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Whales and Wildlife, Catamaran Style

Author: QuoddyLink

June 18th – 23rd

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It is exciting to be back on the water with Quoddy Link Marine and looking forward to another great season recording the bird life on the Bay of Fundy!

Early summer is a special time of year for the birds of the Bay, when many are busy building nests and raising chicks. It is a great time to visit places like Whitehorse Island, where many of our resident birds are midway through their nesting efforts. HERRING GULLS and GREAT-BLACK BACKED gulls already have chicks that are half grown, while the DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS are at various stages of nest building and incubation. The island is well known for having the southern most colony of BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES in the world. So far the colony looks like it will put forward a strong nesting effort with 65 nests counted and many birds appearing to be on eggs. Last year we had over 80 nests and still the colony failed to produce a single fledged bird so it will be very interesting to see how they do. The COMMON RAVENS have been making an appearance at the island on a regular basis to steal eggs and newly hatched chicks. It is interesting to see quite a few immature, non-breeding kittiwakes on the island, as these birds must have come from another colony. Also on Whitehorse island are a good number of nesting BLACK GUILLEMOTS as well as half a dozen RAZORBILLS that appear to be nesting as well. A few PARASITIC JAEGERS have been sighted harassing feeding kittiwakes around the island.

I have seen a few COMMON EIDER broods, with the largest of 30 chicks being seen in the St. Andrews harbor. This brood is relentlessly attacked by bald eagles. We haven’t been seeing many large groups of feeding birds yet, hopefully this will change when some feed shoes up in our area. Already we are seeing many planktonic animals like moon and lions mane jellyfish that are an indication that productivity is on the rise in the Bay!

Sightings of interest by day:
June 20th – A PEREGRINE FALCON was seen flying over the St. Andrews wharf in the direction on Navy Island. It appeared to be carrying a small songbird. 2 PARASITIC JAEGERS off Bliss Island. Male SURF SCOTER in Western Passage.

June 22nd – 2 immature BONAPARTE’S GULLS were roosting with immature kittiwakes on Whitehorse Island. A single SOOTY SHEARWATER was seen in the Owen Basin area, near Grand Manan.

 

Bald eagle in flight

Bald eagle in flight

Black-legged kittiwakes

Black-legged kittiwakes

Two parasitic jaegers

Two parasitic jaegers

Parasitic jaeger pursuing black-legged kittiwake

Parasitic jaeger pursuing black-legged kittiwake

Nesting double-crested cormorants on Whitehorse. Great black-backed gull chicks in background

Nesting double-crested cormorants on Whitehorse. Great black-backed gull chicks in background

Nesting black-legged kittiwakes on Whitehorse island

Nesting black-legged kittiwakes on Whitehorse island

Immature black-legged kittiwake

Immature black-legged kittiwake

Herring gull nesting on Whitehorse island

Herring gull nesting on Whitehorse island

Herring gull regurgitating food for chicks on Whitehorse island

Herring gull regurgitating food for chicks on Whitehorse island

Great black-backed gulls on Whitehorse

Great black-backed gulls on Whitehorse

Black guillemots

Black guillemots

Razorbills on Whitehorse island

Razorbills on Whitehorse island

Black-legged kittiwakes nesting on Whitehorse island

Black-legged kittiwakes nesting on Whitehorse island

Herring gull nesting on Whitehorse island

Herring gull nesting on Whitehorse island

Black guillemots at nest entrance on Whitehorse island

Black guillemots at nest entrance on Whitehorse island

2014 in review….through video.

Hello everyone, it’s Danielle with Quoddy Link Marine.  As we gear up for another season I thought we could start the year off by taking a look back at some of the highlights of 2014 through video.

Let’s start in July where we had an incredibly rare and exciting sighting of a great white shark only 1 mile out of St. Andrews Harbour!  We were able to get photos and working with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy our sighting has been added to their catalogue and the shark has been named “Quoddy”

Here is a video of our sighting, a BIG thanks to Dave Hannett for sharing this video

Nick also did an interview with CBC radio Shift about the sighting and you can check out the interview here

We had more great shark sightings in 2014 including basking sharks and porbeagles.  The Shark Identification Network on Grand Manan even did a blog post on our sightings and you should check that out here

OK, let’s move on from the white shark sighting and talk about minke whales.  We saw many minke whales through out the season, with minke whale sightings on almost every departure.  Minkes are not always the easiest to watch but they are so beautiful and we do have a particular minke whale in the area who is known for his acrobatics.  We spent time with Gonzo at the beginning of August while he was breaching many times.  Gonzo was first picked up by my co naturalist Nick while he was captaining a zodiac and he got this video

Here is a photo that I took when we arrived

Next I want to look at fin whales.  We had fewer finbacks in our area than previous years and they were later to arrive as well.  Most likely this was due to the lower amount of their preferred food, Atlantic herring, in the area possibly due to record warm temperatures from 2012.  In 2014 we did spend a few weeks with a very special mom and calf fin whale pair (one of three pairs we documented).  Not only was the calf incredibly beautiful with unique markings but this “little” one was very curious making many close inspections of the boat, not a behaviour you often see from finbacks.

