Yesterday was certainly something to write home about! It started with Bigg’s calls heard on the Flower Island hydrophone system in Blackfish Sound at 8:24am. None of us thought to check if there had been any reports. We are kind of “in Fall mode” falling back on to what we see and hear. So we listened and noted just how beautiful the calls were when we noticed a large male on the far shore. The Bigg’s were on their way south into Blackney.
It turned out to be quite the group, and the majority passed closer to the Hanson Island side affording the opportunity to get reasonable photo IDs. There were a number of males including the two brothers, T060D and T060E, the same characters who have been recently in and out of Blackney Pass. The groups, consisting of at least three families, were scattered amongst themselves. The very large T019B was following right behind T055 for example. Progress through the Pass happened at a leisurely pace. There were at least three, then four boats, focused and following. The orcas grazed past the end of Hanson Island and the numerous sea lions right there did not seemingly react. This was interesting, especially after witnessing how jittery they can be. In a different location further along, an eagle intent on eating something in the forest, just up from where three sea lions were resting, scared them off the rocks with its movements.
The orcas were possibly showing no interest and they carried on toward Johnstone Strait, boats in tow around 9:20am. Once in the Strait they turned east and headed to the Sophia Islands. Our remote camera followed their journey until they became too distant and too small. They vocalized briefly while in Blackney Pass but then became silent.
Just before noon three more Bigg’s orcas, identified as the T146s, were spotted off Beaver Cove. These three made it east of Blinkhorn, turned in toward shore and returned to Beaver Cove by 4:11pm.
The adventures with Bigg’s orcas were not yet complete. You might have guessed. At 5:44pm, the two brothers, T060D and T060E retraced their earlier travels. They passed the Lab fairly close. It was as if, just like it happens with Resident orcas, they had escorted the others into the Strait and then left off to resume whatever they had next in mind.
Since we last wrote there has also been humpback activity, especially at night. Bubble net feeding has continued sporadically at night and at first light as well. All these events have been happening in Blackfish Sound. Emily has been dutifully annotating each call, discriminating what behaviours might be involved, whether social or feeding. Most seem to be feeding. Perhaps the humpbacks see this as their priority for the moment.
The sea lions began to haul out on the Hanson Island side on September 26th. Their numbers have increased and they have since occupied more rocks along the Hanson Island shore. The Harlequin ducks arrived a while ago, the hummingbirds have left so the change in the season is really now in full swing.