Photo: Megan Hockin-Bennett – T019B, T019, T018 and T019C on August 9th 2023
We are now well into August and the Northern Residents are still far away from the Blackfish Sound/Johnstone Strait area and we are perplexed to say the least. We have no answers and we feel as befuddled as some of these foggy summer days. We wonder at the patience of our volunteers who have come from far away on the promise of an amazing summer learning about, seeing first hand and listening to the Northern Resident families. They have been a wonderful group, keeping their spirits high, lending their energy to the various tasks at hand, being diligent about understanding our systems, keeping good humor and supporting each other. We lend them our memories and stories of how it used to be but, in the absence of the orcas, they have embraced the stories that the ocean, the sky and the forest reveal to them each day. Likewise recently, two young boys came all the way from Japan. One was the grandson of an old friend, the other was his best friend. Within minutes of arriving they were off the boat and inspecting the beach, watching the ocean, delighted by everything. All this in the absence of resident orcas!
For the record here are a few events which have occurred since the beginning of August:
In the early hours of August 1 a humpback tried out a few vocals in Blackfish Sound. We decided since it was August to implement night shifts into the routines, just in case. Possibly we would not have recorded these sounds otherwise as they did not last very long. Later that same day the T060s showed up in the channels near Farewell Harbour and Village Island.
The next morning, once again we heard a humpback, this time in Johnstone Strait and later in the day we were excited by a Naiad Explorer report when they thought they heard A clan calls off Malcolm Point. We later learned that Jared Towers found the D17s (A clan) further west that same afternoon.
On August 3rd around 5:30am a humpback began to bubble net feed while near the eastern end of the Ecological Reserve. The distinctive moans followed by the sound of bubbles breaking the surface clued us into what was happening. This year bubble net feeding has been on the rise. The 3rd was a pretty busy day! Bigg’s orcas, the T002Cs, T036As and T075Bs turned up around noon heading west along the Vancouver Island shore. They moved over towards Cracroft Point and continued west followed by a large number of boats. The day before the T036As, T037s, T034s and T0002Cs had been seen heading north from Campbell River. This day also brought news of the A42s heading southeast in Calm Channel.
In the early hours of August 4th a humpback was heard briefly and later that morning the humpbacks became quite active with lots of pec slapping and breaching at various times throughout the day. The humpback “Ridge” highlighted the day off Cracroft Point at 5pm by feeding intensely on a bait ball. For those who stayed up, northern lights lit up the clear sky in an energetic display from 11pm on.
A group of Bigg’s orcas was sighted in Blackfish Sound on August 5. These whales did not enter Blackney Pass so we never saw who they were and we heard no backup reports. The A42s were seen, still in Georgia Strait, near Marina Island.
A Minke Whale showed up in Blackney Pass on August 8th at 4:11pm. There are not a lot of Minke Whales who inhabit this area and they only infrequently turn up in Blackney so this was a good sighting. They are also not easy to observe as they can have long dives between surfacings. We skip to the evening of August 8th for the next update on the A42s who were seen once again in Calm Channel.
At 8am on August 9th Bigg’s orcas were reported easting off Tribune Point by Farewell Harbour Lodge. After time passed these orcas eventually came through Baronet Pass (seen briefly by the Lab) and on to Cracroft Point where Megan is stationed. She identified the T019s as they passed close to the platform as they headed east just before 3pm.
The morning of August 10th was foggy but Orca Camp, located just east of the Reserve, reported that they heard blows not far off shore. Nothing further came of this report.
On the 11th there were a few humpback sounds in Blackfish Sound in the early hours. Porpoise and dolphin activity drew our attention later in the day. The dolphins came quite close just after 4pm and disappeared around Burnt Point soon after.
Pretty soon our returning assistants, Claire and Jérémie, will be leaving us. They came early in June planning on staying just one month and now it is almost mid August. It is impossible to summarize all the help they have given. We just know we are so grateful to them for coming back, so graciously helping out and for being the lovely, lovely people they are. We wish them safe travels and look forward to their return next year.