August Weekend on Galiano with Whales! Lots of Whales!

Another out-of-order post to the web site - sorry about that. I still have a lot of work to get through on looking at the photos from our Washington and Oregon vacation, and it’s going to take a while.

After getting back from our vacation I had a short work trip (not worth writing about), and then Justine and I headed back over to Galiano with our friend Katie. I had a lot of riding to do, and as it turned out we were in for a bit of a treat - lots of whale sightings! It was a fun weekend!

We picked up Katie Saturday morning early and headed over to the ferry terminal for the trip to Galiano. Everything was running smoothly, and despite some volume at the ticket booth, we had enough time for it to be relatively stress-free.

A female Pileated Woodpecker that was putting on a show at Bellhouse Park.

We were on the early ferry, which put us into Sturdies Bay just after 9:00. We made our customary stop at the bakery for snacks and food for lunch, then headed over to Bellhouse Park to spend a bit of time. The Saturday Market didn’t open until 10:00, so we had a little bit of time on our hands. As usual, Bellhouse didn’t disappoint. Almost immediately, in very plain view was a beautiful female Pileated Woodpecker. Unlike most encounters, she didn’t seem worried about us and worked away at the tree while we stood by quite closely.

After spending some time with the woodpecker, we wandered about the park. THere wasn’t a lot extra to see - it was pretty quiet really - but still our trip was off to a good start!As the market was open, we headed over that way. It was quite busy, and more vendors than normal which made it fun. We checked things out for a little while, then I got kitted out to ride up to the property, to get my “short” ride in for the weekend.

My “short” ride from the Market to home.

This “short ride” was just over 26 km, but as you can see from the elevation profile below - Galiano is hilly! It’s some of the hardest riding I’ve done, and I was looking forward to my “long ride” on Sunday morning.

Lots of hills to tackle. The one at the end up to home is the worst!

While I was working hard and riding up, Justine and Katie took a leisurely drive, and felt the need to taunt me as they turned up Vineyard Way, and headed home to get “camp” set-up. By the time I was back, things were well in hand. We had some lunch, set-up a shelf we had purchased to help organize the utility shed, and did a bit of relaxing. Later that afternoon we drove north a ways and explored some of the water access points. We were hoping for some good low tide spots, but didn’t really have a lot of luck. The wind was also blowing pretty good, making it cooler than we had expected. We also stopped at Laughlin Lake (the biggest lake on the island…) and tried to poke around there a bit. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon, and we did find some cool things.

Aunt Tracy’s favourite - the Chestnut-backed Chickadee

There are still lots of dragonflies around as summer draws to a close.

Another great conservation project - they’ve been installing purple martin boxes around the island. This one caught a dragonfly.

As the evening fell, Justine and Katie took a drive to mid-island to grab dinner at Wild One. The Thai food is great, and we had a fun evening. We started with a game of crib, then went next door to hang with Kris and Ali at their place until fairly late. As I had my big ride in the morning, I had to go easy. As always, it was a fun night.

I was up early in the morning and headed out on my ride. It was all the way south, then around the south end for a bit before making my way back north.

After a quick stop at the 49th Parallel for a snack, it was back down to Vineyard Way and then back all the way north to Dionisio Park, then back home. It was a lot of hills, a lot of climbing but good training.

My Long Ride - 85.5 km of hills!

…and the elevation profile.

The ride took me just over 4 hours, and I was a bit of a wreck by the time I got home. Justine had come to look for me, so I gratefully took the ride up the very steep hill on our private road. That one’s a killer. While I was away, the girls had been working hard. And having a show put on by some very energetic humpback whales! They were tail slapping and breaching, jumping all over the place - or so they say! There was some photographic evidence, if a bit grainy and far away.

The whales were pretty far offshore from us, maybe a third of the way back to Vancouver. What was funny was that further out, closer to Vancouver there was a whole pile of what look like whale watching boats that didn’t seem to realize that the real show was going on just a mile or two from where they were sitting.

I was a little disappointed that I missed the show! Justine said that it went on for about an hour. You needed binoculars or a long lens on a camera to see it, but still it’s pretty cool that we can see this from our deck. We went down to the Crane and Robin pub for lunch, and had a nice meal. After, we headed back to the property to get organized and ready to go. The plan was to close up, and then head down to one of the beaches we like at low tide, then out to the cemetery, as we’d heard good things about it, but had never been.

And I may have had a nap in the hammock…

As we were packing up and getting everything sorted, I noticed some more activity offshore, and the humpbacks were back for Act II - and I had a front row seat! They were super active, and I put this set of (blurry) images together.

Humpback whale breach sequence. Small and far away, but still pretty cool!

This went on for a good 30 minutes, and was quite the show. Even in Hawaii, I haven’t seen breaching like that! But sadly, we had to go, plus it’s really hard to watch from so far away. We headed down to the beach, but the tide had come in quite far by that point. And even the seal numbers were low, out on the rocks where they hang out.

Not a lot of seals out today…

As the beach wasn’t very exciting, we headed over to the cemetery. Katie’s friend was on a ferry coming through Active Pass, and he had heard that there were orcas about! As he was coming our way, we took a gamble and raced to the cemetery to see what the view was like. Our timing was good, and we had a little bit of time to explore.

And not long after we got there, we had a great orca encounter as J-Pod, our southern resident orcas came through! MOst of our sightings have been transients, and what a difference in the level of activity as the residents came through. There was a ton of breaching, spy hopping, tail flapping and other activities.

I put together this composite of a set of four successive pics - whales at play!

This is a pretty good indication of what the whales have to put up with going through Active Pass.

We saw the whales from pretty far off, and were able to track them through the pass until they were fairly far away. Sadly, we were starting to get a bit tight on time and had to make a dash for the ferry! Sadly, most of my pics are a bit grainy and most of the fun action was at a distance, but still it was easily the best orca sighting we’ve had!

Some spy-hopping…

Some spy-hopping…

A nice breach, if far away.

Whale flip!

We got back to the ferry with just a little bit of time to spare. We were put out on the main dock, which was unusual, but gave us a couple more great sightings before we boarded the ferry for home.

Mount Baker looked amazing in the late afternoon sunshine.

The Salish Orca - the prettiest ship in the fleet!

We even had one last fleeting glimpse of J-Pod from the dock as they headed out and around Mayne Island.

Our last surprise of the day, as we sat waiting to board the ferry was over on the public docks. An otter had decided that the coast was clear, and that he’d check out some person’s boat that had been left alone…

He seemed pretty content just hanging out. What a weekend!