Ironically, I was hoping to see Orca when I was out last with Nick Templeman from Campbell River Whale & Bear Excursions and his dog Yukon – #chiefwhalespotter. Instead, I got to see Pacific White Sided Dolphins. Orca are their top predator. The Dolphins were very fast and hard to track but there was lots of breaching and luckily I was able to get a few pictures that I am very happy with. It’s not easy to track and focus with a 500mm lens while standing in a boat.
The trees are filled with Eagles this time of year, in and around the Stuart Island area. They patiently wait during the tidal surges for Hake to be stunned and pushed to the top by the current. The Eagles then swoop down and scoop up the unsuspecting fish. It’s an amazing spectacle. Much thanks again to Nick Templeman and Yukon – #chiefwhalespotter from Campbell River Whale and Bear Excursions for taking me out for a second time to see this.
Male Steller Sea Lions can grow nearly 11 feet in length and can weigh almost 2500 pounds. Millions of years ago, the ancestors of these animals lived on land. These were probably Weasel or Bear-like animals that spent more and more time in the ocean and eventually adapted to the marine environment.
Humpbacks are among the most endangered Whales and fewer than 10% of their original population remains. However, in recent years, humpbacks have been observed more and more frequently in the waters off British Columbia and Vancouver Island. The current World population is estimated between 35,000 – 40,000.
River otters can grow to 1.4 meters long and can weigh up to nearly 30 lbs. They have the longest lasting fur of the entire Otter / Weasel family. They have strong webbed feet for swimming, a long strong tail and thick claws. They usually have dark fur with a lighter belly.
Their favorite foods are fish, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, birds and insects.
River otters give birth to two or three “kits” and the mom looks after them until they are 12 or 13 months old. They have “delayed implantation,” meaning that after the egg is fertilized it stays in the uterus of the mother for nine months until it attaches and begins to grow. River otters can live up to five years. Their greatest threats are habitat destruction, pollution in the water, and trapping for fur. They are hunted by Bald Eagles, some Bears and Coyotes.
Typically they are quite shy, very fast and hard to photograph but this one entertained me for the better part of an hour on a rocky shoreline deep in the heart of “The Great Bear Rainforest” in May of 2018.
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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.