Whale Tales!

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Ocean Light II

In August we boarded the Ocean Light II, a 71 ft sailboat for a one-week trip off the northern tip of Vancouver Island with the primary objective of photographing marine mammals.  It was our first time exploring this remote region but we had booked the trip two years in advance to insure we were going at peak season and had the best opportunity to catch some action so we could tell some tales of our own!

We were NOT disappointed!!!

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Area of exploration

This patch of ocean had a lot of activity!   Within the first twenty four hours we had seen a plethora of life, including a variety of birds (click here for our dedicated post on the bird action).

One of our favourite shorebirds are black oystercatchers.  Despite their name, they seldom eat oysters and instead forage for limpets and mussels which an oystercatcher can easily and quickly pry open with the sharp jabs of their bill tips.  The birds are also known to “sneak up” on open mussels, quickly stab their beaks between the shells, sever the muscle and quickly swallow it.

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Black Oyster Catchers

Another favourite are the cute harbour seals lounging on the rocks.  Harbor seals come in brown, silvery white, tan, or gray.

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They tend to stick to familiar resting spots, generally rocky areas where they are protected from adverse weather conditions and predation, near a foraging area.

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And now for the star of the show!!!

We had hoped to see a breaching whale, but never dreamed we would be blessed with a “serial” breacher!!!  This particular individual gave us an amazing show, repeatedly breaching over 8 times!  As massive as they are, a breach happens lightening fast and trying to capture it on film or video is a challenge!  Here are some of the best in show!

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Breach #1

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Breach #2

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Breach #3

Humpbacks are very acrobatic, often breaching high out of the water and then slapping the water as they come back down. Sometimes they spin 180 – 360 degrees around while breaching. Scientists do not know why wales do this — it may be purely for play, a form of communication or may be used to loosen skin parasites.

We managed to get a fantastic video (filmed in slow motion 4K video) doing a 360 degree spin!  We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

 

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Breach #4

 

At least 3 different species of barnacles are commonly found on both the flippers and the body of the humpback whale. A humpback whale can have up to a thousand pounds of these barnacles attached to it!  It is also home for a species of whale lice called Camus boopis.

They can also swim on their backs with both flippers in the air.

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Whale swimming on its back doing pectoral slaps

 

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Tale Slap

If the whales were the star of the show then Northern Vancouver  Island gets the People’s Choice Award for best set.  The scenery was truly breathtaking and sometimes it was difficult to know what to concentrate on.

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We hope you enjoyed our “Whale Tale” and thought we would leave you with a little teaser of what Part II will feature.

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Can anyone guess what creature this is???

Marcy & Ray Stader
StaderArt

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The Great Bear Rainforest – Our Favourite Wilderness Area

The Great Bear Rainforest

The name alone conjures up a vision of a wild, remote wilderness – a rugged, ruthless landscape where bears rule supreme…

From all of our adventures in Canada to date, the Great Bear Rainforest is our favourite wilderness area –a precious jewel in Canada’s crown. It has everything:  incredible landscapes, wildlife, ocean, mountains and solitude. It’s as close to perfect as we could ever imagine.

The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled temperate rainforest left in the world – about 6.4 million hectares, most of it is only accessible by boat.  In October of 2015 we embarked on a 7 day adventure into its heart, aboard a beautifully appointed 71’ ketch-rigged sailboat named the Ocean Light II. The trip was lead by Marcy’s mentor, renowned wildlife photographer Brad Hill.

It is difficult to describe, in words, our experience in this impossibly spectacular part of the world. Perhaps the best way is to simply reveal the images captured in this pristine environment.

 

Spirit Bear
(Kermode Bear, White Bear, Ursus americanus kermodei)

Is the Spirit Bear a myth?  Nothing more than a tall tale passed down from generation to generation in the Pacific Northwest among the indigenous people?  We were keen to see if it really existed with our own eyes.  We were not disappointed!

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Gentle Spirit

The Spirit Bear is not a Polar Bear.  It is a subspecies of the American Black Bear with a double recessive gene living primarily in the Great Bear Rainforest.  Fewer than 400 Spirit Bears are estimated to exist and we were lucky enough to see four!  This beautiful female, along with her two black cubs, posed for us for over an hour. She is probably one of the calmest bears we have been in the presence of to date.

Grizzly with Three Cubs

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Follow the Leader

One of the things that we love about this place is the incredible diversity of life!  This mother grizzly had her cubs marching to her tune (for a while anyway) through the beautiful estuary.

Little Rascals

Three Rascals

Of course, cubs will be cubs and these three little rascals were often diverted for play, which sometimes visibly annoyed mom but sure made for some great photographic opportunities.

Bald Eagle

Eagle in the Mist

Eagle in the Mist

The Great Bear Rainforest definitely lives up to its name in the regard that there is a LOT of rain but it can made for some beautiful and moody landscapes like this eagle, perched in a magnificent tree, as it surveyed the area searching for its next meal.

Harbour Seals

Don't Mess with the Seals

Don’t Mess with the Seals

The seals aren’t bothered by rain (it was pouring), they just want to be left alone to laze on rocky outcrops…

Humpback Whales

Teamwork

Teamwork

It surprised us to learn that the narrow channels between islands are actually deep enough for humpback whales to traverse and they can often be seen bubble feeding.  The whales coordinate efforts by blowing bubbles in a big circle underwater and flashing their pectoral fins to scare the krill into rising towards the surface in a tight ball so they can feed.  It is an amazing display of teamwork!

Solitude

Solitude

Through the mist and the rain a solitary humpback waved goodbye… We will return!

 Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt