Drifting with Killer Whales

orca visit

The white dot on land above the guest’s head is Cracroft Point. The area between our boat and the point is a common feeding area for killer whales. A good morning whale watching is to come out a Cracroft Point and find a pod of orca because that means we can turn off our engine and drift while the orca feed. With engines off the orca often surface close to the boat which makes for an excellent photo opportunity.



Decorated Sea Lion

sea lions

Steller sea lions are a common sight on our whale watching trips to the Johnstone Strait area. Not as common is a sea lion with a “flasher” hanging from its mouth. A flasher is an attracter used when fishing for salmon to give a lure action. In this case there must be an angry fisher who lost their lure to a sea lion. The sea lion likely took and swallowed the bait attached to the flasher and now has it hook caught inside. Hooks are designed to rust out in a few weeks and it was not long after this photo the flasher was spotted on the rocks without the sea lion attached.



Spring Grizzly Bears Graze

Grizzly grazing

An important part of a grizzly bear’s diet is high protein sedge grass.  This grass grows in coastal meadows that are flooded with salt water every high tide. Sedge grass stalks are spiky, wide and stiff but the sedge grass is up to 25% protein, and this is the reason why grizzly bears prefer eating it to other grasses.  The spring a grizzly bears diets consist of approximately 70% of sedge grass to replenish their lack of proteins during hibernation. Diets shift with the seasons, as summer approaches the berries start to replace the sedge grass and fall brings the salmon into the Glendale River.



Spring Grizzly Bears Roll Rocks

Grizzly rolling rocks

Grizzly bears start to appear on the beaches to turnover rocks in late May. This inter-tidal zone “food” is high in protein and is made up of crab, clams, barnacles, amphipods and other tiny invertebrates. The “beach food” is important because plant food is relatively scarce during spring and bears will continue to loose weight until well into June. Plant foods make up the majority of a bear’s diet (sometimes, as much as 90%) until the salmon arrive in the rivers in late August.



Marine Mammals Airborne 3 of 3

Killer whale tail slapping

A Killer Whale tail slapping which is seen occasionally off Northern Vancouver Island in British Columbia. This type of behaviour often occurs when the whales are in close contact with their pod or grouped together with other pods and which seems to be a form of communication. Whether tail slapping is a friendly or an aggressive form of behavior is not proved beyond a doubt but a majority of the times it seems to be playful. The sound that echoes after a tail slap can be very loud especially when the water is calm and there is nobody else in the same vicinity except for the boat that you are on. Again “spectacular” is the word and the reason for the behaviour is less important.

Marine Mammals Airborne 2 of 3

Humpback  breaching

Many reasons have been suggested for breaching humpback whales.
They often breach when they are in groups, suggesting social reasons, such as an assertion of dominance, courting or warning of danger Other widely accepted reasons is to dislodge parasites from the skin or that the behaviour may simply be a form of play.  Some believe that a breach allows the whale to breathe in air that is not close to the surface, which may aid breathing in rough seas. From my experience it is often the young whales that do repeated breaches which agree with the play theory and when we have rough water on a whale watching day we also seem to have more breaches. To be honest the reason is not that important the action is just spectacular.



Marine Mammals Airborne 1 of 3


This is a Pacific White Sided Dolphin or “Lag” for short as it is a much easier name to use over a marine radio. These dolphins travel in groups between 20 to 100 but, on occasion, reach numbers of up to approximately 3,000. If you only see a couple, you might want to keep a look out, there are usually more not too far off.  Lags travel quickly reaching speeds up to 25 knots (almost 30 mph or 47 kph). They are very acrobatic and their frequent airborne flips and leaps can reach extreme heights.



A Grizzly story in Six parts 6 of 6

Grizzly carrying salmon

Soon the mother comes across the river and the young male retreats up the bank with its salmon. This is definitely a good move for our viewing as the bear in now about seven meters (yards) from our camera lens on the viewing platform. Moral of the story: “never mess with a mother grizzly with cubs” or “good photos are more often a result of luck than skill”.