Saturday, August 2, 2008

Close encounters of the Giant Kind!

The weather here in St. Andrews has been hard to predict lately! Amazing flat calm conditions with crystal clear skies and spectacular sightings lead way to cool and damp weather but still magnificent whale and wildlife sightings!! Island Quest has had up close and personal viewings with the amazing finback on every departure.. including a mother and calf that has returned to the Bay of Fundy.

For Fin whales mating occurs in temperate, low-latitude seas during the winter, and the gestation period is eleven months to one year. A newborn weans from its mother at 6 or 7 months of age when it is 11 or 12 meters (36 to 39 ft) in length, and the calf follows the mother to the winter feeding ground. Females reproduce every 2 to 3 years, with as many as 6 fetuses being reported, but single births are far more common. Females reach sexual maturity at between 3 and 12 years of age.

The photo to the left just shows how absolutely enormous a fin whale can be! Breathtaking!

The Fin Whale is one of the fastest cetaceans and can sustain speeds of 37 kilometers per hour (23mph or 20kts), and bursts in excess of 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph or 22 kts) have been recorded, earning the Fin Whale the nickname "the greyhound of the deep". Fin Whales are more gregarious than other rorquals, and often live in groups of 6–10 individuals but most commonly in the Bay of Fundy are seen individually or under circumstances when there is a lot of feed (schooling fish/herring) in the area multiple fins can be seen lung feeding or even bubble netting. Both activities absolutely stunning to see.
The fin whale's speed, plus the fact that they prefer the vastness of the open sea, gave them almost complete protection from the early whalers. With modern whaling methods, however, finback whales became easy victims. As blue whales became depleted, the whaling industry turned to the smaller, still abundant fin whales as a replacement. As many as 30,000 fin whales were slaughtered each year from 1935 to 1965. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) placed them under full protection in 1966 beginning with the North Pacific population. Precise estimates are unavailable today, but it is thought that present populations are about 40,000 in the northern hemisphere and 15,000-20,000 in the southern hemisphere, a small percentage of the original population levels.

I hope you enjoyed this little history lesson on the fin whale as much as I have, I find everything about nature to be enthralling! Check back next time for more sightings and science from your local marine biologist at Island Quest, St. Andrews Best! Take Care!

Monday, July 28, 2008

World-class Sightings

Whale sightings have been wonderfully consistent with the Minke and Fin being seen every day in and around East Quoddy Light, yesterday on the 5pm departure we got to spend some time with a very small Minke...probably only about 10-12 feet in length! The gestation period for minke whales is 10 months and babies measure 2.4 to 2.8 metres (7'10" to 9'2") at birth. The newborns nurse for five months.

Common minke whales (northern hemisphere variety) are distinguished from other whales by a white band on each flipper. The body is usually black or dark-grey above and white underneath. Most of the length of the back, including dorsal fin and blowholes, appears at once when the whale surfaces to breathe. The whale then breathes 3-5 times at short intervals before 'deep-diving' for 2-20 minutes. Deep dives (terminal dives)are preceded by a pronounced arching of the back. The maximum swimming speed of minkes has been estimated at 20-30 km/h. Minke whales have between 240 and 360 baleen plates on each side of their mouths. Minke whales typically live for 30-50 years; in some cases they may live for up to 60 years.

Bird sightings have definitely been amazing for the past week, Eagles, Razorbill Auks, Black legged kittiwakes, puffins and Bonaparte's Gulls just to name a few! Now the Bonaparte's Gull is one of my favorite to see out there in the Bay of Fundy and yesterday they were everywhere!

Adults are 31-34 cm long with a 79-84 cm wingspan. They have a black hood and a short thin dark bill. The body is mainly white with pale grey back and upper wings. The underwing is pale and the wing tips are dark. They have orange legs. In winter, the head is white.

The amount of birds in one area is unbelievable...multiple species of gulls all feeding on the immense amount of fish in the water column! In the photo above you can see Herring Gulls flying and feeding in Quoddy River.

I'll leave you with a picturesque view of Greenspoint light with the harbour seals on splitting knife. Cheers!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fins, Minkes and Porpoise!

Such a great few days have gone past! So much to see in the Bay of Fundy, I feel so amazingly lucky to have grown up here and now to share my expertise for what I love with the folks that join us on the Island Quest!

Sightings included Fin whales, Minke whales, Harbour Porpoise, Harbour and Gray Seals, Eagles, Razorbill Auks, Puffins and many different sea birds! Amazingggggg!...

The Harbour Porpoise grow to be 1.4 m to 1.9 m (4.6-6.2 ft). The females are correspondingly heavier, with a maximum weight of around 76kg's (167 pounds) compared with the males' 61 kg's (134 pounds). The body of the porpoise is quite robust and the animal is at its maximum girth just in front of its triangular dorsal fin. The beak is poorly demarcated. The flippers, dorsal fin, tail fin and back are a dark grey. The sides are a slightly speckled lighter grey. The underside is much whiter, though there are usually grey stripes running along the throat from the underside of their body.

The species is widespread in cooler coastal waters in the Northern Hemisphere, largely in areas with an average temperature of about 15°C. In the Atlantic, Harbour Porpoises may be present in a concave band of water running from the coast of western Africa round to the eastern seaboard of the USA. Distribution shown in Blue.

Gray seal in the midst of a group of Harbour seals on splitting knife!
The entrance to Passamaquoddy Bay. Gorgeous.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Greetings from St. Andrews! The past few days have been packed full of Minke and Finback Whales and it seems as though the "Big Whales" are here to stay! Sightings on every departure for the past few days have included those elusive giants (Finbacks).

