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Whales and Wildlife, Catamaran Style

Month: August 2009

Fins, Humpbacks, Minkes and Rights…and all INSHORE

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Hello all, what a fantastic day it was…if you had asked me at the beginning of the season if it was possible to see all4 species of whales within 12 miles of St. Andrews I probably would have said “nope”….well, today I would have be proved wrong. For the past few days we have had reports from other whale watching companies of the whales in the inshore area (we have been offshore with the large aggregation of North Atlantic right whales) and today, with the NW winds and large swell offshore, we saw the inshore wildlife for ourselves. On both our 10:00 am and 2:00 pm departure we saw minke, finback, humpback and right whales….and all within a few miles of Head Harbour Passage!

The fin whales were awesome today! There was approximately 10-12 individuals in Head Harbour Passage alone! On our afternoon trip we stopped with 3 fins inside the Horse and then made our way over to the Passage. Below are a few photos of fins I took today. You can see Deer Island in the background as this fin whale charges through a school of herring.


Humpbacks…all passengers love humpbacks, they love to see the tail….and 3 different tails were seen today. Humpbacks are individually ID’ed by the black and white pigmentation on the underside of their flukes. Part of what we do at Quoddy Link is document every whale sighting with lat/long co-ordinates and photographs. The top photo is Cork (with East Quoddy Head Light), a 7 year old female humpback. The middle photo is an unknown whale (not matched as of yet to a humpback in the Gulf of Maine Catalog) we saw first on August 25th. The bottom photo is Inlet! This is our first sighting of Inlet in the 2009 season. Inlet was first seen last season and was an unknown and named at the 2009 Gulf of Maine Whale Naming!


On the morning and afternoon trips Cork and the unknown shown above were taveling together. Humpbacks, like all baleen whales, do not live in family groups but they can form loose associations with one another and travel together. On some feeding groups humpbacks can also feed co-operatively.

We did spend some time with the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale on both trips today as a few individuals have been hanging out in the inshore area. This afternoon we saw Tips (NARW 1124), an adult male of unknown age who was first seen in the Bay of Fundy in 1980!

What a fantastic day! The weather forecast for the next few days is great…that can change quickly but hopefully we will be able to get offshore and see if the large groups of right whales are still there.

Thanks for checking in today!
Cheers,
Danielle

Simply Amazing!

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Hello everyone…I don’t even know where to start, today was one of the most amazing days on the water I have had in 8 years. I know that over the past 5 days or so I have being sharing with you our incredible whale watches and everyday I am speechless…well today I don’t even know what to say, really….we spent our afternoon offshore with about 30 North Atlantic right whales (within a 3 mile arch to the SE). Please watch the video, I know it’s a little long but the end is SO WORTH IT!!

What you are seeing is a SAG, a surface active group. The information below is from rightwhale.ca

“Although the location of the breeding or mating ground for North Atlantic right whales is unknown, researchers believe mating takes place in the winter months during large courtship groups called Surface Active Groups or SAGs. Although SAGs are seen on the spring, summer and fall feeding grounds throughout the whales’ range, it is unlikely that these SAGs result in conception since females give birth between December and early March after a gestation period of 12-13 months. Therefore, actual mating must take place from November through February. Courtship groups on the feeding grounds have been known to last up to 6 hours. They include as many as 50 animals of which only one or two are females. Courtship groups are believed to be initiated by a focal female whose calls attract the males. The female then makes mating difficult by swimming on her back or diving away from the group. Males compete to reach her, actively pushing others away. When the focal female rolls upright to breathe, a male will attempt to copulate with her although copulations can also occur at the surface with the female upside down. Since multiple copulations take place during courtship groups, it is speculated that sperm competition plays a role in right whale reproduction. Supporting that theory are the size of the male testes and penis: at >800 kg, the testes are the largest in the world and the penis is among the longest, up to 3 m. In both categories they are the largest relative to body size among baleen whales. Genetic studies have shown that female right whales mate and produce calves with several different partners during their reproductive lifespan.”

