One of my favorite Facebook pages, is a local page called Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings. I admire the energy and passion shared by Nicky and Robyn, the page’s administrators for all things wildlife. Updates and sightings are sometimes up to the minute and at the very least, by the hour. This of course is all very useful to a Nature Photographer or for anyone who is enthusiastic about the amazing local wildlife.
Recently, for the month of June a focus was on “Orca awareness” which included a unique and informative post for each day of the month. Nicky reached out to me and asked me to share images and to write about my experience with T073B or Kwénis – the now famous Transient Orca that visited Comox Harbour in July of 2018.
I was very honored, Nicky asked if this could be used for “the finale” on June 30th which of course I readily agreed to.
Thank you Nicky and Robyn for all your hard work and for keeping us all informed.
I’m honored to be working with Pacific Wild as a collaborator. Pacific Wild is one of the foremost conservation groups in North America. Find out more here:
Tidal rapids are so strong in some areas that bottom feeding fish are pulled up from the sea bed and find themselves on the surface with decompression sickness, making them easy prey for Eagles that will gather in these places. This is what happened to this particular Hake fish near Arran Rapids by Stuart Island on June 2nd. There were well over a hundred Eagles waiting for a feeding frenzy. Quite a spectacle!
I have paddled out to the Deer Group twice before, once in 2012 and again in 2017. In 2012, my campsite in the Ross Islets, to this day has stood as being my favorite campsite even after a long list of remarkable locations since. I definitely enjoyed the unplanned hospitality of Friend Island in 2017. So now, here in 2019 and on my third trip I discovered Kirby Point North on Diana Island.
There’s some conflicting reports about landing and camping on Kirby Point North but it is an absolutely stunning location! A word of caution that the only access is at mid-tide at the east end of the beach. This slight inconvenience is certainly made up by the views and sense of tranquility as your eyes wander the Vancouver Island mountain range, Imperial Eagle Channel and the surrounding seascapes. It’s a panoramic view at it’s very best.
I want to extend my sincerity and gratitude to the Huu-AY-AHT First Nation for my stay at Huusmaghsuus.
In my opinion the entire Deer Group is the best kept secret on Vancouver Island. The accessibility to such an astounding archipelago is rare. I am aware that many may or should want this to remain as such. I tend to agree.
If you do go, you’ll be assuredly humbled by a sense of magnificence. Tread lightly and lose yourself in a sense of wonder. Respect the fact that this place has much more to offer than you could possibly ever give.
Norris Rocks. This small rocky islet 500 m off the southwest end of Hornby Island is located in the Marine Conservation Area. Winter storm waves break over the islet at high tide. Access is by boat only. Please maintain the required distance by boat, kayak, canoe, paddle-board, etc. to avoid disturbing wildlife. Please do not go ashore.
Steller and California Sea Lions live here from November until April, and Harbour Seals from May until October. Flocks of Black Turnstones are seen in winter. Gulls nest from May until July. Arctic, Pacific and Common Loons, Oystercatchers, Long Tailed Ducks and Red Phalaropes are observed on occasion. Many bird species reside off the island.
Transient Orca are also known to hunt in proximity to Norris Rocks.
Arguably the best launching point for kayaks, canoes or paddle-boards is from Bill Mee Park on the southeast side of Denman Island. The launch offers quick access to Lambert Channel, open views to the north and south and the paddle over to Norris Rocks only takes about half an hour or so. Winds can pick up in the channel, so be aware of changing conditions on the water. As well, the access ramp can be slippery at low tides so be cautious.
It was impossible to know for sure, but I would estimate about 300-400 Steller Sea Lions were out on the rocks. The squawking and scent very intense. It can’t be emphasized enough, keep your distance!
I spent a couple of hours out near the rocks, scanning the southern horizon in hopes of spotting some Orca without any luck. I noticed the winds starting to pick up and decided to start the paddle back to the launch point. Along the way I noticed a beautiful mature Bald Eagle posing on a small outcrop with a mountainous backdrop. A picture-perfect moment, or so I thought. I managed to position and steady my kayak along the edge of the outcrop without startling the Eagle and prepared for some shots. I didn’t notice until it was too late, a small wind wave slam against the side of my kayak splashing me but more importantly my camera which was supposedly water resistant. I think I managed to get only one decent shot while the Eagle flew away before the camera turned off. I think it is permanently turned off now too due to water damage. So much for my prized $4000.00 Nikon D810. It is currently being assessed by Nikon professionals in a lab in Ontario but I am not holding out much hope.
Fortunately, and if it can’t be repaired, I will be replacing the model with another D810 or else upgrading to the new exquisite D850. Going forward however, I think I’ll only be taking my trusty Nikon 1 AW1 mirrorless model out on the water with me. It’s waterproof! Why didn’t I think of that before? Hard lessons learned I suppose.
All wildlife images were created using a super telephoto lens and crop factor in post processing.
The Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus) is a near-threatened species of Sea Lions in the Northern Pacific. It is the sole member of the genus Eumetopias and the largest of the eared seals (Otariidae) and is also the largest Sea Lion. Among pinnipeds, it is inferior in size only to the Walrus and the two Elephant Seals. The species is named for the naturalist George Wilhelm Steller, who first described them in 1741.
I’m very excited to acquire #38 of only 99 limited edition prints by renowned artist, Andy Everson. “Connection” commemorates T073B’s visit to Comox Harbour in July of 2018. This has been one of my most remarkable and profound experiences with wildlife. Read more about the print here: totemdesignhouse.ca/products/connection
Andy Everson is named Nagedzi after his grandfather, Chief Andy Frank. His cultural interests lay with both his Comox and Kwakwaka’wakw ancestries and are expressed through dancing, singing, and even the pursuit of a Master’s degree in anthropology. Andy feels that his artwork stands on par with these other accomplishments.
Although he began drawing Northwest Coast art at an early age, his first serious attempt wasn’t until 1990 when he started designing and painting chilkat-style blankets for use in potlatch dancing. From these early self-taught lessons he has tried to follow in the footsteps of Kwakiutl relatives in creating bold and unique representations that remain rooted in the age-old traditions of his ancestors.
If you’re looking for a truly unique, personalized and one of a kind experience, look no further than Nick. His extensive knowledge and passion serves as a sense of inspiration for wildlife and nature lovers. Book your tour today!
I kind of want to keep it just for me! Wow! 😯📸👍 I’m proud to donate a 24 X 36 framed print of the image below, to be sold at auction at the Paddling Film Festival in Vancouver at the end of March. 100% of proceeds will go to support BC Marine Trails and the Howe Sound sites, under stewardship of the Sea Kayak Association of BC (SKABC) Get your tickets to the festival here: skabc.org