Dolphins, orcas delight watchers in Vancouver, Squamish

If you kept a close eye on the waters near Vancouver and Squamish this weekend, you may have seen the dolphins and even some orcas.

At least two pods of Pacific white-sided dolphins were spotted by paddlers, boaters and seawall walkers off Vancouver's West End, in the False Creek area and off Kitsilano on Sunday, though many more visited Howe Sound the previous three days.

Greg Hoekstra was one of many who recorded the dolphins' movements Sunday near Vancouver, and posted the footage to YouTube.

The day before, around 100 dolphins were seen and photographed near Squamish, at the end of Howe Sound in Blind Channel.

Krystal Hansen published this YouTube video showing the dolphins, many of which came in quite close to Nexen Beach.

Leanna Wilson told CBC News that she was out with friends in downtown Squamish on Saturday when she heard the commotion and rushed down to the beach.

The dolphins weren't alone: Wilson says that around 15 orcas were close behind

"The dolphins are pushed back and... the whales were totally dominating them," she told CBC News.

Wilson said it was clear the killer whales were looking for a meal.

"One whale would throw the dolphin and it would land and crash back into the ocean and then two whales would jump up and smash it as it's falling," she said.

Just how many dolphins are around? They're almost too many to count in this video Rick Rolston shot in Howe Sound Friday. (Go to the 45 second mark, where the show really takes off.)

On Thursday, personnel aboard a Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue vessel estimated that they encountered and recorded close to 200 dolphins while out on the water in Howe Sound.

Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, head of the cetacean research program with the Vancouver Aquarium, said dolphins mostly disappeared from the Georgia Strait around 40 years ago, but have been seen slowly coming back over the last decade.

Still, sightings are pretty rare — especially east of the Burrard Street Bridge.

"We had a report of some dolphins in False Creek about five or six years ago, just a couple. But it's pretty uncommon, really, in the general scheme of things," he said.

Barrett-Lennard said the dolphins seen around Howe Sound and Vancouver waters this weekend were probably feeding on a local abundance of herring, which is a sign that programs to clean up pollution along the local harbours, including False Creek, are working.

"There's been efforts to wrap those pilings up and to protect the fish from exposure to that creosote and that in itself has had a big impact," he said. "You get the small fish, then the bigger fish, then the sea birds and the whales, and it's been a wonderful thing."

Barrett-Lennard said he expects sightings of the dolphins will become more common.