Today was another amazing day (the photo above was taken by Jolinne), another one that I will never forget and has left me speechless. Every trip is different and as I have said before it’s such a dynamic environment and so many factors affect where we may go and what we may see.

Thanks for checking in today,
Cheers,
Danielle

Rights off the Wolves…Cork of Wilson’s Beach…Today I was speachless

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Hello everyone, and again today was another fantastic day of whale watching. Even with the weather of Danny on our doorstep we were able to get 2 whale watches in today.

Our morning departure started behind Whitehorse Island with a pair of finback whales traveling together. And close by there was a large school of bluefin tuna feeding at the surface…it looked like the water was almost bubbling to a boil and at first I wasn’t sure what I was looking at…it was really cool to see that many tuna! The conditions were much better than we were expecting so John decided to take us offshore in search of the right whales we have been seeing over the past few days, there were no guarentees they would be there but we wanted to try. We made our way towards South Wolf where we quickly located a small group (~5) North Atlantic right whales and everyone was thrilled but John quickly saw a number of blows a few miles to the east so east we went and again we spent our morning with 30-40 North Atlantic right whales…about 10% of the worldwide population. I had decided that I would leave my camera away today, I just wanted to enjoy everything with my own eyes but there was some courting begaviour starting so I quickly went down below and grabbed my video recorder (it was raining so sorry for the rain drops on the lens) and captured this…

The spyhopping, the white belly and chin is something I have never seen…it was AWESOME and if you can hear me sniffing…yes, a few tears were shed. I get rather emotional out there sometimes and I find it hard to put into words how incredible it is and how lucky we are. I have to repeat myself here again because I want everyone to understand that this is something that we do not usually see whale watching out of St. Andrews…yes, right whales usually occur in these numbers and large aggregations in the Bay of Fundy but usually about 35 miles from St. Andrews in the open Bay. These whales can leave our area just as quickly as they arrived and while they are here we need good weather and visibility to get to the offshore area where they are feeding. The researchers in the Bay recording right whale numbers have documented over 80+ individuals so far in the Bay of Fundy.

Our afternoon came with some stronger winds and fog and we were confined to the protected inshore area of the West Isles. We made our way to Head Harbour Passage and we knew that there had been reports yesterday of a humpback in the Passage (we were off the Wolves with the large group of right whales). We certainly found a humpback and to our surprise it was Cork! Cork is a 7 year old female we have been watching since 2004 and all of us at Quoddy Link are quite fond of her. I did manage to get a nice fluke shot (she does not always raise her tail, and we only saw her raise it a few times this afternoon) and her dorsal fin shot shows Wilson’s Beach, Campobello Island in the background.

Thanks for checking in today…we will see what the weather brings for our whale watch tomorrow afternoon.

Cheers,
Danielle

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better….

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WOW….hello everyone, what an incredible day!!

Let’s start with the 10:00 am departure. We began our trip in shore with a young humpback that we have seen over the past few days. The whale was resting at the surface and we didn’t want to disturb “him” or wake him up. We did get some great looks when he surfaced and I’ve included a few pictures below. In the top photo you can even see the eye of the humpback whale!

We made our way offshore towards the Wolves and wound up about 17 miles from St. Andrews…surrounded by North Atlantic right whales. The field team from the New England Aquarium was there and they conservatively estimated the number of right whales to be 40 individuals. I want to mention again that the world wide population of the North Atlantic right whale is believed to be 350-400…that means that we had ~10% of the entire population within 1.5 miles of our boat! There were a few surface active groups, or SAG’s, in the area. On the summer feeding grounds there is some courtship behaviour that is seen as SAG’s and it’s awesome to see, the video below is from the 10:00 am trip. It was such an amazing experience and I never thought we would see numbers like this again on another trip….and then when left for the 2:00 pm departure….

