Have You Seen Any of These?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Updating Blogger

It didn't take too long to realize that this Whales and Dolphins blog was not exactly what I was trying to accomplish. I was actually in need of a web site, and not just a blog. I quickly found that although Blogger is a very powerful tool, a web site with pages in more of a logical and sequential order rather than easy postings in reverse order made more sense for all the content.

The webiste link is. www.whalesanddolphinsbc.com

I do not plan to quit the blog. As a matter of fact, I intend to incorporate the blog in conjunction with the Blogger's usefulness in keeping in touch with anyone who has comments and this forum will be used as that.

The three pages I already posted in this blog are archived, but all further links from the Whale Species list and the "Home" page titled "What Whales and Dolphins are in BC?" will be progressing on the website, which is a work in progress.

Any comments or questions are welcome and I will continue to update this blog with tidbits of information on local sightings of whales and dolphins and some of the trials and tribulations of building the website: www.whalesanddolphinsbc.com

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Killer Whales (Orcinius Orca) of BC

The Killer Whale, (Orcinius Orca), is probably the most widely known species of whale and the most seen by tourists during whale watching excursions and boaters. More commonly referred to as Orca and occasionally as Blackfish, these whales are even seen while traveling on BC Ferries. It is the most watched, monitored and researched of any species of whale or dolphin in BC. It is also the most recognizable with it's tall dorsal fin and easiest to spot as they surface in the wild since they tend to travel in groups known as pods.

Pods are actually their own matriarchal family groups. Animals born into a pod, stay in the pod their entire lives. This is like living with your mother, aunts, uncles, cousins and brothers and sisters all descendant from your mother's side of the family for your whole life. It is extremely rare for an Orca from one pod to be accepted or join with another pod of whales. The gene pool gets mixed up by not having any father within the same pod. Each pod has their own 'dialect' of communication through various squeaks, burbles, and whistles. (Check back for sound clips as this blog progresses).

The term “Whale” is a misnomer since the Orca is actually from the dolphin family. We associate “whale” with something very large and they are much larger than the majority of dolphins. They are a whale of a dolphin.

Killer Whales have a varied diet, although some might specialize in a particular type of meal. There are three distinct types of Killer Whales in BC. Resident Orca are exclusively fish eaters. Consider them the vegetarians of the Killer Whale family. Transient Orca are meat eaters and are frequently seen preying on seal, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises and even larger whales. Transient whales are thought to eat the occasional fish. Then there are the Offshore Orca. It is unclear if they have a food specialty and may actually feed on both mammals and fish. I have seen them feeding on fish and harassing larger whales, but never actually taking a mammal.

As the names for these types of Orca imply, these whales have known areas of travel. In and along the BC coast, the most frequently and consistently seen are the Resident Killer Whales. Of the Residents, there are two distinct populations. In the inside waters, the Northern Resident Orca spend their time traveling throughout the Northern part of BC from around the Nanaimo area in the South to as far North as Alaska. The Southern Residents travel from around the Comox area in the North to parts of the Washington coastline in the South. As you can see, the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales have only a small area of overlap in the inside waters of our coast. None of the different types of Killer Whales tend to associate with one another.

Transient Orca seem to come and go. As their name implies, they are transient whales and just pass through. It is unclear as to their actual territory, if they even have one. These whales have been seen coming into the inside Strait of Georgia from the top end of Vancouver Island by Cape Scott and leaving at the bottom end by Victoria. Perhaps they circumnavigate Vancouver Island as well as meander back up or down our inside passages. They are routinely seen in the inside waters of BC.

Offshore Orca very seldom travel into the lower inside waters of British Columbia at all. These whales spend most of their time in off shore waters of the open Pacific Ocean, or at least mostly in the open waters of BC's West coast. They are regularly seen in the inside passage of BC's North coast for short periods of time and occasionally in the Blackfish Sound area at the top end of Johnstone Strait.

These Orca or Killer Whales have no known natural predators. In years past, they were shot and slaughtered thinking that they were “Killers” of everything in their path. We now know that these highly intelligent whales are closer to us than we might like to think. They are organized, look at the Transients whales on their coordinated hunts, they are protective of their family, look at reports of Offshore whales attacking boats that have inadvertently hit one of their pod, and they are social, look at their family ties and Resident whales mixing it up with other pods in a “Super Pod” party.

Killer Whale (Orcinius Orca) Specifics:
      Males: up to 10 m (33 ft)
      Females: up to 8.5 m (8 ft)
      Males: up to 10,000 kg (22,000 lbs)
      Females: up to 7,500 kg (16,500 lbs)
      Black body with white underside
      Oval white eyepatch
      Grey to white saddle patch behind dorsal fin
      Roundish head with slightly pointed beak (nose)
      Paddle shaped pectoral fins
      Prominent dorsal fin located midpoint of back
      Adult male: dorsal fin taller (around 2 m or 6 ft) than female and straighter
      Females and juveniles: dorsal fin usually less than 1 m (3 ft) and curved

Sunday, March 14, 2010

What Whales and Dolphins are in BC?

Many of the whales, dolphins and porpoises found throughout the world can be seen along the coast of British Columbia. There are slight variations to some of the world's marine mammal populations. For example the Pacific White Sided Dolphin has a similar species called the Atlantic White Sided Dolphin. Both species of these dolphins are just as gregarious and athletic as the other. For Killer Whales, or Orca, there are three known types throughout the world; Resident, Transient and Offshore. These types, by definition, give some insight as to where they are most likely to travel.

The BC coastline is incredibly long and varied. There are “inside passages”, “outside waters”, and millions of islands in between. And there are whales, dolphins and porpoises that travel all the waterways.

Check back frequently as I will be modifying the list below to link each name to more specific details of the individual types of whales, dolphins and porpoises. If you have bookmarked this page in your browser, you may need to refresh it to see the updated link. As this blog progresses I will get into the details of where, and how, as a tourist, boater or kayaker these wonderful animals can be seen and enjoyed in the wild.

First, to clarify, whales, dolphins and porpoises are collectively known as Cetaceans, mammals that are adapted to aquatic life. The term Cetacea comes from the Latin Cetus which, by definition originally meant “large sea animal”. It's adaptation and use in biological terms stands for “whales”. Some have teeth, some have baleen filters. These are defined with the specific whale information pages. Although there are other marine mammals adapted to aquatic life, they fall into other categories known as Pinnipeds for Seals and Sea Lions. And then there are the Otters, but that's for another time.

List of Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) of BC: These will be converted to links as I post the details of the specific animals on their own page. If you have bookmarked this page in your browser, remember to refresh it to update the links.

Killer Whale or Orca
Humpback Whale
Dall's Porpoise
Harbour Porpoise
Pacific White Sided Dolphin
Northern Right Whale Dolphin
Risso's Dolphin
Common Dolphin
Striped Dolphin
False Killer Whale
Short Finned Pilot Whale
Sperm Whale
Gray Whale
Minke Whale
Sei Whale
Fin Whale
Blue Whale
North Pacific Right Whale
Other Beaked and Pygmy Whales

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Starting the Whale & Dolphin Blog

The idea of starting this blog is to share whale and dolphin encounters and experiences with others.

The whales and dolphins of BC have become major attractions for visitors and researchers. Orca, or Killer Whales as they are also known have been monitored by researchers and viewed by visitors for many years. Humpback whales have been returning to the Strait of Georgia in greater numbers over the past few years. Pacific White Sided Dolphins seldom used to transit the lower inside BC waters, yet today they are seen year round.

There are many other marine mammals seen on our coast and I hope to include them as well.