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Each day as we pull away from our dock in Sidney we are obviously excited to spend time with our Southern Resident Orcas, Transient Orcas, and from time to time the Humpback whales that frequent our waters, but those animals are not the only things are we are lucky enough to see as we travel through the Salish Sea and the Southern Gulf Islands. Our trips are full of marine mammals, sea birds, and other amazing creatures. This post will focus on some of the beautiful sea birds that we encounter on our tours.

Sea Birds

We are so fortunate to have an abundance of sea birds just off of Sidney. Here are a few of what you might see when you head out on a trip with us.

Pigeon Guillemont A40Y1777 smg 2 Pigeon Guillemot with lunch (1)

You can find these birds from Alaska down to California. They belong to the Auk and Puffin family. They have black bodies and large white wings with patches. Their legs and feet are bright red. These birds feed on crustaceans, mollusks, and marine worms.

 

A40Y2169 sl smg OystercatcherOystercatcher

These large, stocky, black and white wading birds rarely stray too far from the coastline. They have long orange/red bills and reddish-pink legs. They make their nest on the shoreline. preferring the rocky terrain. These birds feed on clams, barnacles, and other sea creatures.

 

A40Y2238 sl smg Pelagic CormorantsPelagic Cormorants

This type is the smallest of the Pacific Cormorants. They are glossy black with a dark bill and a long, slender neck and a red throat patch. They are found near coastal areas on cliff faces or rocky islands. They feed mainly on fish, but are known to eat crab and other crustaceans. They have been known to dive up to 70 meters in search of their food!

 

A40Y2515 a sl smg a Rhinoceros AuckletRhinoceros Aucklet

This type of sea bird with a close relative of the puffin. It feeds on small fish and nests in burrows or natural caves between 1 and 5 meters deep. Their name comes from the horn-like extension of the beak, but the horn is only present in breeding adults. Their plumage is dark on the top and paler below. Breed adults have white plumes above the eyes and behind the bills.

 

A40Y5944 sl smg Common M urreCommon Mure

This bird is large and belongs to the Auk family. It has a black back and head and a white underside. It dives under water to catch it’s prey and feeds on fish, squid, and other marine invertebrates. The egg of the Common Mure is pointed at one end, so if it is pushed around on a flat surface it rolls in a circle. This could be to ensure that the eggs don’t fall out of the nest!

 

A40Y0945 sl s Eagle seaquestBald Eagle

This amazing bird is found to live along waterways and especially along the northwestern coast of Canada and the USA. They are a large eagle with blackish colour and a white head and tail and a yellow beak. They can weigh up to 14 lbs and have a wing span of up to 7 feet (2 meters). They have great eyesight that is seven times better than people. During flight they can reach speeds of over 120 km per hour. Their favourite food to eat is fish but will eat small mammals as well.

Thanks to Suzanne Huot for the fantastic photos of these amazing birds that we get to see on a daily basis!

 

Spring Orca Babies!

Wow, it’s hard to believe that June is here already! We have had an amazing spring season with a variety of whales making appearance in the Salish Sea. We have had two of our resident pods, J Pod and L Pod back in our waters with four healthy babies. We have also had some amazing encounters with Humpback whales this spring. As well, there have been sightings of Minke and Grey whales. We couldn’t ask for a better spring.

Humpbackshumpback whale 2 humpback whale 3 humpback whale 4 (1)

Our sighting of Humpback whales seems to be increasing every year as their population continues to grow again. Humpback whales are one of the largest whales that frequent our waters. They weigh in at around 15 meters long and 40 tonnes. Most humpback whales spend the summer in cool waters and winters in warmer tropical waters. The summers are spent feeding and winters are spent mating and calving.

Traveling from the frigid waters of Alaska to the tropical seas off Hawaii, Humpback Whales migrate through Canadian waters twice a year. Humpbacks use BC waters mainly as feeding grounds.

These whales are slow swimmers, making them easy targets for whalers in the first half of the 20th century, when they were killed by the thousands for their blubber. Now protected, Humpback populations have grown to nearly 54,000 worldwide— over 45 percent of their original numbers. The many years of whale hunting put Humpback whales on the endangered list. With recent conservation efforts they have been taken off the endangered list and are now listed as a threatened species.

Summer Ahead

We are looking forward to the upcoming summer and the return of all our resident Orcas. We also can’t wait to see all four babies continue to thrive in the Salish Sea.

Baby Boom

At last Spring is here! The sunny skies, warmer weather, and arrival of 4 new resident orca babies in 4 months has us very excited to begin our season. With the announcements of the two new additions to J Pod and the new L pod baby this winter we couldn’t wait to get the boats in the water and start viewing these new babies. The sighting of  another brand new J Pod baby just a few days ago has us even more eager to share our amazing resident orcas with our guests.

