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Whales and Wildlife, Catamaran Style

Month: October 2012

A photographic look at our 2012 season

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Hello everyone, well out 2012 season has come to a close and I thought I would take a look back at the past 4 months using photos that I have taken throughout the season.  2012 was a unique season, as every year really is, but this year we had very few humpbacks show up in our part of the Bay of Fundy, we only documented 8 individuals over about a 2 week period.  Also, the number of right whales recorded in the Bay of Fundy from the New England Aquarium’s research team was low, less than 50 individuals but there were some unique species sighted in Bay by the team including sperm whales, an orca and a bowhead whale.  But back to our season….

Let’s start by looking at the fin whales.  Finbacks are the largest whale that regularly visits the Bay of Fundy and the second largest in the world (the blue whale is the largest).  At over 70 feet and more than 150 000 lbs these whales are amazingly graceful and powerful and so special to spent time with.  In a lot of these photos you can see the lower, white, right jaw (the left lower jaw is the same colour as their back).  This is one of the most unique examples of asymmetrical colouring in the animal kingdom.

Our first finback of our 2012 season was sighted on July 2 and we continued to watch them (mostly between Bliss and Blacks as their was very little activity in the offshore area this year) until the very end of our season.

We saw this individual a lot this season, easily recognizable by the scar in front of the dorsal fin

Another whale we saw a lot this season…you can see how much in injury has improved since 2011

Minke whales are often overlooked, being smaller and sometime difficult to watch but we had some amazing whale watches this season with minke whales seeing breaching and curiosity from these 20-30 foot baleen whales.  You can see the white bands on their pectoral flippers in many of the photos.  These bands, affectionately known as minke mittens are unique to only minkes and can been seen easily on sunny, calm days.

a very curious minke whale

Slice, a minke whale we adore at Quoddy Link

Photo by NJ Hawkins

Photo by NJ Hawkins

This year Nick, one of our naturalists, got some underwater video, including minke whales….

Humpbacks are probably the most easily recognizable of all the large whales and a favorite among whale watchers…but this season we didn’t get a lot of humpbacks in our area of the Bay of Fundy (not sure why but most likely they just fed better elsewhere and we hope next season to see them back feeding off the Wolves).  The humpbacks we recorded in our part of the Bay this year were:

Cork – a female born in 2002.  We have seen Cork every season since 2004 and she is special to me
Desert – born in 2008, we also saw Desert last season
Ibex – a male born in 1988, we also saw Ibex (Mr. Burns) in 2007 and 2011
Labyrinth – born in 2008
Mahjong – born in 2007, we also saw in 2009 and 2010
Platform – a female first documented in 1997.  We also saw her in 2009
Unknown – saw on August 21, 2012.  No ID yet
Waterslide – born in 2008, we also saw in 2009 and 2011.

Cork

The north Atlantic right whale is the most critically endangered whale in the world, with an estimated population of around 475.  This year very few right whales entered the Bay of Fundy (less than 50 from the researchers counts and only 1 (of the 6) mother/calf pairs) but we did have a very lucky day on September 18th where we found a right whale off Blacks Harbour.  This whale was IDed as Bongo, NARW# 3623, the 2006 male calf of Couplet, NARW# 2123. This was our only right whale sighting of the 2012 season.  

There are lots of other wildlife to see on our cruises out of St. Andrews including harbour and grey seals.  Seals have such a special place in my heart (I spent a few years helping out with seal research before I started with Quoddy Link in 2002).  This was a great year for seals in our area!

harbours

female grey and harbour

female grey

male grey (behind) and female grey 

red headed female greys!

grey seals on Black Rock

Birds…the birding on our part of New Brunswick is phenomenal and this season was really one of the best.  We even had our first official pelagic bird cruise this season at the end of September and it was a huge success seeing many species including a Sabine’s gull, incredibly rare for NB.  For more details on our bird sightings check out Nicks Quoddy Link Bird blog.

Atlantic puffin, we saw so many this season

herring gulls and chicks

Laughing gulls on Whitehorse, a special sighting

sooty shearwater

great and a manx (front left) shearwaters

a very tame, hand raised gull that visited us a few times

So many people ask if we will see dolphins and dolphins in our part of the Bay are not very common but harbour porpoise are…and they are so sweet.  Click here to learn more about the differences between porpoise and dolphin

There are other species under the water that we are always keeping our eyes open for….sharks and Mola mola or ocean sunfish.  This year we had a few basking shark sightings, which can be easier to watch that other sharks simply because of their behaviour.  Nick did get some underwater footage of a basking shark from our Scout Boat and he also photographed a seal with a large shark bite (most likely from a white shark).

basking shark

Female grey seal with a large shark bite.  Photo by NJ Hawkins 

Mola mola are such an interesting fish, a mystery of evolution really.  Here is a little info on the Mola mola

These bizarre looking fish, from the same family as pufferfish, average about 6 feet long and weigh 2200 lbs! The most obviously strange part is their shape, they look like a fish head without a tail. Through the course of evolution their caudal fin (tail) has disappeared and been replaced by a pseudo-fin called a clavus. Their diet consists mainly of jellyfish and to maintain their bulk they have to consume a very large amount. Ocean sunfish are covered in a slime instead of scales and they swim by a characteristic sculling motion of their dorsal and anal fins. They are the heaviest “bony” fish in the world, but its body is actually comprised of mostly cartilaginous tissues which is lighter than bone and can allow it to grow to such a large size which is uneconomical for other bony fishes.

