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Morning Tour

Beautiful weather was had on Friday morning, the sun was shining as we headed south out of Victoria Harbour. It was quite the sight out there; the water shimmered and was as flat as glass. Scanning distance was as far as the eye could see and the U.S.’s Olympic Mountains looked picturesque in front of us. The boat glided along seamlessly on our search for wildlife. The first species we spotted on our adventure was a Humpback Whale feeding in a shallow section of water in front of Washington state. The windy weather that had breezed in the past few days had now ceased and proved fruitful for churning nutrients to the surface.

Whale tail
The tail of the Humpback Whale on the morning tour. Photo by Captain Yves. Image taken with zoom lens and heavily cropped.

The whale was making the most of the food abundance and was lazily flopping around while catching its breakfast. Humpback Whales are notorious for their long deep dives after periods on the surface but because the area was shallow (50ft approx.) and there was plenty of food within a reachable distance, the Humpback Whale treated passengers to a sustained surface display. It gave us all a surprise when it swam underneath our boat and popped up on our port side while everyone was looking the other way. Its breath punctuated the air and we sat in the calm waters appreciating the graceful animal.

Race Rocks Sea Otter
At Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, Harry Otter, the Sea Otter, rests in the kelp. Photo by Captain Yves, taken with zoom lens and heavily cropped.

We then continued our wildlife experience at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve and Lighthouse. Lots of Harbour Seals were hauled out on the rocks, making the most of the morning’s favourable weather, and we even caught a glimpse of an eagle sighting proudly atop a rock mound. The tour was rounded off with a viewing of Race Rocks most notorious inhabitant, Harry Otter. The sea otter floated on its back, nestled in the Kelp forest, it’s fluffy head a give away of his position. A stunning morning out on the Marauder IV.

Afternoon tour

The afternoon’s wildlife adventure begun while we were still taxiing through the harbour. During the introductory briefing, by marine biologist Emma, a great blue heron flew past the Marauder IV covered vessel and settled on the rocky coastline. In addition to scanning the coastline for food, these birds can been seen nesting in Beacon Hill Park (for more info check out our blog post). It was a good omen for the afternoon to come. Our direction of travel for the afternoon was West. We passed Trial and Discovery Islands making our way across Haro Strait. On our travels we spotted some Harbour Porpoise bobbing up and down in the distance. They were easy to spot thanks to the calm waters. Near the base of San Juan Island, in the United States of America, we found a lone bull Bigg’s (Transient) Killer Whale.

T124C
T124C, a Bigg’s (Transient) Killer Whale. Photo by Captain Yves, taken with zoom lens and heavily cropped.

An unusual sight to be seen, a solo male Killer Whale, not only because these animals are normally very social and travel in family pods, but because males in particular often live with their mothers for their entire life! The bull was instantly recognisable as T124C from a prominent notch in his dorsal fin. The whale travelled north almost tracing the coastline of San Juan with its direction of travel.

Bigg's Transient Killer Whale
T124C, a Bigg’s (Transient) Killer Whale. Photo by Captain Yves, taken with zoom lens and heavily cropped.

On the way back to Victoria we popped by Discovery Island to see if anybody was home. A bald eagle sat regally on top of a skeletal tree giving everyone onboard a great viewing of this bird of prey. We rounded the corner and stumbled upon Harbour Seal playtime. It was high tide and lots of them could be seen in the water splashing around. A few others opted for the high rocks and continued their sunbathing.

Harbour Seals
Harbour Seals will haul out of the water onto rocks to warm up. They are also one species Bigg’s Transient Killer Whales will hunt. Photo by Captain Yves, image taken with zoom lens and heavily cropped.

Around Discovery Island there was also lots of sea bird activity. A large grouping of sea gulls made the most of a large fish, bait ball. One lucky bird made it out of the feeding frenzy with 4 fish in its beak. Rhinoceros Auklets were also visible sitting on the water’s surface. An afternoon bursting with biodiversity.

Check out our Facebook album for more photos from Friday’s trips!

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