Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A photographic look at our 2012 season

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.


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!


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!