. They were later seen that same day heading past Sointula. By this time we were already primed about the sad news that Surf, Holly’s oldest son, was no longer with his family. We had hoped Jared Towers would find them and make the news official. But on his way out, Jared became distracted for some time by Bigg’s orcas elsewhere. He never caught up with Surf’s family. By afternoon they were well on their way north. They were again seen on 18 March near Prince Rupert. This is a journey of approximately 290 miles or 466 km. Surf was not with them and so we face the reality that he is gone. His sister, Cameleon (A88) is thought to have had a baby, her first, making Holly a grandmother once again. This was our only Northern Resident March news. It will probably be a while longer before any more news happens which is typical for this time of year.
Bigg’s orcas are a different story. It is quite typical for them to turn up, albeit unpredictably. One exciting encounter happened to occur when OrcaLab technician Quin McIntyre was working on the wireless network. As he and Mat were busy at nearby Cracroft Point on 10 March the T055s passed by very closely. Quin took a spot of video on his phone capturing the sound of their blows as the very relaxed group headed eastward.
The T002Cs, T034s and T037s were heard and identified (by Jared Towers) on 5 March. Bigg’s were vocal but not identified on the 6th, 15th and 19th of March. T019 and T19B were seen in Blackney Pass on 13 March. So all in all quite a few encounters. Coincidently these occurred while the Stellar Sea Lions were beginning their move from their winter haul-outs to their summer rookeries further north.
Janie Wray and Lisa Larsson arrived at the Lab mid March to take over from Cam and Mat. Both of these women have a long history with OrcaLab, so in a sense it was a homecoming for them. All was in good order so they could easily relax and enjoy the improving weather. Next to arrive (but not until April probably) will be the Humpbacks back from their long migrations to Mexico and Hawaii during which they embark on an extended fast. They will be happy to find on their return, spawning herring. One can almost hear them licking their baleen!