Summary: February 13th – March 1st 2024

Northern Residents: A23s, A25s,A42s, possible I04s, I27s

Bigg’s Orcas Present

Humpback vocal

pink mountains glow over a dark ocean

Throughout February change was in the air as the last vestiges of winter played out as evident by an unexpected short snowfall. Not unheard of but everyone was somewhat caught off guard after the preceding, unseasonably warm weather. As the month of February progressed the sea lions, also sensing change, began to depart northward. Even though some will stay behind they will not haul out on the local rocks again until next September. Their growls and grunts will pretty much disappear from the soundscape until their return.

As we absorbed the reports of the A23s, A25s and A42s (the whole of the A5 pod), who indeed found each other in the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait) very soon after the A23s and A25s had travelled through Blackney Pass on 9 February, there were additional events that caught our attention.

On 6 February a surprising humpback was faintly vocal in Blackfish Sound; then on 8 February, five unidentified orcas were seen briefly in Blackney Pass; a large but silent group of unidentified orcas traversed Johnstone Strait on 13 February- one speculation was that it may have been Southern Residents taking a ‘short cut” back to the Salish Sea; another nice Resident surprise happened on 20 February when echolocation was heard in Blackfish Sound mid-afternoon, by 4:30pm a few fins were spotted off in the distance and as they turned back to Blackfish Sound nice “G” clan calls were heard, speculation here was that it was the I04s and I27s poking their noses into the area but not willing to stay, much like the other “G” clan groups who came for a visit earlier; and finally there were three more Bigg’s orca events on 22, 26 and 29 February.

We appreciated the updates about the travels of Fife and Holly’s families in the Salish Sea. Former assistant Lucy kept abreast of the various reports and relayed these back to us. One such report, originally from Gary Sutton, on 17 February mentioned both groups in the Howe Sound area just north of Vancouver. It is a big sea and so amazing that these orca families could find each other! On 24 February the groups had shifted north towards Sechelt where they were found off the Trail Islands.

Life at the Lab continued around these sightings and reports. Technician Quin came for a brief visit to sort out the recent wireless network problems. He was successful but a permanent solution proved still challenging, as a key radio in a difficult location, needs now to be replaced. We are hoping this will be accomplished in March.

On a recent town trip to Alert Bay Cam and Mat discovered a package in the mail. Each year Sinae and her husband Kenji in Japan, send a care package full of yummy and useful things for caretakers and summer volunteers. It always arrives around Valentine’s Day. What better way to chase off winter than with beautiful chocolates? We are always touched by this kind and timely offering.

Mat and Cam kept busy throughout the month even deciding to power wash the large water cistern right at the coldest part of the month. This important water storage container is now ready for summer. They did a terrific job!

Cam has said that they are increasingly becoming aware of how their time at the Lab is coming to an end. They will leave mid-March to go back to Montreal and their “other” life. Cam said “every day has been a great day and they will enjoy every moment before leaving but that everything now has a different taste when you know you will be leaving, soon.”

Before they leave we hope they will get a chance to witness the return of Holly and Fife’s families as they make their way back north. Probably, if the past holds true, this could happen sometime in early March.

Photos: Camille Nemond

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