A unique orca named Chainsaw came to the mid Island and brought a lot of members of his pod with him.
Whale watchers in the area got to see hours of activity Sunday, April 11, as a super pod of Bigg’s killer whales passed Neck Point and spent hours near Lantzville’s Sebastion Beach before moving on to Nanoose Bay and points north.
Nicky Smiley, creator of Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings on Facebook, and daughter Ella were among those who watched the orcas from shore. Smiley said they had heard that a particular orca known as Chainsaw was in the area and didn’t want to miss the chance to see him.
“We caught up with way more than we thought were going to be there,” she said, estimating there were at least 18 transients in the super pod.
At one point it looked like the orcas might have been feeding on a sea lion, but mostly they just seemed playful, she said.
“There was lots of spy hops, they were tail slapping, breaching,” she said.
Smiley said she started the Facebook page six years ago but it’s been over the past three or so years that it’s really gained momentum and led to more frequent sightings. The page has close to 11,000 followers and enough active users to track the progress of orcas up and down the coast. There are group chats, networking with whale-watching businesses, and 12-year-old Ella takes photos and has expertise in identifying the individual orcas spotted.
Nicky said the bulk of people in the group watch from land, but Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings regularly shares information about boat viewing rules and reminders for people to be respectful and keep a distance.
“We’re quite keen to promote education on them as well,” she said. “They’re beautiful and let’s enjoy them, but let’s also respect and learn what they need.”
She said anyone is welcome to join the Facebook group, as the more eyes on the water, the more chance for everybody to get to see orcas. Even after so many sightings, Nicky said watching the creatures is “absolutely magical” every time.
“There’s something totally different about seeing them from land,” she said. “You’ve not interfered with them whatsoever, they’re just going about their business and you’re just lucky enough to get a little peep into their world.”