September 19, 2022

Bigg’s Killer Whales Onca & Lynx aka “The Boys” Spyhop in Plumper Sound

Lauren | M/V Kestrel | 9/19/2022 | 2:00 PM 

“The Boys,” “The Punks,” “The Brothers…” Bigg’s Killer Whales T060D “Onca” and T060E “Lynx” have many nicknames. Normally found traveling together, these sprouting boys are an industry wide favorite to observe. 18-year-old Onca born in 2004, and 14-year-old Lynx born in 2008 still have a lot of growing to do. Young males go through a stage known as sprouting, where their dorsal fin starts to shoot up and they begin to grow into the massive apex predator that they are. Male killer whales aren’t considered fully grown until around age 25. As large as these boys already are, they have to potential to grow to 30 ft long, 12,000 lbs. and develop a dorsal fin that towers 6 ft tall.  

The beautiful thing about whale watching is that every moment on the water presents an opportunity. An opportunity to observe and explore. No two encounters are alike, and you never know what’s going to pop up. With no firm whale reports in the area, our 2:00 pm Adventure Tour loaded onto M/V Kestrel with the plan to head south to scan for whales in Salmon Bank. Salmon Bank is a fantastic place to look for both humpback and minke whales. Before exciting the harbor, Captain Brian got word that two killer whales had been spotted up in Canada between Saturna and North Pender Island! So north we went.  

We zipped up to Plumper Sound to find these two unidentified whales swimming southeast towards Boundary Pass. Once on scene we were almost immediately greeted by a spyhop! A spyhop is when a whale lifts just its head out of the water to look at its surface surroundings. Brian and I had an inkling that these whales were Onca and Lynx, with those wobbly sub-adult male dorsal fins, but they were still a little too far away to confidently ID. T060D and T060E were spotted on the west side of San Juan Island yesterday, so it was quite possible these whales were still in the area. Lime Kiln lighthouse has a webcam that monitors the activity in the Haro Strait, and yesterday these boys were filmed punting a porpoise strait out of the water! Click the link below to see this epic porpoise hunt (fast forward to minute 3:00 to see the action):  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBkxeoBEOxw  

After these whales passed by our bow, we knew for sure… We were in the presence of punky teenage brothers Onca and Lynx! We spent some time with these boys as the hugged the coast of South Pender Island and even witnessed two more spyhops! We said goodbye to these whales and went on a search for more wildlife. On our way back to the harbor we cruised by the Cactus Islands and saw a few swimming harbor seals and a beautiful bald eagle perched up on a barren tree. Our last stop was to Spieden Island where we witnessed Sika Deer, Fallow Deer and Mouflon Sheep grazing on the grass and mossy shoreline. What a fantastic day on the water!