Once again we had gathered at East Point on Saturna Island for another year of the great SIMRES/MLSS event, the Intertidal Safari. There had been some amazing invertebrates brought up and everyone was enjoying a look at them when we noticed an unusually large amount of boats a couple hundred meters from the point. From the look of the boats and how they were sitting in the water they could only have been whale watching boats. So, in a similar fashion to the intertidal safari two years ago (read the whale tale for that here) the invertebrates were mostly abandoned as everyone headed to the tip of east point to see if we could see what the boats were following.
A few of us headed out down on the rocks and went as far out as the tide would allow us. We didn’t see anything but the whale watching boats for a good while and they all seemed to be travelling a slow methodical direction back out into the Strait. We wondered if there had perhaps been a humpback which had dove and swam away when we saw, waaaaaaay out in the distance, the distinctive black tip of a killer whale.
This fin was followed closely by two other, much smaller fins and it was at that point that the boats took notice. They changed course and followed the whales from an appropriate distance as they made their way toward Tumbo Island. We were too far away to get any sort of ID on the orcas but the the size and shape of the dorsal fin made us think that they were probably Bigg’s (Transients). While we watched them we started to notice that the harbor seals around the point were behaving a bit oddly-they were closely grouped together, very intently observing the whales. We even saw them “spy hop” out of the water to get a better look. This behaviour made us think that these whales MUST have been the mammal eating Bigg’s, there is no way seals would have been on such high alert for Ressies.
It looked like the whales might head in our direction (to snack on one of the seals?) but it was not the case. They headed for the outer side of Tumbo and we headed back to the inverts. The whale watching boats sped through our side of the island to catch up to the whales and once we were back on the beach we did see a few more blows near the boats on the far end of the channel.
All in all, another great experience with the wonderful wildlife of the Salish Sea!