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Whales and Wildlife, Catamaran Style

Month: May 2014

A look back at our 2013 season and towards 2014, our 20th season on the Bay of Fundy!

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Hello everyone, it’s Danielle with Quoddy Link Marine!  It was a long, cold and snowy winter but I am super excited to be back once again with Quoddy Link for another season, it will actually be my 13th season on the catamaran!  I will be continuing with my photography and videos as well as collecting as much data as possible for various research organizations (Allied Whale in Bar Harbor, ME, Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, MA, NEAq Right Whale research team out of Lubec, ME (but part of the NEAq, Boston, MA),  the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station in Grand Manan, NB).  The data collection is something I have been doing since 2006 and it really is a privilege to donate our sightings to these organisations and to be a part of understanding the movements and population structures of these animals on a larger scale.  As we come into our 20th season (officially opens on June 21st) I though I would take a photographic look back at our 2013 season so here we go….

June

Out season started off wonderfully as we were seeing minke whales on every single trip and we even saw our first fin whale earlier than previous year, on June 24th.  There were great seal sightings on various ledges and the nesting birds looked to have a healthy population on Whitehorse Island.

Herring Gull and some young chicks 

minke whale

2 eaglets in the nest on White Island 

Finback whale 

Female grey seal with harbour seals 

Young harbour seal pup

July

July started off with a bang….on the 3rd of July we had the privilege of watching a breaching minke off the northern end of Campobello Island, a rare sight for the most seasoned whale watcher.

The seabirds were still nesting during July and we saw the young hatchlings grow on Whitehorse Island.  We also continued to see both harbour and grey seals on the popular haul out sites around the Islands.

Harbour seals 

Gull chick on Whitehorse Island

Black-legged kittiwake trying to keep cool

Male grey seal

Black-legged kittiwake and chick

By the end of July the nests were looking very crowded 

Great and double-crested cormorant 

Harbour porpoise 

We were seeing minke whales on almost every trip and finbacks as well towards the second part of the month.

Slice, a minke whale everyone in the area is quite affectionate about 

Finner

Finner

Minke whale off Head Harbour Light 

Finback whale 

Fin whale off a herring weir 

On July 22nd I got a text from our friends at Whales-n-Sails on Grand Manan that they were with a pair of humpbacks off Long Eddy Light, about 20 nm from St. Andrews but withing our reach on a regular whale watch (the Quoddy Link is the fastest of the large boats in St. Andrews and is an incredibly stable platform with it’s double hulls).  When we arrived the pair appeared to be sleeping, maintaining their position in the tide rip but we were patience and spent some time with them and got some great looks at both of their tails (the pigmentation on the underside of their tails is used for individual ID and this is part of the research I am involved in).  The one humpback was IDed as Hat Trick and the other is still classified as an “unknown” and not part of the Gulf of Maine Catalogue.  To our surprise this was our only humpback sighting of the 2013 season….we are hoping more humpbacks feed in our area this season and I will keep you posted (typically we see more humpbacks in our area from mid-August-October but each and every season is very different).

Hat Trick 

Unknown humpback 

August

August continued with fantastic sightings of both minke and finback whales, porpoise, seals and a variety of seabirds.  All of the feeding activity was contained in the inshore area although we did check out the offshore grounds off the Wolves and towards Grand Manan on a regular basis.

Immature bald eagle soaring over Whitehorse Island 

2 female and 1 male grey seal 

minke 

finner

Bonaparte’s gull feeding on krill

Fin whale lunge feeding, you can see the ventral pleats extended on the left hand side of the image 

Finback whale showing blaze and chevron 

Great black back gull and herring gull

Fin whale 

Minke 

Razorbill father and chick 

Finback whale 

Fin whale approaching the Quoddy Link 

1000’s of gulls in Head Harbour Passage 

On August 12th we had a memorable encounter with a finback at the mouth of Head Harbour Passage, it was such a calm and peaceful morning and this video describes the experience well,

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Our only basking shark sighting on 2013 was on August 20th a few miles off Whitehorse Island.  All of our basking shark sightings are submitted to the Shark Identification Network on Grand Manan Island, NB.

August 29th was my most memorable day of our 2013 season, on all three departures we spent time with North Atlantic right whale 3513 and her 2013 calf.  3513 was born in 2005 and this was her first calf.  North Atlantic right whales are born down south, off the coast of Florida and Georgia and they migrate north with their calves to the feeding grounds in the Guld of Maine.  There were very few right whales documented in the Bay of Fundy during 2013 so this sighting was extra special…and also was in a very unexpected area….right up Head Harbour Passage, off Eastport, Maine.  The pair travelled between US and Canadian waters (the regulations are different depending on where you are with regards to how close you can be) and there was some boat traffic through out the day so we were patient and ecologically conscious with our sightings. It was a very special day and was so great to share with all of our passengers.

Right whale research team from the New England Aquarium photographing 3513 and her 2013 calf 

North Atlantic right whale 3513 

3513

3513 and her 2013 calf 

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September

September continued in much the same way as the rest of the season, with consistent sightings of both minke and finback whales on every departure (the number of whales and species would obviously vary from trip to trip).  Towards the end of September we had a number of days were 8-10 fin whales would feed together, quite aggressively off South Wolf and just as quickly as they would come together they would separate as soon as the tide began to slack.  The seal, porpoise and seabird sightings continued as well, although the number of shearwaters and gannets in our area was much lower in 2013 than in previous years.

a fin whale and a passenger on the foredeck 

Northern gannet 

Looking at the nostrils, or blowholes, of a finner

Pair of fin whales 

female grey seals in the evening light 

Pair of finbacks 

On September 20th we again had the privilege of seeing a breaching minke whale!  This time the whale as up Head Harbour Passage, right off Wilson’s Beach, Campobello Island.  There are some whale researchers who may go their entire career and never see a minke whale breach but we have a few individual whales in our area who are quite active at the surface.

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October

Our final few weeks of whale watching continued with minke and fin whale sightings and the surface feeding increased in high tidal areas like the mouth of Head Harbour Passage.  We were seeing lunge feeding fin whales on the flood tide on almost every departure.  Seabirds, seals and porpoise also continued to be abundant during October all the way to the end our 2013 season.

Finback blow off Campobello Island 

Lunge feeding fin whale 

Watching fin whales in Head Harbour Passage off the upper deck of the Quoddy Link 

Minke whale and harbour porpoise 

harbour seal 

Young male grey seal and small harbour seal 

As I look back on our 2013 season I want to thank everyone who joined us aboard the Quoddy Link and who took the time to read this blog.  I will be continuing the blog for 2014 and if there is something different or anything specific you would like to see here please feel free to leave a comment.  We are all excited for our 2014 season, our 20th season on the Bay of Fundy which will officially begin on June 21st.  We are already getting reports of whales in the Bay of Fundy including humpbacks and fin whales south of Grand Manan and off Brier Island and minke whale sightings off Eastport, Maine!!  And for all of you birders out there we will be doing bird cruises as well this season and don’t forget to follow Nick’s Quoddy Link Bird blog for all of your Bay of Fundy ornithological information.   Don’t forget to like our facebook page to get up-to-date information on whale sightings, interesting ocean facts and contests to win whale watching passes!

Thanks for checking in and we are looking forward to introducing you to the Bay of Fundy catamaran-style!