August 31, 2016 – This afternoon our boats headed west as there were reports of Transient Killer Whales near Race Rocks. After a short trip, we met up with the T60 pod of killer whales. Transient killer whales travel in fairly small groups. They eat only marine mammals and must use stealth to approach their prey quietly and avoid detection – this is easier with a smaller group. There were 4 killer whales in this group today, T60 a 36-year-old female and the matriarch of the group, T60C a large adult male, T60E born in 2008 (gender unknown) and T60F a 4-year-old female. Not with the group was T60D a 12-year-old male. They were hunting close to shore and at one point dove and stayed submerged for a long time. When they surfaced they were quite close to the Marauder so the captain stopped the engines and drifted. They surfaced a couple of times close to the boat then dove again and minutes later surfaced 300 – 400 metres away. One of the group treated us to a couple of spy hops – lifting its body vertically about half way out of the water – a behaviour used to have a look around.
After watching this group for some time we headed to Race Rocks, an ecological reserve with abundant marine life. There were many Harbour Seals, including a lot of pups born a couple of months ago, as well as hundreds of sea lions. Race Rocks is a winter haul out for Steller Sea Lions and California Sea Lions who start arriving in July and increase in number until about October. By the time October arrives there will be a thousand or more sea lions at Race Rocks. In the spring the California Sea Lions will head south to breeding grounds in Oregon and California while the Steller Sea Lions will head north to breeding grounds on northern Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and Alaska. After having a good look at the seals, sea lions and numerous sea birds we headed back towards Victoria. On the way back to the Harbour we again met the T60 group of killer whales and spent another 15 minutes or so with them. We were treated to another spy hop by the large male before heading home. Another great day of wildlife watching.
See more photos of the day on our Facebook Page!