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Whales and Wildlife, Catamaran Style

Month: September 2009

A great afternoon with Crystal, Siphon and her 2009 calf!

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Hello everyone, what a great trip we had this afternoon! Again with some strong fall winds but hearty passengers we made our way off towards the Wolves to search for humpbacks. When we arrived we found 3 familiar humpback whales: Crystal (who earlier in today’s trip I mistakenly ID’ed as Notchy, as you will hear on the video), Siphon and her precious 2009 calf. There are 2 things that I will always remember about the 2009 season…the incredible amount of time we were able to spend with North Atlantic right whales and my first season with mom/calf humpback pairs. Siphon’s baby girl is so amazing to watch, today at the surface rolling over, showing her flukes and pectoral flippers and surfacing slowly….tail first! We also got to see Crystal slapping “her” huge pectoral flippers on the surface….I just LOVE the pectoral flippers of humpbacks!!

These are videos from this afternoon’s departure. The reason that I mistook Crystal for Notchy is the similarity in their dorsal fins, but as soon as I saw a piece of Crystal’s fluke I knew who it was!

It was great to see Crystal, Siphon and her calf today, it had been about 2 weeks since we had seen all 3 of them.

Thanks for checking in today, the photo below is Siphon’s calf.

Cheers,
Danielle

Finbacks and Humpbacks…the season is still going strong

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Hello everyone, lots of people ask us “when is the best time of your season to go whale watching?” and we usually tell them, “in the fall, the end of August through October” and this year, the season just keeps getting better.

This afternoon we made our way offshore to search for humpbacks again. We had some hearty passengers that were OK with a little sea condition, nothing serious but with some winds the past few days there was a little swell in the water. We made out way towards the Owen Basin where we found 2 humpbacks, Notchy, an adult male and a humpback we were never able to get an ID on because “he” never raised his tail.

John picked up a bunch of blows about a mile towards South Wolf so we made our way over. We quickly noticed there was a group of about 5-6 fin whales all traveling together and 3 humpbacks in the same area! We were able to ID the humpbacks as Colorado and her 2009 calf and Quarternote. We hadn’t seen Quarternote in 2 weeks so it was great to see him!

Here is Quarternote, a male and the 2001 calf of Buckshot.


Here is Colorado and her 2009 calf.

Here is Colorado’s calf fluking just like an adult


Thanks for checking in today. We also had a morning and an early evening charter today and we had fin whales on both trips off the entrance to Head Harbour Passage.

Cheers,
Danielle

Right whales have had a great year, in case you have not heard!

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It’s been in the news lately and I wanted to share an article in the Chronicle Herald that was brought to my attention by Art MacKay. People in the whale community have known for months now that it has been an amazing year for the North Atlantic right whale, with 39 confirmed calves, the most in any year since they have been keeping track in 1980. I also know that those of you who joined us this season on those special trips when we saw right whales we shared with you their calving success as well as all of the troubles they face. I have also shared with you how hard it has hit me, seeing the scarring on these whales has changed me in a way…but it was something that I needed to see.

I wanted to share this article with you, it included an interview with Mo Brown and it is worth reading!

Cheers,
Danielle

It’s all right now, baby
Cetacean gestation a rare success story
By LOIS LEGGE Features Writer
Sat. Sep 26 – 4:46 AM

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Researchers are encouraged by the number of right whale births this year but caution that keeping their numbers growing will require vigilance and more study.(Canadian Whale Institute)

