Summary: May 2023

Orcas: A30s, Bigg’s

Humpback: Squiggle

Pacific White-Sided Dolphins

We really need to start with great news! Bend’s A30 family was sighted on 29 May near Ketchikan Alaska and apparently there were two new babies, one belonging to Bend’s Auntie Minstrel (A54) and the other to Minstrel’s daughter Cutter (A86). This will be Minstrel’s 5th baby and Cutter’s 2nd. It is not all that unusual for orca mothers and daughters to have babies within the same year. Minstrel is only 34 years old and orca mothers may have babies into their forties. Cutter is just getting going at 17! Very reassuring that this family is growing and thriving so well. It is also not uncommon for Northern Residents to be seen as far north as Alaska. It is very much part of their range. Just as Holly comes to Georgia Strait, deep into their southern range, the Northern Residents tend to spread themselves out along the coast as they find favourite winter haunts. This probably ensures better chances of finding food sources through the leaner and less predictable winter months.

At OrcaLab meanwhile we had our own special encounters. On 20 May a group of Bigg’s orcas, the marine mammal eating ecotype, turned up in Blackney Pass. The Bigg’s (or Transients as they were once known) haunt by stealth – for the obvious reason that their prey are pretty smart and have good hearing – so they usually come and go quietly without offering any acoustic clues before hand. Helena, while in the garden, just happened to look up and saw the male’s tall dorsal fin slice down into the water. She soon realized there were others. They were spread out not too far away but definitely engaged in a very focused hunt, boxing in and restricting their victim’s chance of escape. There were quite small young orcas right alongside the adults involved in this family effort. Eventually, they calmed down and went on their way.

There was a quite magical moment several days earlier when a small group of Pacific White-sided dolphins passed super close to the Lab. It was a warm and sunny mid May afternoon. The ocean was calm as the unhurried dolphins made their way. In their wake everything seemed to take on a serene calmness. Quite the contrast to the rush and vigour of a much larger group who turned up a short while later going through in the opposite direction.

By mid May Humpback whales also started making appearances. One very familiar individual, Squiggle, passed through. As time goes on more and more of the ‘regulars’ will return to the area to replenish themselves after their long and amazing journey from their warm winter homes of Hawaii or Mexico. Those first few gulps of food must be so welcomed after the long intervening fast.

The Spring preparation for the upcoming busy season was well underway in May with attention to garden, house and Lab. The garden soil was dug, turned and fed. Starters and seeds were duly planted. But just as everything was set a pesky squirrel decided the young plants were just its ticket. This demanded some rethinking and new strategies were implemented to outwit the intruder. No sooner this was done when a deer decided to push the protective netting and grab a few close plants. More rethinking was obviously needed. Such is the life of living in the wilds!

All in all, May was a wonderful month, really busy but with enough time to pause, enjoy the sunshine and think about what may unfold in the upcoming season.

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