Transient Orcas went by yesterday. Heading south. Six or seven of them, I think. Huge. Likely all male judging from the profiles of the fins (all tall).
I first noticed the two bright red whale watching boats across the channel and got the binoculars out to see what they were looking at when, all of a sudden – ‘SWWWOOSH’. Right in front of me! They whales were fifteen feet off my beach!
The whales were on this side of the channel and the tour-boats, keeping the requisite distance were far away on the other. I guessed that the whales were the transient pod due to the high number of males but that was confirmed later by a neighbour who told us they had watched the whales find lunch – two seals. Seems the transients eat mammals (seals, dolphins, porpoises) and the resident pods eat fish (salmon).
The whales eventually turned the corner of the point and the tour-boats scurried after. The game was afoot. And what a game it is. The whales draw a tour boat crowd every day and are followed relentlessly as they go about their Orca business. It has to be a form of harassment but, to be fair, the tour-boats do keep the required distance (100 yards, I believe) and they are religious about it. They are very good at being annoying as Hell.
The whales can get away. Of that I am pretty sure. Sometimes they simply dive and stay down a long time and, while down there, swim fast and go a long way. If they do that twice or three times, they tend to lose the tour-boats pretty quickly. But the tour boats are not without aids. They, too, have binoculars (on many pairs of eyes), sonar and now, I understand, the aquarium is following pods with surveillance drones. It is an interesting and merry chase for the tourists but I am not so sure how the whales feel about it. There is no doubt that the boats make hunting and fishing harder.
Fewer Eagles this year. Fewer sea lions. Plenty of seals. Seems the salmon came back in droves so that is good. The ebb and flow of life on the coast, I guess. A couple of years back jellyfish seemed to be the predominant life form. They were a gelatinous carpet at times. Then we had way too many sea-stars. This year few of either. If anything was noticeable in the numbers this year it was boaters. We simply had more small (under 50 feet) boats plying the waters. With fuel prices being what they are, I was surprised.
First official day of Fall and it is marked by a serious day of rain, a gloomy cloud cover and a gale warning for the evening. And I am feeling pensive and, oddly for me, already missing the sunshine. But the whale tours are basically over. The boat traffic is all but gone. It will be quiet again. And that is the way it should be. Quiet is good.