Summary: August 23rd 2023

Northern Residents: A23s, I16s, B7s, A42s

Humpback Whale: Quartz

There had been break in calls between midnight and 3am, when Megan and Momoko reported that they could hear blows off Cracroft Point, heading into Blackney Pass towards the lab. This would turn out to be the B07s and A42s. Agathe stood on deck, listening for blows. 

Meanwhile, the A23s and I16s had come back from Queen Charlotte Strait and were making a few calls along with echolocation in Blackfish Sound just prior to when the Bs and A42s traveled back from the east in Johnstone Strait, past Cracroft, and toward the entrance of Blackney Pass.  By 3:20am the Bs and A42s  were opposite the lab where Agathe was waiting. 

In short order, we could hear their calls on FIower Island as they entered Blackfish Sound. We are not sure how close the A23s and I16s came east in Blackfish Sound  or even into Blackney Pass to meet with the Bs and A42s .A  tug made it very difficult for us to count blows. We do know that the Bs and A42s turned around, went back through Blackney Pass and on towards Cracroft. Momoko heard many blows return at 4am, traveling east mid strait. At 5am, we could still hear A23 and I16s calls on Flower Island, accompanied by a few humpback social calls! By 6am, the A23s and I16s calls faded and we assumed they had gone west again for the time being.

At 7am, the Bs and A42s were back at Strider and by 7:11am the rubbing began. The Bs shifted eastward and had another rub on the Main beach, and by 7:18am all rubs had ended. We continued to hear calls on the Main beach hydrophone.  By 9:15am, they were spread out foraging. At 10:40am these groups turned west and moved back into Robson Bight. By 11:00am we could see them on the Kaizumi remote camera as they traveled west. They passed Kaizumi and then at 11:36am they made another turn towards the east.  By 1:30pm they were back in the Bight on their way to the beaches. Rubs began again, first on Strider, and then at Main.

At the same time, we were hearing closer A23 and I16 calls on Flower Island again.  Committed now to coming into Blackney Pass some of the A23s were sighted, followed by A60 and then the I16s were seen  at 3:50pm.  They stayed in these family groups as they passed the Lab. By 4pm, the A23s, still leading the I16s, were opposite White Beach Pass. They cleared our view by 4:15pm with a swarm of boats surrounding them. 

We counted 15 boats, many of them sport fishing vessels, one research vessel and the Warden boat. From land this was a very unpleasant sight. To make matters more intense, one sport fishing boat at speed went right through the two families. The Warden boat spoke with them later in Johnstone Strait, but unfortunately the conversation did not go well apparently.

While we were observing the A23s and I16s in front of the Lab, the Bs and A42s were having a long, very vocal rub on both the Main and Strider rubbing beaches. It was an interesting experience to watch one group of orca pass the Lab, while recording and listening to the vocalizations of a different acoustic family group. The rubbing ended at both beaches at 4:40pm and both the Bs and A42s traveled east in a resting line.

Once the A23s and I16s were in Johnstone Strait they spread out from one another and began to forage, while angling east towards the Vancouver Island shore.

At 5pm there was a burst of excited calls as they approached the Vancouver Island shore near Kaizumi, mainly the A23s calling, followed by the I16s. By 5:15 pm they were all traveling east towards Robson Bight with the I16s now in the lead close to the Vancouver Island shore. The A23s were not far behind, but further offshore.  At 5:20pm we started to hear their calls on the Strider hydrophone.

At 6:52pm, a beautiful  I16 rub with lots of vocalizations, began on Strider beach. At 7:10pm a few rubs also occurred on the Main beach. At 7:22pm the rubs ended, and they all traveled east and by 7:40 pm, both the A23 and I16s calls were very distant. At 8:00pm there was a report of at least 14 orcas travelling east near the eastern end of the Reserve. 

The evening ended with all of  the orcas to the east, a few very faint calls heard on the Strider hydrophone, and one very close humpback whale in front of the Lab!

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