Whale Watching – First Sighting of A30 Northern Resident Killer Whales

We were excited to be the first people we know of to see the A30s this year, while on our Great Bear Rainforest summer trip.

The A30s are one of the matrilines in the northern resident killer whale community that is typically found in the Broughton Archipelago area between July and December each year.

We encountered them on the west coast of the northern Great Bear Rainforest on a sunny early June day. They were part of a massive influx of wildlife around some feedballs right along the shore of rockly islands there.

It was a spectacular morning: as scores of Pacific Loons dove below the surface, they herded masses of fish, possibly herring, to the surface of the water, eating them as they corralled them. Gulls kept an eye on the loons and as soon as the fish came near the surface, they dove in with wings flapping, beaks opening, feet kicking and calling in a cacophany of sound.

Soon, over 16 bald eagles, who had been eyeing all of this from a rocky islet nearby, couldn’t resist. One after the other, they flapped over to the feedball, travelling in a line just like traffic to a big event. The eagles swooped down to grab fish, breaking and lifting with their huge brown wings.

And around and amid all this, the A30 killer whales cruised. No doubt, they were seeing how many salmon were coming to the feedball, to try to get the small fish from below with the loons.
Certainly we heard some echolocation on our hydrophone, and saw a splash as one of the males, possibly A39 Pointer, caught one.

There were several feedballs that formed over the morning and it was thrilling to be right in the middle of such a show of nature’s abundance.

By the way, check out how much fish an eagle can get in one pass:

This is the eagle at the top of the photo above – that is a couple of “fistfulls” of fish!

Learn more about Maple Leaf Adventures’ Great Bear Rainforest tours.

– by Maureen Gordon, deckhand on the trip
– photos by and copyright Greg Shea, first mate on the trip and also a pro photographer. Thank you, Greg!