Summary: August 16th 2023

Northern Residents: A23s, A42s (Georgia Strait)

Photo: Serah Rounds-Zavitz

Around midnight a humpback made its presence known as it moved around noisily. The movements were not accompanied by any vocalisations at that time. Later, in the early hours Naiomi became aware of some more expressive but very sporadic humpback vocal activity, enough so to help keep her awake through her night shift.

Morning came and went without any word or indication about the whereabouts of the A23s who, judging from their last calls, had disappeared east just as they had the previous evening. But unlike the day before it would be a long time before they reappeared.

Around 1pm the A42s were reported off Francisco Point on the south end of Quadra Island in Georgia Strait.

Just before 2pm we heard distant calls east of the Ecological Reserve. The calls remained distant and after several attempts we were not able to locate the A23s visually. We did figure out that most likely, because of the interplay of the different hydrophones involved in detecting the calls that the group were possibly mid strait and till well east of Boat Bay. This turned out to be accurate. By 3pm, they were still east of the Reserve. An hour later the Cliff Research site watched as they passed Swaine Point on the Cracroft Island side headed west. Fife was travelling again separately and was seen closer to the Vancouver Island side near Robson Bight. He would later shift to mid strait as he continued west. The rest of the group was quite spread out mid strait and possibly crossing over to the Bight as well. By 6pm , the A23s were all mid strait and headed towards Cracroft Point with A60 in the lead. For a while he looked as if he was going to continue west into the afternoon glare. Half an hour later he began to angle towards the entrance of Blackney Pass. The rest were behind him and began to cross over to about 600 meters off the “CP” platform by 6:45pm. They continued in a westerly direction for the next five minutes.

Just before 7pm they finally committed to coming into Blackney Pass off Little Hanson and into our view at 7:04pm. They travelled mid channel favouring the far side as they headed north along Parson Island. They were travelling more or less together but gradually spread out into three groupings accompanied by a few dolphins. Unfortunately, although they had a day with very few boats around them, a sailboat in Blackney motored along with them matching their speed with its own. They were opposite the Lab by 7:15pm and then cleared our view by 7:30pm as they headed into Blackfish Sound. They both echolocated and called while foraging in Blackfish Sound until 8:10pm. Even though they then went quiet we were still able to see them on the Flower Island remote camera. We noted the sailboat was still with them. By 9pm we lost them on the camera but Alex was able to tell us that they were about ¼ the way across the top end of Blackfish Sound, in the rip, when they turned back towards Hanson Island. A few distant calls were followed by clear and louder calls at 9:20pm. This coincided with some rather exciting bubble net feeding close to Flower Island which was captured by the remote camera. A little seal on the rocks below the camera sat as a witness to all this activity just as we were doing in the Lab!

The A23s continued to call in Blackfish Sound off and on until around 10:24pm and ceased entirely by 10:30pm.

Between orcas and humpback observations it was a busy day for the Lab. In the morning, Joel, Rob, Jérémie and Serah set off in the Sonic to visit all the remote sites. The weather was quite cooperative for a change. At each site they had specific tasks and took good measure of work needed in the future. We had been stymied by the weather and could not complete the dives we had hope to do on the 14th and 15th so this was a very positive alternative plan. When the crew returned Joel deployed the underwater drone and had a good look at the condition of the main mooring. The conclusion was that the mooring needs some attention – good to know going into the latter part of the year.

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