Moira Brown has spent 25 years of her life trying to save the whales. It may be starting to pay off. The endangered North Atlantic right whales she studies number just 400 or so worldwide. But the Canadian biologist confirmed this week that researchers recorded 39 births this year, the highest annual number since they started documenting the population in 1980. “This year was phenomenal,” said the senior scientist with the New England Aquarium in Boston. The aquarium is the lead body behind three decades of research. The Montreal native is also affiliated with the Canadian Whale Institute in Wilsons Beach, N.B. “There were 39 births recorded down on the only known calving ground along the southeast coast of Florida, and so far this year, we’ve documented . . . 20 of the mothers up here in the Bay of Fundy in the last two months or so and 19 of the calves. We’ve lost a couple of the calves, and it’s unfortunate, but with any mammal, it’s not uncommon to lose a couple of newborns.” Still, “the signs are very encouraging,” she said, especially since scientists recorded just one birth for the species in 2001. “That was a depressing year. But the very next year, there were 31 calves born and really through (this decade), we’ve averaged over 20 calves per year. So for some reason, environmental conditions are much more suitable for right whales.” Ms. Brown said an abundance of plankton in the Bay of Fundy is helping the mammals stay well-fed, and the healthier the individual whales, the more likely they are to procreate. Biologists like Ms. Brown have also made strides reducing other threats to the creatures, which were nearly hunted to extinction as far back as 1750. Ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear have also hampered the species’ struggle to survive. About 75 per cent of the whales bear the scars of run-ins with gear. But thanks to the efforts of Ms. Brown and others, international shipping lanes were moved in the Bay of Fundy in 2003, apparently reducing the mortality rate for the mammals, which congregate in this area off Nova Scotia from June to December. The highest concentrations are from August to October. Scientists have made progress in educating fishermen, especially in the United States, where the whales are most likely to face threats from gear, Ms. Brown said. “Up here in Canada, most of the fishing gear is not in the water when the high concentrations of whales are here. What we have been working on is awareness with the fishermen because there is an overlap from the start of the lobster fishery in November and some lingering right whales. “We’re working (on) awareness, various groups are trying to do some surveys late in the fall so the fishermen know . . . the whales are still around.” Keeping them around will take vigilance and more study, said Ms. Brown, who was first drawn to the research because of the mystery surrounding the mammoth mammals. Over the years, she has developed affection for the creatures, whose females average 17 to 18 metres in length and weigh 50 to 70 tonnes. No one’s sure about the lifespan of the whales, but Ms. Brown said researchers know of one that lived to be at least 70. After years of photographing the small population, researchers can easily identify the whales by their markings or their scars. Seeing those scars or watching whales suffer amid the mesh of fishing nets is a painful sight for their human protectors. “You want to help that whale as an individual,” she said. And since humans have decimated the population, they have a responsibility to rescue it, Ms. Brown said. “Now we can use the best of our technology to help them recover.” ( llegge@herald.ca)

Another day with incredible humpbacks and fall weather

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Hello everyone…it feels great when I get to come home and bring you news of another amazing day out on the Bay of Fundy. This afternoon (our morning departure was a charter to Campobello but we did see 3 fin whales off East Quoddy Head Light) we knew that we were going to have some weather to deal with but we had a small boat load of hearty and eager passengers so we passed by the fin whales we saw inshore and made our way offshore in search of humpbacks. Talking to Fundy Tide Runners (zodiac whale watching out of St. Andrews) we knew that there were humpbacks close to South Wolf so we made the trip offshore with everyone keeping their eyes open for blows.

When we arrived we found 3 humpbacks traveling together, 2 we quickly ID’ed as Colorado and her calf. Below (top) is Colorado, her calf beside her and 1 of the 2 new humpbacks we saw today that has been ID’ed as Notchy. The bottom photo is Colorado’s 2009 calf.


We also saw EKG, a juvenile humpback we have been watching since 2006.


We moved closer to South Wolf and Colorado’s calf was..well…being a calf, staying at the surface, rolling over and coming up tail first….and then Notchy tail breached 2 times right between Colorado and her calf.


Then an adult whale (might have been Colorado or maybe Notchy) and Colorado’s 2009 calf started to flipper slap. The pectoral flippers of humpbacks are incredibly long, up to 1/3 their body length. You can see the size difference between the adults and the Colorado’s calf’s pectoral flippers, it was so sweet to see both of them slapping their pecs at the same time!!


In the next 3 photos you can see both the 2009 calf of Colorado and the adult…look at the size difference!!!


These are the 2 new humpbacks that we saw today. I have included both dorsal fin and fluke shots ’cause with humpbacks both the dorsal and fluke differs from whale to whale.

This is Notchy, a male who was first sighted in 1981.


This is the other new humpback we saw today, Cord, a female and the 2002 calf of Bungee. Thanks to Jooke at PCCS and Shelley from Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises as well as a blog reader for the ID.


Thanks so much for checking in with us today….the 2009 season continues to be amazing!!!

I LOVE MY JOB!

Cheers,
Danielle

Cork, Meristem & a few other off the Wolves

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Hello everyone,

We were able to get out whale watching today…yesterday we were confined to St. Andrews harbour due to high winds, it is to be expected with the change of seasons. This afternoon we made our way directly offshore in search of humpbacks. The wind had picked up some out of the SW but nothing serious and with a boatload of eager passengers we made our run offshore, and talking with some other boats who were already out there (including Matt on our Scout Boat) we knew there were humpbacks about 16 nm from home.

