Last spring a pod of orca whales had a great time in Wellington. Like the southern right whale that visited a couple of months ago, they enjoy the crowd attention. Or so it seems.
Coincidentally, we were travelling up the western coast by train, and the orcas were travelling up the coast, too. It was fun to watch the lines of stopped cars, as people hopped out to take pictures and generally enjoy the flipping and diving. Then we left the train at Paekakariki and walked south along the coastal track, watching orcas all the time.
And now they are back. They must like the harbor. Or so (again) it seems. However, unlike the southern right whale, they have not come to play. Instead, they are following stingrays, which definitely like our harbor. Displaying remarkable intelligence, the orcas dig in the muddy bottom to disturb the rays, then herd them into the shallows, where they can feed at leisure. Accordingly, that flipping and diving is part of the hunt. Success is hailed by an abrupt threshing in the water, as the ray tries to fly off. Indeed, they have been known to "jump" onto piers and rocks in their desperation to get away. Unfortunately (though luckily for the orcas), helpful passersby can be relied on to "help" the stingray back into the water.
Most people think that orcas are whales -- their common name is "killer whale." But they are in fact dolphins, the largest of the family.