On our afternoon trip we made our way directly offshore, this time we were about 20 nm from St. Andrews. With the distance that we knew that we had to go to see the rights John and Lisa (owners of Quoddy Link and husband and wife) decided not to add on an evening departure, there was some interest (officially we have stopped our 5:30 trips) but we knew we had to choose….and they chose to take our 2:00 pm passengers 20 nm miles into the Bay of Fundy. It was almost a 4 hour trip but it was well worth it!! We found the same number of whales around and there were a few small SAG’s as well as one right whale breached 5 times! Again it was an incredible trip!

If you know me or have followed this blog over the past few years you could guess that I got a little emotional on the trips today…to say it was an amazing experience does not even begin to cover it. To have 40 North Atlantic right whales around, every where we looked there were blows and tails coming up…it left me speachless.


I do want to make sure that I mention that right whales are not typically found this close to St. Andrews and they can leave and go back into the open Bay of Fundy as quickly as they arrived off the Wolves. Every trip is different, it’s such a dynamic environment out there and so many factors affect where the whales are and where we can go. It’s just such a privilege to see them while they are here….I LOVE MY JOB!

Thanks so much for checking in today,
We are expecting some wind from hurrican Danny over the next couple of days…we will have to see,
Cheers,
Danielle

I LOVE MY JOB!!

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All I can say is WOW, this will be one of those days that I will never forget. Our 10:00 am trip started with the young humpback we saw on August 25th and 4 fin whales inshore but the boat traffic quickly increased and John made the decision to head offshore in search of more whales. We headed around the Owen Basin but there were no blows to be seen (we were thinking on the ebb tide we may find humpbacks in the Grand Manan Channel). There was word of right whales showing up inshore as well….but inshore means boat traffic so we headed over towards the Wolves still looking. Then we spotted a few blows and saw 2 tails come up! We thought they were humpbacks and made our way over….we were wrong, they were North Atlantic right whales!! We counted 5 close by and could see many more blowing to the east (right whales have a unique V-shaped blow). We even had a right whale breach close by! A conservative count would be 15-20 in total!! Below are some pictures of the right whales from the 10:00 am departure

While we were out off the Wolves we spotted a humpback whale, who turned out to be a new humpback to our area and ID’ed as the 2008 calf of Touchdown by Jooke Robbins at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, MA. The fluke is pictured below.


On our way back to St. Andrews we stopped with 2 pairs of fin whales and the same humpback we originally stopped with on our way out. Oh yeah, on our way back before we got to the fin whales we saw a shark breach 2 times!! WHAT AN AMAZING TRIP!


Our 2:00 pm departure started in much the same way, boat traffic around a young humpback. We stopped quickly and got a nice shot of the fluke (pictured below) before moving offshore.


We made our way towards the Wolves again and found a few right whales and a humpback (most likely Cork but no tail shot) but all of the whales were doing some long dives (well over 10 minutes) so we worked our way back towards Campobello and found another right whale who turned out to be Tips, NARW#1124, an adult male of unknown age who has been seen in the Bay of Fundy since 1980! Right whales are ID’ed by the callosities on their heads as well as unique scarring (like that on the tips of Tips fluke). The photos below are of Tips taken today.


Our 5:30 pm departure started off of Nubble Island with a pair of finback whales…we did see a humpback blow and arch close by but we never spotted it again. After some nice looks we made out way off the mouth of Head Harbour Passage where we spent some time with a North Atlantic right whale. The picture below is from this evening. We also spent some time with a couple of fin whales up Head Harbour Passage.


What an amazing job I have…and I know it and I realize how lucky I am. Today, we spent time on all 3 departures with the rarest large whale in the world, the North Atlantic right whale. The world wide population is estimated to be 350-400 individuals. It was a privilege to experience what I did today…wow….what a day!

Cheers,
Danielle

SW winds, Offshore fog and Inshore finbacks

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Hey everyone, well, we couldn’t have asked for anything more from a late August day with SW winds and offshore fog…there were at least 5 finback whales feeding very off the Islands and in Head Harbour Passage. We got some amazing sightings on both of our trips today and I have included a video below of clips from today, I hope you enjoy!

