Thursday, June 4, 2009

Alaska Day 6: Victoria, British Columbia: Orca - SkyWatch Friday

The final stop on our cruise was in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. We decided two days before that we would do an excursion that was planned through the ship and settled on an orca, or Killer Whale, watching trip. While we were not guaranteed to see orca, we had heard good things about the chances of finding this species around Victoria, and we were definitely not disappointed.

It took about 30-40 minutes to get to the best orca area, but we got our first individual only minutes after arriving. This individual's name was Mike and he is a part of one of the resident pods, J-pod (J26). The crew running the excursion were very knowledgeable and answered all of our many questions. After about 30 minutes of watching Mike, we moved on to find more whales.

After just a few more minutes moving at top speed, we spotted more whales. This time we were especially lucky. We had come across a mother name Princess Angeline (J17) with her young calf that had only been born in early February (J44, name TBD) as well as two of her older offspring. The calf stuck close to its mother as she came closer and closer to our boat. It was amazing to watch the huge mother orca with her tiny baby. While we weren't able to capture the mom and calf, one of the guys on the crew got some great shots. They can be found on the company's blog - http://orcaspirit.blogspot.com/2009_05_01_archive.html. (Scroll about one-fifth of the way down the page and look for Saturday, May 23rd.)

I also was able to observe and photograph a Rhinoceros Auklet at very close range. It was awesome to watch the Auklet so closely, but the photos are a little blurry due to the lack of good lighting and choppy seas.

It was my most memerable experience of the whole trip, and I highly recommend that anyone that travels to the area take an orca watching trip! We really liked the company that we went out with, and I would recommend them to everyone. They're called Orca Spirit Adventures and you can find out more about them by clicking here.

Below are some of my favorite photos from the trip.

Mike coming to the surface

This behavior, known as kelping, is done because the
orca enjoy the feeling of the kelp on their skin.


Orca coming to the surface


Female dorsal fins can be up to 4 feet tall while the
males can reach 7 feet. This is a female.


Rhinoceros Auklet


Rhinoceros Auklet

Sunset from the boat


To learn more about the resident pods of this area, the Center for Whale Research (http://www.whaleresearch.com/) has a catelogue of each pod that can be used for identifying whales and also has some great orca facts.

Check back tomorrow to learn more about birding from cruise ships!

Check out more great SkyWatch Friday Posts here.

34 comments:

Audun said...

Great shots. I have to go and look at orcas some time. What a beautiful animal

RuneE said...

I envyyou those shots of the whale. Once - I hope... :-)

Photo Cache said...

This reminds me of my Alaska cruise, but I DID not see any sunset :( I must be inside eating or something :)

Your EG Tour Guide said...

Lucky you to see and capture photos of the whale!

Sara G said...

WOW, great great photo's!!
I am going to bookmark your site and come back to visit some more!!
Happy SWF

Sanna said...

Nice snaps!

Dewdrop said...

I love whale watching. Did it once, fascinating! We weren't near orcas though. That would have been really cool!

P-TER said...

Beautiful shots ! ! !
a great sunset!
Gr.
P-TER

Canarybird said...

Lovely shots Rob and thanks for your visit. I'm originally from Vancouver Island and so have seen the orcas around there. You may like to visit an interesting Spanish bird blog here in the Canary Islands. It has many links and photos.http://blog.birdingcanarias.com/

Martha Z said...

Your sure had a great trip. I've never seen orca but I know what a thrill it is to see the humpback. Alaska is a great place for those of us who love nature and wildlife.

T.R. said...

Oh those orcas. Magnificent. I once watched a pod of orcas play catch with a sea lion - tossing it too and from, back and forth.

Jan K. alias Afanja said...

Must have been a great experience to photograph the whale.
It's a nice sunset.

Arija said...

Great shots of the Orcas and sunset.

Gattina said...

It must have been great to watch them in their environment and not as circus animals !

Dagrun said...

I've seen whales in " realwildlife". Must have been very exciting. Beautiful sky on the last shot!

Regina said...

I like the photos of the orca & the birds. Wonderful sunset shot. Great post!

Island Rambles Blog said...

very nice blog you have here and you were lucky to see the orcas and get such good shots of them...cheers.

Russ said...

Very nice! I was afraid for moment that you were going to show a photo of the orca taking out that bird!

Lori said...

Lovely photos. The only "water" sunset I've ever taken was on a pond. One of these days...!

Rob Ripma said...

@Russ Luckily orca rarely if ever take birds. The resident orcas eat primarily fish and the transient orca eat marine mammals.

Pietro said...

Wonderful images, both of the orca and of the Rhinoceros Auklet. Beautiful sunset too!

wncmountainliving said...

Nice photos - been whale watching for humpbacks before. Awesome experience! Thanks for sharing.

Barb said...

HI Rob,
I've biked Victoria Island and also some of the Gulf Islands - such a beautiful area. How wonderful that you saw some whales!

Denise said...

Fantastic! Loved the photos immensely, incredible shots. What an awesome trip that must have been. Thank you for the links. We have always wanted to go back to Victoria one day and if we ever do will most definitely put this Orca watching trip on our itinerary. Thank you so much for sharing and have a great week.

judi said...

:D, I know folks who would kill for that last shot!!

mkreider said...

So, all those great shots of whales etc., THEN the very cool sky shot... nice suspense! We have a few things in common. I was born in Ohio and at age 7 moved to Indiana so we've shared some home turf. We've always loved birds and have gotten to know three of them intimately as pets, not something I would do again. The bird trade is a wrong thing and birds are very emotionally needy creatures though they loved us and we loved them. They liked being in Florida better than in New York which makes sense. Oh, oh... I'm getting long winded. I enjoyed your blog, thanks!

Danielle said...

Awesome post and photos! I like birds too. Thanks for your comment.

Angie said...

Excellent shots! Thanks for your visit.

Vicky said...

What a beautiful golden sunset!

Lee Spangler said...

Fantastic pix. Loved seeing the Orca. I am glad you are enjoying the Pacific NW. I love it here and the birds.......

Martha said...

Great shots! I love the Orcas! Would love to see them in person.

JOE TODD said...

Thanks for the post. I see that one of your favorite spots for birding is Crane Creek in Ohio. I used to live in Toledo and spent a lot of time there. A veterinarian friend of mine (Tom) helps take the census there

Karen said...

Interesting and informative post !!!

Great shots !

John said...

Awesome series!
Have a nice week!