Join me in the cold, dark, life-sustaining NE Pacific Ocean to discover the great beauty, mystery and fragility hidden there.

Popcorn for Thanksgiving

I spent Canadian Thanksgiving this week as naturalist aboard the 92-foot schooner Maple Leaf in my own marine backyard, the Broughton / Blackfish Archipelago (Northern Vancouver Island, BC, CANADA).



The exceptionally talented ship’s chef served a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Certainly no popcorn there!

But, Nature dished out “pop-corning” Pacific White-Sided Dolphins.

“Pop-corning” is the jargon given to the behaviour when this highly acrobatic species explodes into the air; popping up again and again.

There were some 500 of them, playing in the wind and waves with Steller Sea Lions leaping amongst them. It is difficult for me to express just how exhilarating this was; just how awe-inspiring. With mouth agape, I tried to take photos to capture what we witnessed.



We had already seen so much. In less than 48 hours in a 16 kilometre stretch in this area, we also saw:

  • Repeat sightings of eight lunge feeding humpbacks. This included seeing three of them lunging for the same mass of small schooling fish; one of them (BCY0728, aka “Conger”) tail slapping at Steller sea lions and; sighting an individual that has never been recorded in the area before (BCY0310, aka “Dragonfly”).
  • Large numbers of Steller Sea Lions with some choosing to inquisitively circle and surface right beside the boat. This was one of the best opportunities I have ever had to photograph Stellers.
  • And . . . some 32 fish-eating “Resident Orca” – the A12 and A36; A34, A30 and I15 matrilines. They were travelling slowly, vocalizing intently. Some were foraging while calves played and others had Pacific White-Sided Dolphins leaping around them.

So much to be thankful for. And very worth sharing with you so that together we can work to ensure that this beauty and biodiversity is here for all future generations to give thanks for.



I have put together the 3-minute slideshow below, hoping it provides a sense of how amazing it was to have pop-corning dolphins (and so much more) for Thanksgiving.






5 Responses to “Popcorn for Thanksgiving”

  1. Sandy Schruder

    Hi Jackie! I am green with envy on all the wildlife you saw on your recent excursion! We saw a pod or group of whales passing Campbell River Sunday October 3 and then this morning we saw a pod of white sided dolphins hot finning it north. I am not good at guesstimating but the paper said there were 30 whales and I have not idea how many dolphins. As always it is a great privilege to see these great creatures in person. The eagles are back in our neighbourhood checking out their nests, and we have seen a few chinook in the Quinsam River. The pink run wasn’t as big as last year’s but still better than previous years. The bear feeding on the pinks looked pretty fat and happy. Keep up with your great posts, Jackie! Cheers! Sandy

    • jackiehildering

      Hello Sandy,
      The group you saw on the 3rd may even have been the same matrilines we saw this last week. I didn’t see the paper, were there photos? Thanks so for the feedback.

  2. Betty Bastai

    Awesome Jackie! I wish I had been there too! I have seen only Harbor Porpoises from a distance. They don’t leap out of the water and get close to boats like the dolphins that you saw.

    Southern Whidbey Island is a good place to watch gray whales feeding in shallow water from February until April. I haven’t been out on a boat to see them close, yet. I am still ambivalent about the issue that whale watching from a boat causes sound pollution…



    • jackiehildering

      Hello Betty, I have great respect for your ethics. Indeed, if we are going to put noise and fossil fuel fumes into the environment,I strongly believe there has to be the potential of it serving a net greater good. My aim has been to “use” the experience of seeing whales to educate to motivate conservation.

  3. Vicky Miller


    I love receiving your newsletters. I’m in awe of the photographs in your collection. I’ve been really intrigued with the number of Pacific White Sided Dolphins in the area. They’ve been so elusive but seem to be making quite a “splash” lately and I’ve seen many amazing photo’s.

    I envy the fun you must be having.



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