First TripIMG_8949

We started off our season with a bang. We met up with J Pod just north of Pender Island and were able to spend a few hours viewing as they made their way through Active Pass and into the Straight of Georgia. We were able to see for the first time J50 and J51 – the newest additions to J Pod (until a few days ago! We haven’t yet be able to get our own picture of J52.) They started to become more active as they made their way through active pass. We were entertained with spyhops, tailing slapping, breaching, and fin waves.

 

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Whales and other wild life

The Gulf Islands and surrounding area has an abundance of wild life to see. As we were travelling with the Resident Oracs, we were able to stop and spend some time with a large group of bald eagles and a group of seals. We spotted 5 or 6 adult eagles and were able to see them flying with another 5 or 6 juvenile bald eagles. Such an amazing sight to see so many of them in one small area. In the same spot we were able to hang out with a small group of seals. The tide was quite high so most of them were just hanging out in the water.  Such a great day out on the water in Sidney. Can’t wait for more!

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Mt. Baker

Best time for Orcas

We often get asked what time of day is best to see whales, and we explain that there isn’t really a “best time” to see whales. Everyday differs from the last and one day’s morning cruise may turn up super active whales but in the afternoon we find them sleeping. The whale watching companies work so well together to ensure that all of our guests are provided with the best experience possible on that day, but as one guest said, “every time you go out, it is a risk.”  That being said this summer has been so great for us  with the combination of great weather and Resident and Transient Orcas, Humpbacks, Minkes, and all the other marine wild life that we see. Now is the best time to see whales!

Sunsets and Whales

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Enjoying the sunset with J Pod

So there isn’t really a “best” time to see whales, but we do have a favourite time of day to get out on the water. Whether we are doing a tour or just out in our own boat, going out for a cruise during the evening is our favourite time to be on the water. At this time it tends to be a little quieter (less boats), the lighting is great for photography, and it’s a beautiful sight as you catch the sun setting as you cruise back into Sidney.

Supermoon, Sunset and Whales

Supermoon Sunday, we were able to take the night off of work and head out on the water about an hour before sunset. We left Sidney and had a nice cruise through Boundary Pass and ended up with the whales just off of Saturna Island. We tried our best to will the whales to swim past us with the sun in the background to get some good pictures, but apparently these animals have minds of their own! We stayed out until the sun was almost completely downIMG_8007 and the water was being lit up by the moom. It was an amazing sight to see. Even with the bright light of the moon, after the sun had set the whales were extremely hard to spot. We sat with our motors off, not speaking, just listening. All around us we could hear the blows of travelling orcas. It was incredible to just sit and listen to the passing whales without being able to see them, but also a bit eerie. We have been lucky enough to see orcas and humpbacks breaching, tail slapping, spy hopping, and doing all they amazing stuff they do, but Sunday evening may have been the best orca experience we have had since we started doing this.

Oyster Catcher

Oyster Catcher

 

Orcas, Seals, and Birds

We have had some pretty incredible days this summer with weather and whales, but I think Thursday may have been one of the best so far. Our morning tour started off with J Pod just off of Sidney and we were able to hang out with them until they passed Saturna Island on their way to the Fraser River. It’s amazing how fast these animals can swim when they are in search of salmon. We started to return to Sidney with a quick stop at Java Rocks to check out the array of birds that reside there. On any given day you have the opportunity to see Rhino Aucklets, Pigeon Guillimonts, Oyster Catchers and Bonaparte Gulls. If you are lucky enough you also might see some seals hauled out of the water basking in the sun. A great way to start the day.

Transient OrcasIMG_7841

In the waters off of Sidney we tend to see two types of Orcas. One type is our Resident Orcas (J,K and L Pods). These are the salmon eating Orcas. The second type are Transient Orcas. This eco-type eats marine mammals like harbour seals, harbour and Dall’s porpoises and Steller sea lions and tend to travel in smaller groups (2-6) as compared to the resident pods (20+ in each family group). We were able to spend our afternoon tour with these animals watching as the chased down lunch. They all work together by diving around, over and under their prey, hitting them from above and below and hitting them their their heads. It’s a pretty incredible thing to watch if you have stomach for it!

