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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

T63 & T41 Group

Transients
Transients
Transients
Transients
T63
Transients

On today’s noon trip aboard the Ocean Magic II we met up with transient killer whales a couple miles south of Race Rocks. T63 and the T41 group were taking long dives and heading in a southeasterly direction through the choppy swells. A couple of the whales spy hopped and another flung its tail high into the air. On the way back to Victoria we stopped at the Ecological Reserve to view pinnipeds. A couple of the California sea lions had tracking numbers that will enable researchers to identify their migratory habitats.

California Sea Lions

Monday, August 28, 2006

L12's, Transients, and more residents

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T102
Transient
Oceansun / L25
L12's
Soundwatch
2 whales

An exciting windy day aboard the Ocean Magic II. On the noon trip we met up with the L12’s grouped up off San Juan Island heading south along False Bay. We saw the whales breaching, spy hopping, and tail lobbing. They would pick up bursts of speed and porpoise for short periods of time. Mega, Skana, and Oceansun were identified. A transient, meat-eating killer whale, male and two smaller animals surprised us on the way home off the Victoria breakwater in the large swells. The whales were headed fast in a southwesterly direction. On the 3:30 trip we met up with the T100s off Beaumont Shoals and identified T102. Later we headed over to Kellet Bluff, Henry Island, were L pod passed by leading the southern resident, fish eating, population of killer whales.

Mega / L41

Friday, August 25, 2006

L12's

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On the noon trip aboard the Ocean Magic we met up with the L12’s along the west side of San Juan Island. The whales were spread out foraging in a northerly direction. The 78 year-old female Oceansun / L25 was seen a bit further offshore and spouting male Skana / L79 was seen traveling with his mom Sprit / L22. In the afternoon, the whales were now heading back south still foraging and milling about Salmon Bank. We passed by the marker buoy and found some cormorant babies tucked away in nests.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

T100 Group

T100's
T100's
Mallard
T100's
T102
T100's
T100's
T100's
T100's

Another wonderful transient day aboard the Ocean Magic. The 12:15 trip led us out west where we found the marine-mammal hunting killer whales. The animals were heading east about 5 miles offshore from Beechey Head. T102 was identified among the T100 group. It was spectacular to see the whales swimming through the swells. A new calf was sighted trough porpoising beside its mother. During the late afternoon trip, we headed over to Race Rocks and viewed the pinnipeds hauled out on all the rocks. T14 / Pender was reported to be near the area. Then we went east to view the T100 group again. They were going on long dives, and then taking short rests at the surface, as sea gulls flew overhead.

Sea Lions

Killer whales are capable of Vocal Learning

The production learning of vocalizations by
manipulation of the sound production organs to
alter the physical structure of sound has been
demonstrated in only a few mammals. In this
natural experiment, we document the vocal
behaviour of two juvenile killer whales, Orcinus
orca, separated from their natal pods, which are
the only cases of dispersal seen during the three
decades of observation of their populations. We
find mimicry of California sea lion (Zalophus
californianus) barks, demonstrating the vocal
production learning ability for one of the calves.
We also find differences in call usage (compared
to the natal pod) that may reflect the absence of
a repertoire model from tutors or some
unknown effect related to isolation or context.

PDF
Biology Letters
ScienceNOW
National Geographic
Vancouver Province
Spiegel Online
New York Times

Monday, August 21, 2006

Superpod

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Today was another wonderful superpod day aboard the Ocean Magic II. The noon trip lead us out east toward San Juan Island where we met up with the southern resident killer whales. The whales were spread out foraging in small groups. Mega / L41 and Blackberry / J27 were identified. An exciting interaction was witnessed between Spock / K20 and her young two year old son Comet / K38 chasing a baby Dall’s porpoise right beside the boat! In the evening we found the whales again further offshore near Hein Bank. They were quite active in the large ocean swells breaching, tail slapping, and performing cartwheels in pursuit of their salmon prey. An amazing display of group cohesion was seen as a female and sprouting male were logging at the surface taking a rest and waiting to group of with the other whales nearby. There were some beautiful underwater vocalizations heard at this moment, and after they joined up, they all headed back east speed proposing toward San Juan Island.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Superpod

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The afternoon trip on the Ocean Magic II led us out to Boundary Pass. There we found J and K pods heading west toward Turn Point where there were reportedly members of L pod. The whales were traveling at a slow pace playing amongst the kelp along the way. Princess Angeline / J17 and her daughter Polaris / J28 were both identified. Good news from Ken and Kelly Balcomb, as the new K pod baby was seen with new mom Sekiu / K22. In the evening the whales were further south along the west side of Henry and San Juan Islands. The whales picked up speed as they passed Open Bay. Spock / K20 and her two year old, K38, were seen porpoising together toward Lime Kiln lighthouse.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Gray Whale

Gray Whale
Gray Whale
Gray Whale
Gray Whale
Gray Whale
Race Rocks
Race Rocks

The afternoon trip on the Ocean Magic II led us south to Agate Bay, Washington State. There we found a gray whale foraging in the shallow water. Adult gray whales get up to 15m and weigh upwards of 40 tons. These whales feed on small crustaceans such as amphipods, and tubeworms found in bottom sediments. It has a series of 130-180 fringed overlapping plates hanging from each side of the upper jaw. Gray whales dive to the bottom, roll on thier sides and draw bottom sediments and water into thier mouths. As a whale closes its mouth, water and sediments are expelled through the baleen plates, which trap food on the inside near the tongue to be swallowed. Gray whale makes one of the longest of all mammalian migrations, averaging 10,000-14,000 miles (16,000-22,530 km) round trip. The southward journey from the Bering and Chukchi Seas to their Baja California, Mexico, breeding lagoons takes 2-3 months. The whales remain in the lagoons for 2-3 months, allowing the calves to build up a thick layer of blubber to sustain them during the northward migration and keep them warm in the colder waters. The large blows of mist in the afternoon light created a beautiful sight. On the way back to Victoria we stopped at Race Rocks to view the many types of seals and sea lions hauled out in the sun.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

T10 Group

Race Rocks
Tranisents
Tranisents
T10B
Tranisents
Tranisents
US Submarine
Tranisents
Tranisents

The day started out with a trip to Race Rocks aboard the Ocean Magic II. There we found Harbour Seals, Steller Sea Lions, California Sea Lions, and Elephant Seals. In the afternoon the fog lifted and reports of transients, meat eating killer whales, lead us towards the eastern end of Juan de Fuca Strait. On the way we sighted a minke whale heading quite fast towards the west. When we arrived on scene we found about dozen whales. The ‘Hood Canal’ transients T10 and T10B were identified amongst the group. A US nuclear submarine was sighted further south in the strait. In the evening we found these whales again near Bush Point, Whidbey Island. The long trip was well worth the wait. In the wonderful lighting a new calf was sighted amongst the group.

Race Rocks