Orcas in the Bay

There was a great deal of excitement in Pukerua Bay this afternoon as a pod of orca swam through. We hosted the pre-Christmas family barbeque at our place this year, and after we’d eaten all the food, decided to go for a swim as it was such a hot day. We were lying around at the beach – the kids were in the water and there were a couple of dingies and kayaks in the bay. I was looking towards some rocks at the southern end, when I saw a large dorsal fin come into view from behind a rock. We don’t really get sharks around here – not that I know of, anyway — so I guessed it was an orca. In fact there were three of them — two large ones and smaller one (probably a juvenile). They would have been after food. Stingrays are one of their favourite prey, and there are plenty around at the moment (my sister-in-law almost stood on one when she was in the water).

They swam around about 50 meters off shore, and at one point one of them swam towards a swimmer who was swimming very quickly back to shore! They breached several times, and I tried to get some photos of them when they were doing it, although I was probably too far away for get good shots.

In fact, there were more than three. My father-in-law and his partner turned up just after we got back from the beach and told us they had seen at least four, and maybe six, orcas a few hundred metres up the coast as they drove to our place. All very exciting.

Apparently there are fewer than 200 orcas in New Zealand waters. A New Zealand scientist, Dr Ingrid Visser, has been following them for several years, and she has managed to identify more than 160 individuals. Her site Orca Research.org has lots of interesting info about them. Te Ara Encyclopedia of NZ also has some good NZ info about them.

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