Here is a photo of the mom and calf pair, it will be very exciting to see if this young whale returns to the area this summer.

Here is a video of the pair

Nick was also able to get some underwater footage of the calf!!

Now let’s move away from whales, we will come back to them, I promise, but I want to take a look at our incredible sightings of the Mola mola or ocean sunfish.  The Mola mola is the heaviest known teleost (bony fish) with a weight of more than 1000kg!  They are active swimmers and not passive, planktonic swimmers at the mercy of the oceans currents like once believed.  They move by simultaneously stroking their dorsal and anal fins (they lack a caudal fin altogether) and they make substantial vertical movements in the water column.  They are neutrally buoyant without a swimmer bladder due to a low-density subcutaneous gelatinous tissue.  This tissue does not compress with depth and has been reported in some deep sea fishes.  They live on a diet of nutrient-poor jellyfish so they must consume an immense amount to maintain their size.

Here is a video I took from the upper deck of the Quoddy Link

Here are 2 underwater videos that Nick took during 2014

OK, on to humpbacks, I would the say the favourite of many who join us on the water.  We didn’t have very many humpback sightings during 2014 but here is the breakdown
– On September 15th and 16th we spent time with a yearling humpback, the 2013 calf of Apex.  It’s very interesting to document this young whale in the Bay as Apex has never been recorded in Fundy.
– On September 7th, our annual offshore trip where we would hope to find right whales (no rights and hard to search due to weather) we found a trip of humpback; Foggy, Whistler and Vee
– On October 11th we found a pair of humpbacks, Froth and Lacuna.

Here is a video of the 2013 calf of Apex taken on September 16th,  This young whale was very active and we were lucky enough to catch the end of the activity.

OK, now on to the highlight of my season, and one of the top five moments in my 14 years with Quoddy Link Marine.  On October 11th we headed way offshore with a boatload of eager passengers looking for humpbacks and possibly right whales.  Well, we found humpbacks (Lacuna and Froth as I mentioned above) but we also found Old Thom, an adult male orca!!  Killer whale sightings in Fundy are rare but Old Thom has been seen in 2010, 2012 and 2014 off Grand Manan, NB as well as off Brier Island, NS.  This sighting is something I will never, ever forget, if you have ever doubted that the wild is the ONLY place where whales belong please watch this video and maybe you will think about it again.

I also did an interview with CBC radio NB Shift, please check out the interview here.  I get butterflies in my stomach when I think about this sighting and a huge smile comes across my face!

Thank You so much for checking in and reading our 2014 year in review by video.  Let me know if you enjoy reading this blog either here or on the facebook post, I love hearing back from our readers.

I can’t wait to start bringing you sightings from our 2015 season, it’s just around the corner!!

Cheers,
Danielle

 

CBC Radio interview

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Hello everyone, I did an interview with CBC radio “Shift New Brunswick” about our recent sighting of Old Thom, the adult male killer whale we sighted on our trip on Saturday, October 11th and I thought I would share it with you all!  Just click on the photo of Old Thom below and you will be taken to the audio clip!

Thank You so much for all of your comments and questions about Old Thom.  I still check chills when I see the video or his photo or when people stop me on the street here.

Cheers,
Danielle

We met Old Thom….a lone sea wolf in the Bay of Fundy!!

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I don’t even know where to begin,,,,,we had the most amazing trip on Saturday, October 11th!!  We saw a killer whale!!

