A B.C. wildlife photographer looking for birds off the shores of Vancouver’s Stanley Park has instead captured an unforgettable image of a different animal in flight — an orca leaping from Burrard Inlet.
Frank Lin says he was leading a group of volunteers conducting a water bird survey for the Stanley Park Ecology Society last week when a team member spotted a whale off Brockton Point.
Lin and the others rushed to the waterfront and photographed a pod of five orcas breaching the surface repeatedly.
Lin, 28, has had an Instagram account dedicated to wildlife images since 2016 but he says he’s never seen orcas breaching in Vancouver’s urban waters before.
Andrew Trites, director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit of the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Oceans and Fisheries, says the whales seen by Lin were transient orcas and he believes their appearance near Vancouver will become more frequent.
Trites says the last few decades have seen a rise in the population of harbour seals, many of which gather in waters near Stanley Park.
He says harbour seals are one of the transient orcas’ prime food sources and pods are increasingly drawn to the seals in Vancouver’s waters.
Trites says boaters need to “keep their eyes open” to avoid a catastrophic collision as orcas appear more frequently in crowded waterways.
Lin says his team was “stunned” by the Feb. 10 sighting, and he told them they were “privileged to see this opportunity.”