Summary: September 1st 2023

Northern Residents: I15s,A54s, A23s, A25s [A52s, C10s Queen Charlotte Strait]

Humpback Whales: Quartz, Argonaut

Pacific White-sided dolphins

September is here, and as the days are becoming shorter the humpback whales are becoming more vocal. There were humpback social calls and grunts from 1:30am until 3am, then at 3:22am distant I15 orca calls were heard on the Flower Island hydrophone in Blackfish Sound. By 3:48am the orca calls were closer on the Flower Island system, and the humpback calls were now on Parson Island hydrophone in Blackney Pass. At 4am the orca calls on Flower were much closer, accompanied by Pacific White-sided dolphins. It was 4:40am when 4 to 5 orca blows were heard opposite the Lab, the I15s were travelling south towards the entrance of Blackney Pass. At 5:09 echolocation could be heard on the Kaizumi hydrophone, indicating that they had entered the Strait and had travelled towards the Vancouver Island shore, in an easterly direction. At 5:45am I15 orca calls could still be heard on the Kaizumi hydrophone, and then there was a pause in all acoustic activity. This lasted until 7:20am, when rubbing was heard on in the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve on the Strider Beach hydrophone , just 3 rubs, a few calls then they travelled towards Main Beach. They became quite vocal at this point, when suddenly there were 2 more rubs heard on the Strider hydrophone. On the surface camera, one male and one female were sighted. Just like the first group, they each had one very quick rub and headed towards the east. It was an extremely low tide, which may have been the reason behind the decision not to rub on the beach this morning, and continue east. It was extremely foggy and they had gone silent by 8:15 am.

At 1:25pm there was a report from the Achiever that near Port Hardy the A25s and A54s had been sighted, as well Cetus reported 9 orca (the I15s) near Naka Creek travelling west. At 4:30pm the A54s had already gone for a Rub at Bere Point. Meanwhile, at 5:00pm, distant echolocation was heard on the Main Beach hydrophone, soon followed by I15 calls, which continued until 6:20pm. Orcas were apparently converging slowly from both directions. The current worked in favour of the westbound I15s but not for the orcas coming from Queen Charlotte Strait.

At 6:35pm Kate, from Bere Point, reported the A23s, A52s, and C10s had just passed and were heading east. Jared was off Lizard Point with the A25s. Kate was so excited about the arrival of the C10s in particular as it had been a while since their last visit. The calls of the I15s were heard again on the Main rubbing beach and one group of 5 orca were seen, with one male and and Pacific White-sided dolphins, travelling offshore towards the west.

It was at 7:30pm that A1 calls were heard for the first time this year at OrcaLab! The A54s had drawn closer to Blackfish Sound. At the same time I15 calls were getting closer to the Kaizumi hydrophone in the Strait. A reunion was anticipated but how would the whales pull it off with current conditions not very favourable?

Jared had soon found the A23s but not the A52s and the C10s.

Amidst a beautiful sunset at 8:20pm very distant orcas were seen off the western end of Blackfish Sound on the Flower Island remote camera. Along with the gradually stronger A54 calls were A5 calls as well. Progress into Blackfish Sound was very slow. A lone humpback off in the distance as well in Blackfish Sound made a few bubble net feeding calls. Each to his own!

Meanwhile, the waiting I15s were marking time by pacing mid-Strait east of Cracroft Point.

As the A30 (the A54s) and A5 (the A23s and A25s) calls became even more frequent and louder – it was apparent that they were determined to come east in Blackfish Sound against the current – blows from the northbound I15s were heard in front of the Lab at 9pm. The I15s, taking advantage of the still ebbing tide had decided to take the initiative. It was a very calm night, so counting their blows was fairly straightforward. At 9:12pm, they joined the other groups, and close excitement calls from all groups followed.

The “meeting” continued until at 11:30pm the whales had come to a collective decision to make a try for Johnstone Strait on the tail end of the ebbing tide. Slack water was to be at 12:22am. The A54s led, then the A5 group and finally the I15s, all entering Johnstone Strait by midnight to continue their journey east together,

It was going to be a very busy evening in the Strait and the beaches! All at the Lab and those listening were still happy that at least part of the A30s had made it back, summer was just not the same without them.

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