A Day with the T109As – 15/1/23

Winter can be a challenging time to observe Orcas in Clayoquot Sound. There are fewer boats on the water to spot them in the first place and the weather conditions can be much harsher and less forgiving for camera equipment. I find that orca presence in the area does pick up from January to March though, despite these challenges. The Biggs, or transient, orcas are following in the sea lions, seals and porpoise who are congregating to feed on herring who are gathering to spawn. Biggs aren’t attracted to the herring themselves in these waters, but they do use their presence to their advantage. 

The T109A’s, also known as the Runaways, are a frequent visitor to our waters. Now up to 7 members they are a sizeable pod! 

T109A4 is now a “sprouter” male – A teenager! His dorsal fin is noticeably larger than the other females and juveniles in the group, but not so large yet to be an obvious male fin that towers up to 6 feet over the surface of the water. Over the coming years his fin will continue to sprout and make this group even easier to recognize. 

The pod was quite relaxed as they meandered through the inlets, not in stealth mode but not travelling with excess noise either. They were hugging the shoreline but three of them would come out to the centre of the channel at times too. Slipping in behind reefs and ducking into bays, they began looking like they may be pursuing something near the end of our encounter. There was no explosion of spray, no giant lunges, but the seagulls began to descend and the pod began to mill around one spot, their travels halted. 

We never saw what they actually caught but when T109A4 spyhopped with blood and chunks of gore dripping down his chin, we knew they had enjoyed a satisfying meal. 

And that unreliable January weather? Thankfully we lucked out with some sun and nothing more than a light drizzle by the end. 

-Marcie

All photos taken with a 150-600mm lens and cropped while following the boating regulations for whales.

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