We were able to document 2 humpbacks (there was at least 4 or 5 there), Cork and Meristem. There were also a number of funback whales in the area as well.

This is Cork, a 7 year old female and the 2002 calf of Mica. I know the picture isn’t great but it is enough for an ID. We also saw Cork on Thursday but before that the last sighting was on September 5th, it’s so great to see her again!


This is Meristem, a juvenile we photographed for the first time last season as an unknown and was just named last spring. We also Meristem on the 24th of September.


They are calling for some wind tomorrow but we are hoping we can still get our afternoon trip in…the wind isn’t suppose to come up until the evening.

Thanks for stopping by,
Cheers,
Danielle

Humpbacks and Finbacks…and all offshore

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Hello everyone…it certainly feels like autumn is here and it usually comes with some wind and that is certainly what we have had the past few days…and what it sounds like for a few days to come.

With the weather we have had and the way it sounds for the weather to come I am very happy we were able to get offshore today. On our 10:00 am departure we started out trip close to Nubble Island with a minke whale and with no signs of any blows inshore we made our way up the Campobello shoreline and off towards South Wolf where we found at least 10 finback whales. The whales were often in pairs and threes and we got some great looks before we made our way back into calmer water.

Our afternoon trip started off much the same, with no blows to be seen inshore (we heard that a finback did show up inshore later in the afternoon but was staying down for up to 15 minutes at a time and was making some big moves with every surface) we made our way off towards the Wolves. With word from Dave at Fundy Tide Runners that there were whales close to where we were on our 10:00 am trip we worked our way over there…traveling again along the Campobello shoreline and across to the Wolves. When we arrived we found 3-4 fin whales and at least 5 humpbacks! Part of what we do at Quoddy Link, as you may already know, is photo ID, as we participate in population research and take volunteer data for the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station and the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in Cape Cod. Humpback whales are individually ID’ed by the pigmentation on the underside of their flukes so by taking a simple photo we are able to figure out who we are seeing…it’s my favorite part of my job….and today was GREAT!!

Below are the humpbacks that we saw today (I only got tail shots of 4 humpbacks, we did have a 5th who fluked at a bad angle so I only got a dorsal shot but I am pretty sure it was Cork, a 7 year old female who we are very fond of at Quoddy Link).

This is EKG, we have been watching EKG for 4 years now, I first photographed EKG in 2006 as an unknown.


This is Inlet, a young whale we saw last season as well…again, we photographed Inlet as an unknown and was just named this past spring.


This is Meristem, a juvenile whale we saw last season…just like Inlet….and again, just like Inlet and EKG this young whale was an unknown too. This is our first sighting of Meristem this season.


This is Spinnaker. We first saw Spinnaker in 2007 and she was born in 2004.


Thanks for checking in today,
Cheers,
Danielle

Offshore fog, SW winds and finback whales

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Hello everyone,

I know I have been talking a lot lately about how there are many factors that can effect where we can go and possibly what species of whales we may see. Today we had some thick, offshore autumn fog as well as 15 knots of cold SW wind to deal with and this confined us to the inshore area for our 2:00 pm departure. We could not have been any luckier with the weather that we had, there were 8-10 finback whales between the mouth of Head Harbour Passage and Nubble Island and they were not staying under for very long and not making big moves when they surfaced and to the delight of everyone on board we got some fantastic looks.

Below is a video that I took today of 2 fin whales traveling side-by-side, I didn’t manage to get the terminal dives of the 2 whales on video because they crossed right over the bow of the boat but all of our passengers got some great looks!

Thanks for checking in with Quoddy today!

Cheers,
Danielle

When the curiosity is returned….there is NOTHING like it!

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Hey there everyone! What a fantastic trip we had this afternoon…great weather and a boat load of fantastic passengers!!

We started our trip off Bliss with ~6 fin whales with the intention of getting some looks and then making our way off towards the Wolves. Well, the looks we got were amazing. The whales were feeding in a concentrated area (John was picking up herring from the surface down to the seabed, about 250 feet down). We spent about 20 minutes there and then John decided to run us offshore…with no promises of finding humpbacks but we knew there were none to be seen inshore and if we wanted to see humpbacks we knew we had to go out and look!