Resident Orcas

IMG_7526The final trip of our evening was spent with part of K pod of our Resident Orcas. These animals return to our waters every year from about May until October. Their diet consists mostly of salmon and they spend much of their time foraging for food. When they are not eating or sleeping, these very social animals can be found breaching, spy hopping, tail slapping, and playing around with each other. It’s amazing to watch and we count ourselves lucky every time we get to be a part of the show that these amazing Orcas put on! The evening trips are a favourite of ours during the summer. It tends to be quieter on the water, the lighting is great for photography and we love returning to Sidney as the sun is setting.

Best Wild Life Photos

We have had so many great photo opportunities with the marine life in the Salish Sea the past two months that we think that it would be unfair if we didn’t share with everyone. So please enjoy our best wild life photos of the summer so far.IMG_0731

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Best Humpback Photos

We were lucky enough to enjoy two beautiful days in July hanging out with some magnificent Humpback Whales. We are always so grateful to be able to see this huge animals come through out waters in the middle of the summer.IMG_7281IMG_7285

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Best Orca Photos

We don’t really like to play favourites, but these incredible animals often overshadow some of the other marine wild life that we see. But I am sure you can IMG_1004understand why after seeing some of these pictures! Our best photos seem to come from our 5:00pm tours. The lighting lends itself well to photographs and the whales quite often put on a show. These are our best orca photos so far this summer. I am sure there will be more IMG_7513to come as August come upon us.

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J Pod Arrives

JumpWe received a great Mother’s Day gift with the arrival of Granny and J Pod in May. They have continued to grace us with their presence over the last two and half months and have provided us with many great photo opportunities and experiences for our guests. They have been joined over the last month by K and L Pods. We look forward to an August as beautiful as July and more opportunities to enjoy the marine life that we encounter in the Salish Sea. We have been very lucky so far this summer and have had only one day in the last 45 days without seeing whales.

Super Pod Days

breachWe always count ourselves lucky whenever we are able to be out on the water during a Super Pod day. Super Pod is what we call it when our three resident orca families (J, K and L) get together to socialize, mate, and generally have a good time. With over 80 whales in the area, they always put on a great show and remind us again why we love our job so much.

Whales and Wine

Saturna Island WineryWe had the privilege of celebrating the marriage of two great people, Ashley and Nick, this past weekend. Nick’s family had come in from England, Korea, and New York for the wedding and Ashley and Nick wanted to show them what we have to offer here in beautiful Sidney, BC. We departed Sidney on a beautiful sunny morning and were able to join up with J and K Pods just off Saturna Island. We were able to spend a few hours watching these amazing animals breaching, spy hopping, tail slapping, and possibly mating! After that was a short trip to Saturna Island Winery where we enjoyed an afternoon of wine tasting, lunch, and great views. An amazing way to celebrate an amazing couple. We wish Ashley and Nick many wonderful years to come and thank them for letting us help celebrate their special day.

 

A lucky group of travellers from Germany were in for a real treat. We had the best possible conditions for this tour, flat calm and beautiful hot sun. We took off at ten and cruised through Sidney Channel towards Lime Kiln on San Juan Island. It only took about 20 minutes to reach J and L Pod where we were soon watching approximately 50 – 60 Orcas playing around in their natural habitat. Our guests were blown away by the spyhops and breaches and managed to take some spectacular photographs. We spent the better portion of 2 hours in awe of the beautiful creatures. Regretfully we decided to head back through Miners channel where we saw an array of sea birds. We also stopped to check out some harbour seals. We couldn’t have asked for a better day out there. Both our guests and ourselves were thrilled to be out there in those conditions with all that marine wildlife.

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We set off on a beautiful Monday afternoon with a group from England, only to find Harbor Porpoise 5 minutes off the dock. We spent a while with them and headed off towards San Juan Island to find some orca. It wasn’t long until we found some beautiful transient orca, playing and having fun. We saw a few breathtaking breaches that made our day. Lots of great photos were taken by our guests. On the way back we cruised past Mandarte Island to check out the abundance of sea birds. We also saw a bald eagle and some harbor seals; Cute little sea sausages! We also ran into some Dall’s Porpoise. They are so fast we could barely keep up. Amazing to watch them zoom by. All in all, everyone had a great time.

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This was a great tour. We started out by heading to Mandarte Island to take a look around the bird sanctuary. There we saw double-crested & palagic cormorants, pigeon guillimonts and bald eagles. Then we headed off to the Saalas Rocks and checked out some seals and their pups. So cute! After the seals, we headed to the east entrance of Juan de Fuca where we found 5 transient orca whales. We watched T20 & T21 chase down and have a seal for lunch, it was awesome to watch. And to top it off we caught glimpses of a new baby transient! This was a great day on the water. So much to see!

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Sidney Whale Watching is a family run company and has been serving Sidney for over 15 years. We love what we do and we're positive that you will have a great experience with us.

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