Let me start from the beginning, it was a beautiful October day and our plan was to run out towards our offshore area, off the Wolves Bank, maybe towards Whale Cove, Grand Manan to search for fin whales with hopes of maybe humpbacks.  So we headed out and we didn’t see anything off the Wolves so we headed towards Grand Manan and still didn’t see any whales so we had the option to head back inshore and watch minkes that we knew were in the Islands or head out, past Grand Manan towards Whitehead Island.  So we talked to our passengers, letting them know the options and that if we continued out into the open Bay of Fundy the trip would be longer (5-6 hours in total).  With everyone game and adventurous spirits we headed out, past Swallowtail (we did see a finback and a minke here but we decided not to wait) to search for humpbacks and possibly even North Atlantic right whales.  About 6 miles past North Head Nick saw a blow…and a tail..it was a humpback!  We slowed down and we waited for the humpback to resurface and something caught my eye….my breath caught and I knew John, our captain and the owner of Quoddy Link, saw the same thing….was it what I thought…or maybe it was a fluke of a right whale on it’s side.  I told Nick to watch 10 o’clock position with us and then a 6 foot dorsal fin started breaking the surface and I screamed….an orca!!  It was Old Thom, an adult male orca who has been seen in the Bay of Fundy in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 as well as off Roseway Basin in 2009.  If you follow this blog at all you are aware how emotional I get and this was no exception.   I was shaking and the tears were flowing freely (as they are know as I remember the experience).  A killer whale sighting in the Bay of Fundy is incredibly rare and yes, they are typically seen in family groups, or pods, but Old Thom is somewhat of a loner.  We spent over 30 minutes with Old Thom as well as the humpbacks, IDed as Froth and Lacuna, that we were waiting for originally.

Here are a bunch of photos of Old Thom

 And the humpbacks, Froth and Lacuna….at one point we had the orca on one side of the Quoddy Link and the pair of humpbacks immediately on the other…both at the surface at the same time!

Froth

Lacuna

Also, a video of our killer whale sighting that Nick took

I want to make sure I mention that we ended up 37 miles from St. Andrews, east of the Clarks Ground and way out of our typical range of our average 3-3.5 hour whale watch (it ended up being almost a 6 hour trip).  We took advantage of the calm weather, adventurous passengers and the desire to close out our 2014 season with a bang!  We were searching for humpbacks and right whales but were reminded you never know what you may find in the open Bay of Fundy!

This was my first wild orca sighting and is so incredibly special to me and is something I will never, ever forget!  THANK YOU to everyone who joined us on Saturday, October 11th…thank you for sharing your enthusiasm and this very special experience with us….THANK YOU to captain John for being willing to take us out into the open Bay of Fundy (I probably shouldn’t share how many hundred litres of fuel we burned!!)…and to Nick, my other half on the water,…I still can’t believe it…we met OLD THOM!!!!

And I am still shaking my head in awe and wonder….

Cheers,
Danielle

The First Week of October

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Good afternoon everyone, it’s a rainy and windy day here in St. Andrews and our 1pm departure has been cancelled so I thought I would take the time to share with you some photos from our trips this past week.

We have been spending time with minke whales in amongst the Islands this past week, we have had quite a bit of wind to deal with but on Monday, October 6th the weather was calm and our Scout Boat headed out to cover all of the offshore areas and search for some larger whales but unfortunately John was unable to locate any whales within our reach of a regular whale watch.

Here are some minke whale photos from the past week

Minke whale, Slice

Minke whale off Wilsons Beach, Campobello Island, NB

On October 3rd, on the flood tide we did see a familiar fin whale off the mouth of Head Harbour Passage.  The same whale was in the area on October 2nd as well, we are still hopeful he may show back up

Fin whale at the mouth of Head Harbour Passage

Fin whale (Bliss Island Light in the background)

We have had some great bald eagle sightings as well this past week

There has been lots of feeding activity in Head Harbour Passage from harbour porpoise and gulls (great black back, herring and Bonaparte’s as well as a few kittiwakes) and we have seen a few northern gannets as well in the area.

Harbour porpoise mom and calf pair

Northern gannet

Northern gannet

The sightings of harbour and grey seals continue to be great on many of the ledges and reefs in the area.

Harbour and grey seals on Black Ledge

Female grey seals

Female grey seal 

Female grey seal 

Young grey seal 

We still have departures scheduled on October 9, 10, 11, 13, 18, and 19th but departures will be available throughout the week if we have interest.  Just call 1-877-688-2600 for information and reservations.