We also had a number of blue fin tuna sightings today. If we see tuna it’s usually just a splash and maybe a quick glimpse of a caudal fin but today we had one jump right out of the water and a good number of passengers were looking at the right place at the right time. SO COOL!

They are calling for the winds to lessen overnight and the fog to lift for tomorrow, check back for more updates!

Cheers,
Danielle

3 North Atlantic right whales, a new humpback…AN AMAZING DAY and I am SO PROUD to work for Quoddy Link

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Hello everyone, WOW, what another incredible day on the water.

Our 10 :00 am trip started with a great sighting of a pair of finback whales and then John took us offshore to search for a humpback, or maybe even the right whale we saw on yesterday mornings trip. We found EKG, a juvenile humpback, but the fog quickly closed in. We made our way back towards the inshore waters and John spotted another whale not too far from the Northern tip of Campobello Island, and it turned out to be another humpback! I did get a fluke shot but I don’t recognize this young whale so I’m hoping Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies will be able to help us with an ID.

Below are 2 photos of our newest humpback whale. In the second photo the young whale was playing in the tide line, seaweed (as well as a bunch of things) collects where 2 different tidal currents pass and sometimes whales will “play”.



Our afternoon and evening trips were 2 very special departures. We were able to spend time with 3 individual North Atlantic right whales on each departure, a adult male and a mom/calf pair. On our way out for our afternoon trip we got word of the mom/calf pair and when we arrived in the area John quickly noticed the number of boats…an easy descision, we did not stop and started to make our way offshore in search of humpbacks with plans to stop on our way back as the traffic thinned out. Within 2 minutes of heading offshore John spotted another right whale! This single turned out to be NARW# 1124 named Tips (ID’ed by the Lubec field team from the New England Aquarium), the same right whale we saw yesterday morning. Tips is an adult male of unknown age who was first sighted in the Bay of Fundy in 1980! We were also able to get some looks at the cow/calf pair on our way back home. The female, the mom, was ID’ed as NARW# 2791, an adult of unknown age who was first seen in the Bay of Fundy in 1997.

Here you can see the V-shaped blow of Tips


The callosity pattern (roughened patches of skin) of Tips, every right whale is unique.


Our evening departure was similar to the afternoon, we made our way out and saw there was a number of boats around the cow/calf pair and we could see the single right whale blowing (right whales have a very distict V-shaped blow) about a mile away. We made our way over there and spent about 30 minutes with Tips as he circled the boat and approached us so closely many times. It was an incredible experience. After we left Tips (it wasn’t easy because he continued to surface close to us) we we able to spend a little time with the mom and her calf. The calf was contantly touching mom, rolling over and putting her pectoral flipper on moms head. The calf would place “her” head on “her” moms….again…it was AMAZING!

This is the cow/calf pair on the 2:00 pm departure, the calf is closer to us and the mom is fluking.


The calf is putting “her” head on “her” moms head…so sweet!

Below is a a few video clips put together from our 5:30 pm departure, ENJOY!

These trips were very special and I know I have mentioned this before that every trip is different and the species of whales that we see from trip to trip can vary. Right whales are usually seen about 30-35 miles from St. Andrews so to have these whales so close to home is incredble….to be able to share with our passengers but there is a lot of boat traffic in the inshore area so hopefully these whales will make their way further offshore, for their own safety.

If you want to learn more about the right whales we saw today, their sighting histories and detailed callosity markings visit the North Atlantic Right Whale Catalog.

Thanks so much for checking in today!
Cheers,
Danielle

This is why I LOVE MY JOB!

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Hello everyone, what a great day we had!!

