And eating, I think. On the other side of the channel I saw what seemed like a school of Pacific White-sided dolphins. Not unusual. They are fairly common around here. But on this side I saw a pod of orcas running parallel to them. Maybe a half dozen orcas. Big ones, tho. They kept apart from the dolphins by a few hundred yards. Next thing I know there was a lot of leaping and splashing about on the dolphin side.
And some of the orcas began surfacing now and then somewhere in between.
On a few occasions it was pretty clear that some kind of thrashing, swirling, slapping conflict was happening but to be accurate about it is difficult. It is hard to distinguish an orca from a dolphin except for size and they were then a good distance up the channel.
Still, I think it was lunch-on-the-go for the orcas. And the dolphins were lunch.
A few hours later, when the orcas went south, there were no dolphins to be seen. Some may have escaped through the pass just a bit further north. Some may have slipped through a narrow channel a little further along from the pass but it is hard to know who made it to safety and who made it to the buffet.
We have seen this kind of herding behaviour before. The orcas slowly gather their prey into a constrained place and then dive in. For every orca tidbit caught, several tidbits get away. Those who get away scatter as individuals, probably schooling again later.
It is impossible to do a before and after count.
The only constant is that we see a school of dolphins and then we don’t. But when we see a pod of say, seven orcas we still see them as a pod of seven when the action subsides. We don’t see any dolphins. The orcas can’t eat them all – there is always more dolphin-mass than orca-mass so a good portion of the dolphins must get away. But we don’t see them.
The orcas we saw yesterday looked familiar. It is not so much the facial expressions or body profiles that stick out as it is the dorsal fins (which, of course really stick out) and the number of such big fins in a group. This group – I am pretty sure – is the ‘wild boys’. Many are large males. It is not a big pod (6 or 7) but the members are big guys. And they are always hunting….well, at least on the few occasions I have seen them, they were. This not a resident pod — they are just movin’ on through, and these guys are always on a hunt of some kind and it usually involves seals, dolphins and or porpoises.
The orca pods really do seem to act like I imagine wolf-packs to act. The parallel and comparison of orcas to wolf is a native theme and I can see it. Now. With the wild boys.