Common loon 

Our Annual Coastal and Pelagic Bird Trip

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Good afternoon everyone, I wanted to share a brief update about our Annual Coastal and Pelagic Bird Trip which was on the morning of Saturday, September 27th.  The weather was perfect and the slower speeds due to oue of our engines being down was no issue with a trip like this!  The highlights of the trip were a 1st winter LITTLE GULL, huge rafts of eider ducks, jaegers, multiple great cormorants and 1000’s of Bonaparte’s gulls.  We also saw three minke whales, lots of porpoise and seals but our focus was on birds.   Look for more photos and an in depth description of our trip on Nick’s Quoddy Link Bird Blog 

Here are a few photos that I took yesterday

A raft of eider ducks, there were more here, all I could get in 

Black guillemots in their winter plumage 

Bonaparte’s gull

Bonaparte’s gull showing characteristic white leading edge of the wing 

On the other trip we did yesterday we did was a chartered trip with a group of international students. We spent time off Spruce Island in Head Harbour Passage with a minke whale and we also saw lots of porpoise and both harbour and grey seals.

One harbour porpoise, the one on the bottom is a reflection 

Check out the characteristic surfacing of the minke whale!

minke

Now for an update on the Quoddy Link herself, we have a mechanic coming down tomorrow (with the parts) and hopefully the boat will be up and running with TWO engines by tomorrow or Tuesday at the very latest!

Thanks you everyone for checking in and thanks to everyone for your patience over the last week with our boat troubles,

Cheers,
Danielle

Still whales around!

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Good afternoon everyone, well, we have had quite a frustrating week dealing with some engine issues.  We do have 2 engines, as we are a power catamaran, so we have been able to do a few trips on ideal weather days on one engine (longer and slower trips but with ideal weather is has been quite relaxing moving at a slower pace…it is NOT a safety concern).  Now that the issues with the engine have been sorted out and the mechanic will be down to help with repairs on Monday we are hoping to back up and running at full speed by next Tuesday or Wednesday.  We do have scheduled departures this weekend, and they will be on one engine and we will be paying close attention to the weather on Sunday afternoon.

We have done a few trips in the past few days and I wanted to share some photos with you of the life in Head Harbour Passage.

A small sampling of the gulls in Head Harbour Passage on the flood tide 

Minke whale surfacing amongst the gulls

Minke whale 

Minke whale 

We have our annual bird cruise this Saturday morning so I will let you all know how it goes!  I will also let you know when the boat is up and running at full speed!

Cheers,
Danielle

Still fin whales and a young humpback!

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Good afternoon everyone, the whale watching continues to be wonderful out of St. Andrews.  On Monday, September 15th we found a young humpback whale off South Wolf, the first humpback sighting in our area of the 2014 season!  We also saw this whale on Tuesday, September 16th and we were treated to some incredible surface activity including tail breaching and tail lobbing (our Scout Boat found the humpback and this young whale was breaching fully for over an hour before we got there and we were so happy the surface activity continued for over 20 minutes when we got there).  The photos are currently at Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in hopes of matching this young whale to the catalogue.

Here are some photos of the humpback we saw

Humpback tail breaching and passenger photographing from the upper deck

Check out those pectoral flippers

We were not able to locate the humpback on Wednesday, September 17th but we found fin whales and got some incredible views.

Fin whale just about to surface

Fin whale calf 

Fin whale calf just under the water, you can see the markings right under the water 

Fin whale approaching the Quoddy, you can see the asymmetrical colouring of the lower jaw 

We are still seeing lots of porpoise and seals as well.

Grey seals 

Harbour seals 

Thanks so much for checking in today!  There is still time to join us on the Bay before our 2014 season comes to a close, call 1-877-688-2600 for reservations.

Cheers,
Danielle

More time with the fin whale mom and calf

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Good morning everyone, we continue to spend time on every departure with the mother and calf fin whale pair that has been hanging out and feeding off South Wolf (there has also been up to 6 other adults in the same area feeding depending on the tide).

Here are some photos of the recent finback sightings including lots of the calf we have fallen completely in love with!!

Fin whale calf

Fin whale calf 

Fin whale calf, you can see the start of the chevron on the left

This fin whale calf often raises the front of his rostrum out of the water

Check out the blowholes!

Beautiful fin whale calf 

Beautiful fin whale calf 

Fin whale mother and calf.  Note the chevron on the left hand side of the the calf, a very unique marking 

Barrel roll from calf 

Mother and calf and another adult (blow)

Partial breach from the calf 

partial breach from the calf, check out the tiny pectoral flipper 

Another barrel roll, they have such beautiful flukes 

Partial breach from the calf 

Also, hopefully very soon I will have some underwater footage of this “little” whale to share with all of you!  THANK YOU NICK!!

As well as our whale sightings we continue to see lots of porpoise as well as both harbour and grey seals and bald eagles around the Islands.

Thanks so much for checking in and I will share that underwater video as soon as I can!

Cheers,
Danielle