Spending the hours we do in the boat on our tours from the lodge we frequently see bald eagles on the shore eating their catch. In this case the catch is a pink salmon we saw it pick from the water a few minutes earlier. Until the salmon arrive in the rivers the eagles are more concentrated in the Johnstone Strait area where there is an abundance of herring which are a little easier to catch than salmon. If you have time to Google “Eagle Myths – State of Alaska” you will find one of the best article I have read on a bald eagles lifting powers “Eagle Flight and Other Myths Eagles Don’t Eat Children or Pets By Riley Woodford”. Short version: “best estimates put the lifting power of an eagle at four or five pounds.” The full article is definitely worth the time.
In our area we have two types of Orca. We have the residents and the Biggs (aka transient). Although quite similar in size and appearance their behaviour is quite different. The resident Orca show up in the summer and usually remain in the area until the fall. The Residents feed exclusively on fish, and enter the area to feed on salmon. Their primary food source is the chinook salmon, which is the largest of the 5 species. To a lesser extend they also feed on other types of salmon, lingcod, squid and various other species of fish. They will never feed on marine mammals and despite their name tend to leave the area during the winter months. They are very social and often vocalise. On the other hand the Biggs can be spotted year-round. They feed on marine mammals with harbour seals (like the ones in the picture) being their main food source, although propose, dolphins, sea lions and otters are also commonly on the menu. These animals are much “stealthier”, traveling quickly and vocalising much less. This is because they are on the hunt for mammals which can detect their calls. The Biggs below circled this particular rock several times, but in this case were unsuccessful in catching a seal off guard.
The Biggs Orca were named after Dr. Micheal Bigg who pioneered Orca research in the area. He realised that individual whales can be identified by their dorsal fin and saddle patch. This led to the creation of a thorough catalogue of animals and their family structures, which are organised by clans, pods and matrilines.