Summary: September 3rd 2023

Northern Residents: A54s, A23s, A25s, I04s and I16s (seen in Queen Charlotte Strait and possibly heard)

Humpback Whales: Argonaut, Merge

Pacific White-sided dolphins

At 1:30am the A54s were vocal on the Flower Island hydrophone until 2:50am. There was a pause in calls, then at 3:25am both A54s and I15s became very excited with a burst of calls from both families, perhaps they had just joined up again with the A23s. It was soon after that blows were heard from the deck of the Lab at 4:00am. The groups, the A23s, A54s, A25s and at least the I04s, were travelling towards the entrance of Blackney Pass and cleared into the Strait by 4:15am. In the Strait at 5:09am A5 calls were heard with the A54s and I15s distantly on Kaziumi hydrophone, indicating that they were crossing the Strait over to the Vancouver Island side. By 5:20am they had gone silent.

It was not until 6:00am that very close A5 calls were heard on the Strider hydrophone in the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. At 6:22am rubs began as the sun was rising to the east. The first rub was very short, they were quite vocal, lots of N3 type calls that are common within the A Clan community. The next rub, at 6:40am, 2 females and a young juvenile, was also a quick rub after which they travelled east. Further east of Strider there was a lot of the echolocation on the adjacent Main rubbing beach. At 6:50am there was a burst of energetic I15 type calls, and one minute later one male and 3 females began to rub on Strider. Through the various calls, A5s were also detected close on Strider and the male was identified as A61. Soon, a group of Pacific White-sided dolphins arrived on the beach, travelling very close to the orca, who had stopped rubbing at 7:00am and now were at first travelling east then back west soon after. However, there was still lots of echolocation heard to the east on the Main rubbing beach hydrophone.

At 7:03am another rub began on Strider. This time the orcas were surrounded by a large group of Pacific White-sided dolphins. Once again there were lots of N3 calls. The group then left the beach and travelled west at 7:07am.

At 7:15am yet another rub began on Strider with an accompanied A61 again. There were many A5 and I15 types of calls heard on Strider, but only A5 calls on Main. At 7:48am the 3 females left the beach, but the male, A61, stayed behind and continued to rub on his own. He was soon joined by a group of at least 10 White-sided dolphins. In a strategy employed by others, Surge (A61) circled offshore of the beach and moved as if going towards the west. The dolphins followed. He took a deep dive, circled back without the dolphins and had another long rub. The dolphins came back so he repeated his ruse three times before finally truly leaving the beach and travelling west at 7:55am.

The western movement of the orcas was captured just after 8am when very distant “A” calls were heard on the Kaizumi hydrophone These calls were followed by some from the I15s at 8:22am. Further testament to their progress, faint A5 and A1 calls were next heard on the Cracroft Point hydrophone. At 9:08am, Megan at the Cracroft Outcamp (“CP”) reported the A23s passing the entrance of Blackney Pass, 400 metres offshore. The first assumption was they would travel west in Johnstone Strait but at 9:45am, the I4s and the A54s were sighted in Blackney Pass travelling to the north very fast. The A25s followed and they all cleared to the north at 10:13am with A61 taking up the rear. The orcas continued to the northwest and by 11:15am only distant calls were heard after going out of range of the remote camera. We had missed the A23s who most likely were already past when we spotted the others.

Megan relayed the report that at 12:43 the A23s were 3.5 miles east of Lizard Point and at 1:00pm the Naiad reported that the 116s were westing near Lizard. Scotty reported that he had sighted the A54s with the I04s. The report of the I16s got us thinking as we had not identified this group in Johnstone Strait during the morning. Had they gone out with the A23s ahead of the others? Or had they just turned up in Queen Charlotte Strait? Possible.

The A23s were seen easting off Donegal Head at 3pm. At 3:30pm a few A5 calls were heard on the Flower Island hydrophone, then a long pause in calls. Then at 4:40pm the A23s, A54s, A25s and the I04s travelled very fast in a tight group past the Lab towards the entrance of Blackney Pass into Johnstone Strait. They cleared the view of the Lab by 4:50pm. Distinctive A5 and I15 type calls were heard as they entered the Strait and by 5:10pm they were travelling in the Strait towards the Vancouver Island shore. They were quite vocal with lots of echolocation. By 5:26pm the A23s were rubbing on Kaizumi beach. The rub lasted for just for a few minutes, then they all travelled east.

At 6:46pm, distant calls were detected on Strider and by 7:04pm, almost 12 hours later from their morning rub, they were back at the beaches for another session. At 7:11pm the A23s were identified on the Strider beach rubbing and we heard I15 calls at this time as well. There were lots of excited close calls. At 7:17pm this rub ended and they travelled further east to the Main rubbing beach. This A23 rub started at Main at 7:20pm and ended at 7:24pm.

At 7:22pm Megan reported orcas between Cracroft Point and Little Kaikash mid strait headed east. Was it possible that they wwere perhaps the I16s and that they had headed into the Strait via Weynton Passage?

As the I15 and A5 calls on Main beach continued to fade by 7:40pm by 8:50pm, I15 calls were detected on the Kaizumi hydrophone. Were these the eastbound group that Megan saw at 7:22pm? It seemed as if we were dealing with two possible separate I15 matrilines. By 9pm, calls were back on the Cracroft Point system. We were keeping options open. At 9:20pm, both I15 calls and echolocation were heard on the Parson Island hydrophone as whales entered Blackney Pass. They travelled north. Calls continued on Local Center and then echoed to Flower. At 9:40pm this I15 group cleared north followed by close calls and echolocation on Flower.

At 10:36pm A5 calls were still heard on the Strider hydrophone, and at 10:55 another rub started, by either the A23s or A25s. This rub ended at 11:00pm, and there was the chatter of dolphins close by on Strider. They travelled east and by 11:10pm there were both A5 and A54 calls on the Main hydrophone, with faint dolphin calls. By midnight the calls were fading but audible still on Strider and Main.

Listen now

Stream our live hydrophone audio