The solution to some mysteries are worth waiting for: We had wondered for several days what had happened to the A52s who had come in with the I12s on August 20th. We learned that the I12s had gone back to the west as they were seen on the 21st north of Port Hardy. In the intervening days there were spotty reports of Resident orcas in the upper Georgia Strait area. Nothing conclusive and to make matters more confusing there were a lot of Bigg’s orcas in and around the same general area as these Resident reports. The prevailing thought was that one eco-type was being confused for the other. Then some conclusive photographic evidence turned up, the A52s were definitely there! Who, instead of staying with the I12s and leaving the area to the west, must have continued east into Georgia Strait on their own – rather like the well known habits of the A42s! Very tidy to know what happened and now we will just wait for them to return to these waters.
The night here was quiet until early in the morning at 4:45am when dolphin calls were heard on the Main beach hydrophone, they were very vocal for over 30 minutes. At 6:26am, just as the sun was rising, we had a report from Megan at Cracroft Point outcamp that she could see the A23s and I16s close by heading west toward the entrance of Blackney Pass towards the Lab. Interesting that they were last heard to the east, and had made it this entire distance without a call being heard across the many hydrophones along the way. The tide was flooding and the orcas spent some time before making their entrance. While we waited on the deck we noticed over 100 Pacific White-sided dolphins near Parsons Bay porpoising towards the north.
It was at 7:07am when we finally saw a few fins coming into view. The A23s were leading, in a tight family group with A60 just a few meters in the lead. The I16s came into view 11 minutes later at 7:18am, also in a tight family group. By 7:30am, the A23s were at Red Point and the I16s had not yet reached the north edge of Parson Island. Excitement calls began, mainly the I16 “G” clan calls just as the I16s started to split up, some foraged, and a few spyhopped as they passed Parsons Light. By 7:56am the A23s had cleared, as well as a few of the I16s, then a few minutes later all had cleared to the west. They were reported off Donegal Head, heading west at 11:40am. From there they continued west through Queen Charlotte Strait. At 1:36pm they were off Lizard Point. Progress was slow. Four had a rub at Bere Point at 5:30pm and eventually they were reported at 6:30pm near the north end of Malcolm Island still heading west Jared Towers had heard from Jim Borrowman who at 6:43am saw and identified this group of Bigg’s as the T073As while they were opposite his house in Telegraph Cove. This group went west past Alert Bay. Jared caught up with them and reported that at 11:23am they were now off Pulteney Point. Jared had not seen this group for a very long time. Now to the Bs and A42s! Unlike the A23s and I16s they had remained in Johnstone Strait and as far as we know were east of the Reserve from late yesterday afternoon. Silent all morning, they made a few calls on the Strider and Kaizumi hydrophones at 9:30am as they began their return to the west. These calls continued faintly until 10:39am, then there was a pause in all vocal activity.
But as the B07s and A42s came closer calls were heard at 12:02pm on Main and Strider rubbing beach hydrophones. Rubbing followed at 12:13pm on Strider. We observed the Bs and A42s rubbing with the Strider camera, truly some of the most stunning footage this season. The rub lasted until 12:34pm. Afterwards the whales traveled west. By 1:40pm we could see the Bs and A42s on the Kaizumi camera. Although four were close to shore they did not rub and continued to the west. Megan at Cracroft Point reported that at 2pm the orcas were near Kaikash beach, along the Vancouver Island shore, still westing. By 3pm, all was quiet on the hydrophones. Jim Borrowman reported the Bs and A42s at 4:46pm, near Telegraph Cove, and that they had turned to the east.
We had heard a couple of Bigg’s calls at 3:42pm but were not able to determine which station. Coincidentally, a group of at least 6 Bigg’s were reported by the Wardens traveling fast to the west near Critical Point. The Bigg’s orcas continued west and eventually came directly into the path of the now eastbound Resident orcas. At 7:02pm both were near Blinkhorn. Someone reported that the Bs looked as if they were chasing the Bigg’s. That would be a rare occasion as these two types of orcas usually avoid each other. At 7:32pm, the now estimated 11 Bigg’s were identified as the T002Cs, T034s, and T037s and were still travelling northwest near Telegraph Cove. The rest of the night was uneventful.