This morning we ventured out into the open Bay of Fundy off of Southern Wolf, we had gotten a call yesterday from the Grand Manan Ferry (we were not out on the water but the call was to a cell phone) that they had sighted 3 humpbacks and a North Atlantic right whale off the Wolves. With good visibility and OK sea conditions John took us right offshore. It took a few minutes and some good eyes but we saw a few blows…..one turned out to be a finback whale and the other, a crticially endangered North Atlantic right whale! What a privilege to be able to share with our passengers, with only an estimated world wide population of 350-400 it was awesome to see one today! We were able to see the whale a number of times, it was fluking so high….AMAZING! I do want to mention this was a very special sighting, not only because these whales are critically endangered but usually we have to go an addition 17 miles (we were already 16 miles from St. Andrews) to be in a area where we can see right whales…it was very special! We were able to stop with a pair of finback whales off Bliss Island on our way back into St. Andrews.

Here you can see the callosities, the roughened pataches of skin on the head of the whale (in the same place where you find male facial hair). Researcheres use the callosity pattern to ID right whales.


Our afternoon trip took us back offshore where we found a humpback whale who turned out to be Cork (with a tail shot today!). Cork, being Cork, showed some curiosity with us and also with Fundy Tide Runners, a fellow whale watcher out of St. Andrews who also made the trip offshore. It was so great to see this young female that we have become so attached to at Quoddy Link, she is a very special whale who I adore!


You can see Cork coming in for a closer look at the Quoddy Link


The weather forecast is good for tomorrow…hopefully I can report more great sightings!

Cheers,
Danielle

2 New Humpbacks!

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Hello everyone, what a great day we had!

With calm seas and 2 hours left in the flood tide we decided to head offshore in the morning to search for humpbacks (there have been some reports from the Grand Manan ferry). We didn’t have to search for very long and about 17 nm from St. Andrews we found EKG, a humpback whale we have been watching since 2006. Quoddy Link first photographed EKG in 2006 and “he” was identified as an “unknown”, a whale never seen as a calf and not a member of the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue. I’m 99.9% sure of the ID but I have photographs into the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies just to be sure. EKG was sighted earlier in the season by the follks over at Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises. On our way back home we spent some time with 2 fin whales traveling side-by-side behind Nubble Island. Our 10:00 am departure was also our first “hat trick” of the season, a trip where we see all 3 species of whales commonly found in our part of the Bay of Fundy.

Below are some pictures of EKG from our 10:00 am trip.

Note the upturned fluke tips of EKG



You can see the long pectoral flippers way out to the side as EKG does a terminal dive.


Our afternoon trip took us off L’etete where we had a finback whale but with too many boats John decided to leave and search elsewhere (this is one of the many reasons I am proud to work for Quoddy Link, the respect that John shows these whales on a daily basis is awesome). We ended up off the entrance to Head Harbour Passage with 2 finback whales and then spent some time off Casco Bay Island with a very young minke whale.

Our evening trip started off at the entrance to Head Harbour with a minke and 2 finback whales traveling together but again with too many boats John started to leave (with plans to return after the traffic cleared) when we got a call from the Grand Manan ferry that there were 2 humpback whales only 5 miles from us off the Wolves. We immediatley made our way offshore and were so happy to see EKG traveling with another humpback (most likely Cork based on her dorsal fin (photo below) but she never raised her tail). Another hat trick on the 5:30 trip!


What a great day! We will have to see what the next few days bring…there is some serious weather in the forecast.

Thanks for checking in today,
Cheers,
Danielle

Lunge feeding minke whales and great finback sightings

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Hello everyone, I just wanted to give you a quick update on our sightings for the past few days. We have had some great sightings of finbacks, last night we had 5 individuals! The whales have been very consistent which helps with some of the weather. This afternoon we had a minke whale lunge feed many times, with so much power…it was fantastic! I did get some video (it’s not great, I never knew where he was going to feed) and I will post it as soon as I can. The photo below was taken by Jolinne…again, GREAT JOB


The weather has not been appropriate for us to search offshore for humpbacks for the past few days, very heavy haze from the hot weather and some strong SW winds yesterday. We are keeping in contact with the Grand Manan Ferry and hopefully we will be able to check off the Wolves soon to see if we can find the humpback we saw the other day. There is no word yet as to the ID of the young whale but I will post as soon as I hear.

Thanks for checking in,
Cheers,
Danielle