May 19, 2019

Breaches and Baby Orcas Playing: The T65B's, T75B's, T75C's, and T124C hunt and Play Near Moresby Island

Bigg's male orca

Erick | Sunday, May 19, 2019 | M/V Sea Lion | 12:00

 

What a beautiful sunny day to start the week with! Captain Pete and I headed out with a full group to go find the amazing creatures that are our neighbors in the Salish Sea. We started north through San Juan Channel and made our first stop at Green Point on Spieden Island. Here we saw a few adult male Steller Sea Lions just emerging from the water to take a rest on the rocky shoreline. Soon these furry giants will all go north for their mating season. These two slowly lumbered out of the water, growled in each other’s faces, and then both belly-flopped back into the water. They are so goofy, and I definitely will miss their antics when they are gone in the summer. We next continued our journey through Spieden Channel towards the north end of Haro Strait. We crossed over to the southern end of Moresby Island, and this is where we saw a group of orcas that one of our colleagues had spotted earlier in the day. It was quite a large group! They were a group of a few families of Bigg’s (Transient) Orcas. Bigg’s Orcas are the ecotype that inhabit the general British Columbia and Washington State waters that prey on marine mammals. This large group was just finishing up a hunt when we arrived, so they were still actively eating, prey-sharing, and just starting to be social which is so fun! This group was made up of the T65B’s the T75B’s, the T75C’s, and T124C (a Lone Male). Most of them were all grouped up near the Moresby shoreline jumping, tail-lobbing, and rolling all over each other! It was just incredible to see them all so active. When this social behavior occurs, often you will see the younger ones mimic the older ones as they jump and splash around and that is just what happened this day. There were two newer babies in this group, and they would attempt to mimic whatever jump or splash their older family members performed. So adorable! One of the older siblings a few times breached dramatically right next to a big, orange, shrimp pot buoy. I couldn’t tell if the orca was trying to jump over it, jump on it, or see how it would move each time it jumped. Whatever its goal, it was definitely curious about it. As this all was happening, T124C just hung out by himself circling around another buoy until he eventually passed by us and joined the rest of the group. While that happened the two babies of similar ages played together and swam right next to each other for quite a while. Again…super adorable. We eventually had to leave this great group and head back home. We made another stop along the southern Spieden shoreline to see a bunch of Harbor Seals hauled out, and also a group of 5 Bald Eagles soaring above! What a perfect day! Whale folks until next time!

 

Erick