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A trip to Machias Seal Island

A trip to Machias Seal Island


On May 24th we had the privledge to visit Machias Seal Island with a group of 20 students from The Huntsman Marine Science Center. Basically a rock with a lighthouse surrounded by shoals, Machias Seal Island is located 10 miles SW of Grand Manan in the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. What makes Machias Seal Island so special is that it is a nesting site for colonies of Atlantic puffins, razorbills, common murres and Arctic terns. The 3 1/2 hour trip out down Western Passage and out through the Lubec Narrows was calm and surprisingly warm for late May. About 8 miles from our destination we started seeing Atlantic puffins and razorbills.

When we arrived at the island we saw hundreds of razorbills and common murres rafting on the surface of the water and the odd Atlantic Puffin flying by.


These pictures are razorbills, a heavy-headed, short necked alcid that can be identified by it’s thick bill (with a white line that extends from the base of the bill to the eye) and long tail which points upward while swimming.

Alcids are diving birds who use their wings instead of their feet to propel themselves, or fly, under the water in search of food. Other alcids in the Bay of Fundy are Atlantic puffins, common murres, dovekies and black guillemots.

Ccommon murres also nest on Machias Seal Island. They can be difficult to differentiate from the razorbills at first glance but with their long, thin bills and almost chocolate brown colour with a close look you can see the difference. Common murres also have a thin, white eye ring.


The birds on the rocks here are common murres. One of birds that nest on Machias is difficult to photograph unless you land on the Island. The Arctic tern was flying overhead our entire visit, screeching and shrieking, warning us to stay away from their nests. If you are a visitor on the island, they actually give you a stick to hold because the terns will “dive-bomb” your head and try and strike the highest point. If you hold a stick, the stick gets hit with their pointed bill instead of your head. Arctic terns are champion long distance migrants, wintering in Antarctica and nesting as far north as the Arctic, traveling an annual distance of more than 40, 000 km. Terns can easily be identified by their long tail feathers, thin sharply pointed back wings and shrill call.
On our trip home we spent some time with nesting black-legged kittiwakes and double-crested cormorants on Whitehorse Island.


We also stopped at a common seal haul-out site, Splitting Knife, a shoal that’s barely visible at high tide, but as the water ebbs becomes an ideal spot for harbour and grey seals to haul out and bathe in the sun.

Machias Seal Island is a rare and special place. It is actually a disputed territory with both Canada and the USA staking claim to the land. Canada has maintained the island for so long that it basically has “Squatters Rights”. It also has the only manned lighthouse in the maritimes. You can visit Machias Seal Island through tour companies located on Grand Manan, NB and Machias, ME.

We are looking forward to our whale watching season, it’s just around the corner now. We saw quite a few harbour porpoise on our trip to Machias Seal Island which is a good sign. I’ll make sure to keep you posted on everything we are seeing as the season continues, so check back often, or better yet, coming whale watching with Quoddy Link Marine…Catamaran Style starting June 24th.

Meet Squalus, a humpback from our 2005 season

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Hello, it’s Danielle again, senior naturalist and photographer with Quoddy Link Marine. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve identified another humpback from our 2005 season…

This humpback was named Squalus at the 2006 whale naming conference in Provincetown, MA. The name Squalus comes from the black markings on the upper left corner of the fluke (the pattern is difficult to see in this picture). Squalus comes from the genus for dogfish sharks, including the spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias), which is a very common smaller shark (up to 3.5 feet) found in the Bay of Fundy.

We look forward to seeing you in the summer for our 2006 season. We start whale watching on June 25th. Come see everything the Bay of Fundy has to offer with Quoddy Link Marine….Catamaran Style.

The 2006 season is quickly approaching…

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Hi there, my name is Danielle Dion, senior naturalist and photographer with Quoddy Link Marine. That’s me on our Scout Boat photographing Hobo, a humpback whale (photo taken by Isabelle Coultier). I just wanted to let you know how I’ve been keeping myself busy until the season starts on June 25th. There were some humpbacks and a special finback from the 2005 season I wanted to identify and with the help of Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, MA and Allied Whale in Bar Harbor, ME, most of the mysteries were solved. Here’s some of the whales that we saw last year…

This is Parachute, a humpback we saw in 2004 and 2005. Humpbacks are most commonly seen in our area from late August – October, but in 2005 we started seeing humpbacks in late July.

Quarternote

Diver

Trillium (the 2004 calf of Quote)

Hobo

Downsweep (the 2004 calf of Clamp)


A finback, Raggedy. Finbacks are the second largest animal in the world, at lengths of up to 75 feet and weighing over 200,000 lbs. We usually watch finbacks from the beginning of July-October.

A close encounter with a minke whale. Minkes are the “smallest” whale we get in the Bay of Fundy at 25-30 feet and 20,000 lbs. Minkes are usually the first of the whales to arrive, showing up in June.

I also had the opportunity to attend the 2006 humpback whale naming conference in Provincetown, MA. Scientists and naturalists along the north Atlantic coast gather once a year to give names to re-sighted calves and previously un-named humpbacks. All humpbacks are given names based on the black and white patterns on the underside of their flukes (they are all different, as unique as a fingerprint, take a look at the pictures above and see if you can tell the difference between the 6 humpbacks). The grouped selected one of my suggestions, so I got to name a
humpback whale. The name chosen was Mascara, have a look at the left side of the fluke on this image and see if you can guess why I suggested this name.

This is a humpback from our 2004 season. “He” got named at the 2006 whale naming event in Provincetown, MA. Meet Cork, the 2002 calf of Mica.

Next summer we’ll be providing pictures and latitude/longitude data from humpbacks and finbacks to the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies and Allied Whale. This is the first year we’ll be a part of this important research and it’s very exciting for us. By keeping a close eye on humpback and finback individuals, both of which are endangered, the scientists can get a better look at the population as a whole.

We look forward to seeing you in the summer. We start whale watching at the end of June. Come whale watching with Quoddy Link Marine and experience everything that the Bay of Fundy has to offer…Catamaran Style.