We are rolling along in the spring and have already been very fortunate to share many wonderful encounters with our guests.

A young humpback whale has been traversing the Gulf Islands for the last few days, and has been a sheer delight to view. The photos speak for themselves …

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The Biggs (transient) orcas have been out in force in the Salish Sea for the last few weeks. They are without question the ocean’s top predator, and we are lucky enough to have them here in British Columbia.

Here are some of the highlights from the orcas so far:

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Also delighting us these past few weeks have been the California sea lions on the Steveston Jetty! They have been seen hauled out on the rocks with steller sea lions (the blonde coloured individual seen here on the right).

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We are a mere 2 and half weeks into our 2013 whale watching season and already have fabulous tales to tell of encounters with sea lions, eagles, and orcas. The windy weather kept us off the water for a few days, but once the wind blew itself out, we have been left with sunny days and calm seas.

The spring is the time to see congregations of male California sea lions on the Steveston jetty. There have even been a few steller sea lions hanging out with them! The glossy, dark brown fur distinguishes the California sea lion from the copper tones of the steller sea lion in the photo below.

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And the ever enduring harbour seals have been charming us as usual!

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The bald eagles have been out in force as well, as they reestablish their nesting sites and start to lay their eggs, in anticipation for the salmon spawning in the summer.

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eagle-spieden-web We have had several encounters with transient/Bigg’s killer whales, the marine mammal eating specialists. Several dozen different matrilineal groups have been sighted throughout the Gulf and San Juan Islands the last couple of weeks, here are a few highlights from our encounters with them.

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Whales April 2013

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t65A2-T65A4We are eager to share more of this amazing ecosystem with our guests. Don’t forget to keep an eye on our Facebook Page for updates and specials.

 

It’s hard to believe that this year’s whale watching season is just around the corner! We’re definitely looking forward to being out on the water again so we thought we’d share a few pics from last season to get everyone pumped! HarbourSeals1

There have been recently-reported sightings from researchers, local residents and members of the local sightings network alike. Members of the Southern Resident orca pods have been sighted ranging from far further north of Vancouver to as far south as California! Transient (now called “Bigg’s”) mammal-eating orcas have been sighted in the area just days ago! With grey whales making their annual migration from their warm Baja breeding grounds to the cool nutrient-rich waters around Alaska, we may even get some visiting us in search of food!Spyhop2

We look forward to an exciting season and will be posting weekly blogs to keep everyone informed! We also update our Facebook (www.facebook.com/seabreezeadventures) and Twitter (@stevestonwhales) pages quite often with pictures and trip updates so we’d be happy for you to all check us our there too!Humpback1

Here’s to a plentiful and succesful year for all our finned friends and to another upcoming season of introducing our guests to these incredible creatures!

 

Check out the amazing news from The Weather Network …

The 14 day trend

Non-stop sunshine for days. We have been thoroughly enjoying this amazing sun out on the water the last few days, and even better, resident orcas have been in our area every day for several weeks now.
Check out our photo updates from the last little while. We love summer!

Jpod in Active Pass

Spyhopping in the Gulf Islands

Orcas (J2 "Granny" and J37 "Hy'Shqa") cruising past harbour seals

L87 "Onyx" with a rainblow

For daily updates, check out our Facebook page!

 

L91 "Muncher" just about the surface

J27 "Blackberry" off Stuart Island, Washington.

Our first official 2pm departure of the season was a huge success!
After a few days of wild wind and waves, the weather decided to calm down. Along with the calmer seas came two large groups of resident orcas into the area; both J and almost all of L pod were found in the San Juan Islands. We headed down to find them, along the way enjoying mild temperatures and harbour seals resting in the kelp beds.
There were over 50 whales in attendance, and they were in a pretty excitable mood it seemed. We observed some “flirtatious” behaviour between several males and females, youngsters chasing each other, and lots of vocalizing through the hydrophone.
Bald eagles were flying overhead during several parts of our orca encounter, making for an enchanting scene.
Awesome trip!

Every winter, the resident orca population spends most of their time out of the inland waters around Vancouver (know collectively as the Salish Sea) in favor of better hunting grounds on the outer coast. Lpod is probably the furthest ranging of the three resident orca pods (they have been sighted off Monterey Bay California several times during the winter), so their arrival in the Salish Sea for the first time since the winter is always cause for celebration.

Here is a wonderful photo captured by our naturalist Selena of prominent Lpod member, L41 “Mega” breaching.

 

L41 "Mega", the largest orca in the southern resident community

Although this was a short visit from Lpod (they disappeared to the outer coast the very next day), they will be back for the big chinook salmon runs that peak in July and September.

Its that time of the year! On Monday, June 18th we will begin our summer sailing schedule, which means our tours will leave twice daily (one at 9am, the other at 2pm).

The area has been bursting with wildlife the last few weeks from amazing humpback whale sightings, to bald eagles and California sea lions, and both resident AND transient orcas hanging around in the area. Our naturalists are keen photographers, so check out some of the incredible sights we have seen in the past few weeks …

California sea lions on the Steveston Jetty

Humpback whale feeding in the Strait of Georgia on June 10th

Transient orca T30A on June 1st

Resident orcas (part of a group of over 40 of them) resting together, May 31st

 

New baby transient orca T30B1 with big uncle T30A following behind

Today’s tour lead us a short distance from Steveston to find a wonderful, lively group of transient killer whales! There was a very young calf in the group, likely no older than a month or so. The sun was out in full force, and the water was calm.
I think these photos speak for themselves …

 

Photo of mother and new calf by passenger Leslie Gwirl

There are 4 orcas in this photo! Can you count them all?

Part of the transient orca family known as the T65's

Surfacing together

It is always an exciting time of the year when the resident orca pods start to come back into the inland water more frequently. Today, Jpod in its entirety (including honorary Jpod member L87 “Onyx”)  were spotted off south San Juan Island. Very exciting! When we arrived on scene, we found the family of orcas known as the J22s with their close associate J32 “Rhapsody”. The J22 family group are affectionately referred to as “the cookies”, as the matriarch of the family is named J22 “Oreo”, and her sons are J34 “Doublestuf” and J38 “Cookie”. J32 “Rhapsody” lost her mother in 1998 and she has no offspring, so she travels with her aunt J22 “Oreo” a lot.

The four of them were not traveling in any direction, but instead milling in a tight cluster, likely catching salmon as we saw at least two bursts of speed at the surface. They seemed to be a very busy group with chomping salmon below the waves. It is really cool to watch resdient orcas simply doing what they do best … catching salmon! Welcome back Jpod, we missed you dearly!

14 year old J34 "Doublestuf" with his mother, J22 "Oreo" foraging for salmon together

 

T26, a 46 year old female orca

We located 4 transient (marine mammal eating) orcas off Mistaken Island, near Nanaimo. But make no mistake, this was a gorgeous trip! They were traveling north, and swimming slowly under the surface of the water, allowing us to glimpse the white patches on their body flashing below the waves.
Just before we left the scene, the four orcas were joined by at least 9 other transients, making their way north. Wow, what are they up to?? Typically, transient orcas travel in smaller groups, so to see multiple animals suddenly join up into a larger group is intriguing.
On the way home, we stopped in to look at the California sea lions on the Steveston Jetty. These animals are certainly on the menu for transient killer whales, so they will haul themselves out on rocks for protection.

California sea lions hauled out on the jetty