John spotted a blow, which we quickly ID’ed as a humpback not too far off South Wolf and the whale fluked up as we were approaching. We stopped the boat and waited about 5 minutes and the humpback came back to surface, traveling slowly, not fluking and then he disappeared…..AND THEN he spyhopped, DIRECTLY off the bow of the Quoddy Link. A spyhop is when a whale rises vertically out of the water, exposing part or the entire head above the surface. This is a controlled movement and it’s believed that the whale does not have to swim to maintain the position but relies on exceptional buoyancy control and position of pectoral flippers. What are they doing when they are spyhopping…they are looking around and this whale was looking at us!

Below are 2 photos and a video from today (I took the photos from the video so I am sorry if the quality isn’t the greatest….it’s the first time I have tried this).

These 2 pictures were taken by Jolinne, our other naturalist, from the lower deck of the Quoddy Link!


When the whale raised it’s tail we quickly recognized the humpback as Patchwork, an adult male we saw for the first time on September 17th.

Today we had great weather, calm seas and unlimited visibility and we were able to run offshore and search for humpbacks and it’s always so worth it to go out there and look because you never know what you may find!!

Thanks for checking in today,
Cheers,
Danielle

A reminder from wildlife that it’s WILD!

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Hello everyone, just a quick note on our sightings form the past 2 days. We have had some pretty strong winds here on the Bay of Fundy over the past 2 days from various directions. People ask all of the time if the whales care about the weather…the wind….the sun….the fog….and the answer is always, nope, they really don’t….but it does effect us. The winds can have a huge effect on where we can go and therefore what species of whales we may see. With the strong winds we are usually confined to the more sheltered area of the islands where we are still seeing many finback whales, on some departures up to 15 individuals in a 1 mile radius but for us to see humpbacks we usually have to travel a minimum of 14 miles from St. Andrews. Of course, there are times when humpbacks do come closer to the Islands, this summer we have a number of juveniles as well as one adult that were feeding inshore for a number of weeks but they haven’t been seen inshore in a while. We have recorded Siphon and her calf close to Nancy’s Head, Campobello which can be protected from the winds but they were not there yesterday. This time of season typically have to go off the Wolves and around the Owen Basin and the Grand Manan Chanel to see humpbacks….and because of that we need good sea conditions.

The past 2 days we have been watching finback whales off Bliss and off the entrance to Head Harbour Passage…and on some trips they have been much easier to watch than others (the time of day has no effect either…but the tide does). On yesterday afternoon’s departure there were about 5 finbacks off East Quoddy, they were doing what finbacks can naturally do, staying down for a while and making some big moves when they surfaced. With patience…lots of patience…we were able to get some great looks but with all of the hype of how amazing the 2009 whale watching season has been it was a reminder that wildlife is WILD! It’s certainly not a bad thing, it’s one of the reasons I love my job….whales do what they do…they feed, travel, stay under for 10 minutes at a time…sometimes they breach…and they are on no one’s schedule but their own.

Thanks for checking in today, like I have said before, every trip is different and we can never guarantee what species of whale we will see on a departure, even when it is the best time of our season for whale watching.

It looks like a beautiful day today, I will let you all know this evening how our sightings were,

Cheers,
Danielle

Finbacks off East Quoddy and Siphon and her calf off Nancy’s Head

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Hello all, well, despite the weather warning for some strong winds we were able to get both of our departures in.

Our 10:00 am trip started off East Quoddy Head Light with a fin whale that was being rather difficult to watch…staying down for long periods of time and making some big moves. John spotted 1 or 2 blows further down the Campobello shoreline so we made our way out and when we arrived we found Siphon and her 2009 calf! This is the first season in my 8 with Quoddy Link that I have been able to spend time with mom and calf humpback pairs and it’s so incredible…the personality from the calves is something that I have utterly fallen in love with.

Below are some pictures I took today of Siphon’s calf….I finally got a decent shot of her tail.


Here’s mom, Siphon, first seen in the early 1990’s.


Our afternoon trip came with some stronger winds and some offshore fog so we were confined inshore but had some fantastic fin whale sightings. There were 4 finbacks close to East Quoddy and they were GREAT to watch this afternoon.

Thanks for checking in today, there are still some strong winds in the forecast for tomorrow but we will have to wait and see what happens.

Cheers,
Danielle