We know it’s the thrill of the whale and wildlife watching adventure that has you booking your first tour with Eagle Wing..but it’s our staff that have guests coming back again and again!
Eagle Wing Whale and Wildlife Tours has been taking guests out on the water to experience whale watching in Victoria for 20 years. Our staff are not only some of the most experienced and educated in the Victoria area, but are among the most passionate and engaging leaders in the industry.
Our naturalists work together to gather and communicate important information, including whale identification information and natural history. Here is a look at one of our whale and wildlife experts, Naturalist Brendon Bissonnette:
What does a naturalist at Eagle Wing do?
I educate guests about the Salish Sea and its inhabitants, along with ensuring that guests are safe, comfortable and enjoying their experience. I am also a published photographer and one of several staff photographers who take photos on tours to identify whales, to share with guests on social media and to inspire people worldwide to care about marine wildlife.
What did you do before you started working with Eagle Wing?
I studied at the University of Ottawa and began delving into photography. I am a year-round staff member at Eagle Wing Tours.
I have a background in biology, with particular education in animal physiology, genetics and conservation. I also participated in a term project on Species At-Risk with Environment Canada. I currently hold an SVOP captain’s ticket, a Marine Emergency Duties certification, a Marine First Aid certificate, Oceanwise training and more.
We heard you were a bit of a killer whale expert before moving here. Tell us what you knew and how you amassed this knowledge?
Before moving here, I was able to identify all of the Southern Resident killer whales and nearly each and every Bigg’s/transient killer whale in the Center for Whale Research catalogue. As the years progress, new and infrequent visitors are entering this area to explore the Salish Sea, meaning that there are rare times when I am unable to make an immediate ID on sight. In terms of learning the identifications from abroad, it was as simple as using social media and an online catalogue. Often times, friends of mine in the whale watching industry would post photos of whales without identifying the whales in each and every photo, so I would do so in my spare time. It was exciting for me to piece everything together and I was always determined to make a correct match.
You are clearly passionate about what you do, how did that interest in whales develop?
My love for whales began before I can remember. For one reason or another, I was always drawn to the ocean. This led me to attain my certificate as an international open-water scuba diver, to pursue a job in the marine wildlife sector and, of course, to learn to discern between each and every whale I encounter!
Tell us about how you came to officially name a whale!
Two of my nickname suggestions were chosen for my favourite Bigg’s killer whale family, known as the T046Bs. With the help of researchers, captains and naturalists in this area, I was able to nickname T046B “Raksha,” a name which means protection, in honour of her valiant effort to protect one of her calves (T046B5) from infanticide. Recently, I was also able to nickname Raksha’s granddaughter, T046B1A, to whom I gave the moniker “Tsakani,” meaning joy or happiness. I felt this latter name was applicable after several encounters with her breaching up a storm! Here’s hoping I’ll be able to nickname some of the remaining family members.
What is the most unexpected part of your job?
The weather, probably.
Tell us the most magical experience you’ve had on the boat or with Eagle Wing.
On December 28, 2017, we were watching about 26 killer whales hunt a Steller sea lion that was hugging the boat in desperation. Lots of breaching, vocalizing and hunting strategy were observed.
What kind of Salish Sea animal would you be and why?
A Bigg’s/transient killer whale, just because they’re my favourites! I love their complexity.
What is one thing you want guests to take away from their experience on a tour?
The beauty and interconnectedness of marine wildlife and the need to protect the oceans and their organisms.