We had a number of sunfish sightings this season and Nick was able to get some amazing underwater footage!

Ocean sunfish, Mola mola
I want to end this summary on a sad note…in memory of the HMS Bounty who went down on October 29th  in hurricane Sandy off the coast of NC.  14 crew were rescued from life rafts and taken to safety.  Claudene Christian did not make it and the search for Captain R Walbridge has just been called off by the USCG.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the crew and the family of the HMS Bounty.
The HMS Bounty off Head Harbour Light, Campobello Island, NB.  She was leaving Eastport, ME after her visit for the pirate festival.  The HMS Bounty also visited St. Andrews in 2010.

Thank you everyone who joined is for our 2012 season, we couldn’t have done it without all of you!  Thank you to my Quoddy Link Family; John and Lisa, Mat, Nick, Todd, Jolinne, Dave and Jill…you guys are my home away from home and certainly make work feel a lot less like work!  

See you all in 2013!
Cheers,
Danielle

FINtastic afternoon on the water

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Hello all!  We had such a FIN-tastic day on the water this afternoon!  We spent time with 3 large finbacks off Blacks Harbour, and it was CALM (cool but not freezing) for the first day in a few weeks.  We also saw bald eagles, harbour porpoise and harbour seals.

Here are some finback photos from today

Cheers,
Danielle

Another chilly day on the bay!

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Good evening everyone.  We had another great, but very chilly day on the Bay of Fundy (if you are still planning on coming out with us this season PLEASE dress warmly, a toque and mittens are a great idea).

This morning we found 3 minke whales, including Slice in the Islands.  This afternoon we found Slice almost where we left him, off Race Rock, before making our way east off Blacks Harbour where we found 2 large fin whales

Here are some finback photos from today

The weather looks great for tomorrow, hope we pick up enough people to go!

Cheers,
Danielle

Still whales to be seen!

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Hello everyone, we have been confined to shore a lot in the past week due to the typical high fall winds but we did manage to get out on Saturday morning and all day today.

One Saturday we found a large finback off Blacks Harbour and we stopped with seals on Splitting Knife on our way back to St. Andrews.

Today we had 2 trips, this morning we found a finback off Bliss in some rough weather.  We did manage to get some good looks but we made our way to calmer waters were we found a younger minke whale.  This afternoon the wind was stronger and against a strong ebb tide we stayed in the shelter of the Islands where we found 2 minke whales feeding off Casco Bay.  So many birds this afternoon as well feeding in Head Harbour Passage.  We also saw quite a few grey seals on Black Rock.

Thanks for checking in,

Cheers,
Danielle

Fins, Slice and an amazing eagle sighting

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Another very chilly day on the bay!  We started off the entrance to Head Harbour Passage in some serious easterlies but found 2 finbacks, and we got a great look at one of them as he did a series of dives less than 100 feet from the boat.  We then made our way up past Casco Bay Island looking for a minke whale (which we didn’t find there but we found Slice over around Race Rock later in the trip) but we found bald eagles, on Green Island and on a yellow marker not far from there….AMAZING sighting…here are some photos.

We also saw seals at Splitting Knife, was a great trip, THANK YOU to everyone who joined,

Cheers,
Danielle

It’s getting very chilly out there!

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Good evening everyone…our past 2 days we have spent time with the same large, very hard to watch fin whale doing long dives and making some big moves.  We also spent lots of time with minke whales in Head Harbour Passage (including Slice).  The life in Head Harbour continues strong with lots of seabirds feeding as well as porpoise and bald eagles.

Here are some minke photos from October 7

We saw a group of grey seals on Black Rock and they just melted my heart, I really have such an affection for them.

Thanks for checking in today, thought I would leave you with a photo I got of a mom and calf harbour porpoise,

Cheers,
Danielle

Fins and Minkes in October

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Hello everyone, I have 2 days to tell you all about…

Yesterday we had 2 trips, and spent time with 3 minkes in the morning and 3 large finbacks off Blacks in the afternoon.

Here are some photos from yesterday

Minke

Large male grey seal on Black Rock

Today we only had one afternoon trip and we found 3 large finbacks off Blacks Harbour and followed 2 of them as they traveled together at 10 knots!  So great to see some social interaction between these amazing whales.  We also found a minke whale off the entrance to Head Harbour Passage

Fin whale tail

Thanks to everyone who joined us today,

Cheers,
Danielle

Welcome October

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Hello everyone!  I can’t believe that it’s October already!!  We had 2 trips today, our morning departure was just a short 2 hour trip over to Campobello but we did see 2 finbacks (doing 10+ min dives) and a minke whale.  This afternoon we took a BIG run offshore searching for whales but struck out (but you never know unless you make the effort to look) so we made our way to the mouth of Head Harbour Passage with 2 minke whales.

We also had a bald eagle fishing among the other seabirds off Head Harbour

We saw some red-headed greys this morning!!  Also some regular grey seals 😉

Here is a photo of one of the minkes we saw this afternoon.

Cheers,
Danielle