Rub a rub a rub

Yesterday, the group of orcas (A11s with Springer, A36s with A12, A8s) that had been far to the east in Johnstone Strait for several days (probably fishing or looking for fish) returned to western Johnstone Strait.  They arrived at the eastern boundary of the Reserve around 8am, went in for a rub at the Main rubbing beach, and then continued to the west.  In the early afternoon, around “Turn Point”, they turned back to the east again, arriving back in Robson Bight around 3pm.  After doing a little fishing, they continued to the east, having another rub around 4pm.  Instead of continuing to the east, as they have lately, they turned back to the west, almost as if this was a normal summer, and by 5pm were back in the Bight again.  Another bite was followed by another rub around 7pm.  Then it was back to the west again, for more foraging in Robson Bight; then another rub around 9pm.  All the turns & all the rubs were starting to make us dizzy!

At almost 10pm, we received our last reports for the day from Marie Fournier, the dedicated Cliff watcher, who by now was back in camp at Boat Bay.  Her description was of the A11s, with Springer, heading back to the east in mid-Strait, but angling once again towards Vancouver Island, and of the A36 brothers (A37 & A46) with A12 sandwiched between them, also heading slowly eastward in a lovely “resting line”.  Not much later, we heard yet another rub.  Marie’s descriptions earlier in the day had included lots of social activity, with energetic interactions and multiple spy hops, and we had heard “whistles” while the orcas were rubbing.

We wondered if all the rubbing and all the social activity might be a precursor to new arrivals.  Then we saw an email from Jared Towers, sent from the DFO research vessel Tully at 8pm, reporting a sighting of eastbound orcas at Malcolm Point, the western tip of Malcom Island, so we knew there were incoming orcas.  At around 4am we heard their first calls, and knew that Simoom had brought her A34 family back!  It was too dark to see them when they arrived, but we wondered if more than the A34s might be there.

Since then, we’ve heard lots of energetic fishing from the A34s in Robson Bight, as well as more energetic rubbing.   We’ve also heard “A5” calls as well as the A34s, but don’t yet know if Simoom’s family was accompanied by another A5 group, or if the A8s have come up to meet the new arrivals.

Right now (7:20am) another rub is starting.  Sounds like a precursor to another busy social day.  If what we saw & heard yesterday really were signs of expectation, a nagging thought arises.  How did they know?

Good question.

Posted by Paul July 19, 2010

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