Finbacks, or fin whales, are the second largest whale in the world growing to lengths of 40' - 80' (the largest ever recorded being 88' in length!! WOW!) and can reach weights up to 70,000kg's.

The fin whale has a series of 56–100 pleats or grooves along the bottom of the body that run from the tip of the chin to the navel that allow the throat area to expand greatly during feeding. It has a curved, prominent (approx. 60cm, 24in) dorsal fin about three-quarters of the way along the back. Its flippers are small and tapered, and its tail is wide, pointed at the tip, and notched in the centre.

Regularly sighted on our whale watch during the peak whale season (July- October), the fin whales provide our guests with the chance to view the second largest mammal on our planet. With a blow (exhalation at the surface) up to 20' high the first sign of a fin is that distinctive "wooooshhh" of air and water.

Found commonly in temperate and cool waters, such as the Bay of Fundy, they are also found in all the worlds oceans.
Tune in next time for your Bay of Fundy updates with your local marine biologist at Island Quest Marine! Leaving you with a video of your vessel custom built by Captain Chris, the beautiful Island Quest, cruising into the harbour. Take care and see you soon!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Spy Hopper

Today was AMAZING, no other word to describe it. It's funny because I still get so excited when I see wildlife out in the Bay and our guests can tell, they usually ask me how long I've been working for Island Quest (10 Years) because of the level of excitement and enthusiasm I have for what we do.

So! Today was awesome... The Island Quest had a Minke Whale (approx. 30ft) around White Island, the shape of the dorsal fin identified it as a different Minke whale than the one that we have been watching regularly. The Island Quest stayed for over an hour with the friendly giant and to our surprise "he" wanted to check us out as much as we wanted to see him. The Whale SPY HOPPED! An amazing thing to see, it is thought that whales do this to get a better view of what is on the surface, whether it be prey in the case of some species of whale or to watch the whale watchers in our case!

This particular Minke was travelling quite a bit though not staying down for too long of a duration, the guests onboard were lucky enough to see, hear and even smell "him" as "he" exhaled at the surface.

Not only were the whales great (at one point we were watching 2 Minkes at the same time) but we also saw 5 American Bald Eagles on our short but wildlife-packed 3 hour departure. Seals were swimming around the boat on many occasions while we were watching other marine life and taking in the great scenery around East Quoddy Head Lighthouse. Notice the immature eagle sitting on the rocks in front of the lighthouse.

The tide was on it's way in so the seals (Harbour and Gray) were mostly in the water around Splitting Knife and locally known Ram's Ledge on Casco Bay Island. Being very inquisitive, the seals often watch us as much as we watch them!

I'll leave you with some video clips as well as some photos that I couldn't help but post from today, also a note to say THANK YOU so much to the great folks that have gone Cruisin' with the Whales. The emails, photos and comments are all wonderful, we hope to see you out again!
Calm Seas

Friendly Giants, upclose and personal!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Calm seas, no fog and great wildlife!

Greetings from St. Andrews, NB! The weather has been great for the past few days and we have been taking full advantage of i! The Island Quest has had some AWESOME sightings, friendly Minkes have been the highlight for our guests the past few days. Here are some photos I took while out on
the Island Quest.

The two photos are of the same Minke, notice the hooked dorsal fin on it's back. Minkes are on average between 20 and 30 feet in length.

This particular Minke has been sighted a few times on our departures in and around Campbobello Isl. and Whitehorse Isl.

The islands and beautiful scenery make for a wonderful backdrop when photographing the marine wildlife that we are so lucky to have in this area.

Always a pleasure to watch, the local Harbour Seals and Gray Seals haul out and sun themselves as the tide goes down over the rocks.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Minkes in Quoddy River!

I would like to wish everyone a Happy Canada Day from the crew here at Island Quest! We had such a beautiful day today out on the Bay. Island Quest's sightings included a Minke, Gray Seals, Harbour Seals, Porpoise, Eagles and lots of nesting sea birds. The weather was great, though there was a fog bank hanging off in the distance, our guests were awesome and I got to chat with all of them during our cruise. Here are a few videos and photos of our friendly wildlife provided to you by the crew at your local Island Quest Marine, Your Ultimate Bay of Fundy Adventure! I look forward to seeing you soon!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Finbacks and Minkes sighted by Island Quest!

The first finback of 2008!!!
We had an amazing day today here at Island Quest! The first fin whale of the 2008 season! The sightings were great, I almost forgot to take photos! haha. The finback whale is the second largest whale in the world and can reach 80ft in length!! Island Quest was privileged enough to be one of the first St. Andrews whale watchers to find this magnificent mammal thanks to the help of the local fisherman. Captain Chris estimated the fin whales length to be approx. 60 ft!!

The weather was great today, the winds cooperated and our guests were wonderful! A full tour of Whales, Eider ducks, American Bald Eagles, Guillemot, Harbour Seals and Porpoise made for a spectacular day out on the Bay of Fundy.

Hope to see you all here in St. Andrews at Island Quest Marine, St. Andrews most recommended Whale and Wildlife adventure.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Greetings from St. Andrews by-the-Sea!

Another spectacular whale and wildlife season is upon us once again!

The 2008 season has started off with great sightings, our local seal population were the first to greet the Island Quest and it's passengers upon entering the Bay of Fundy. We have two species of seals here, the Harbour Seal (4-6ft in length and approx. 200lbs.) as well as the larger of the two, the Gray Seal (6-8ft, reaching a weight of approx. 733lbs.!). The conservation status of both the Harbour and Gray seals are of lower risk, ranging from least concern to nearly threatened.
Another Island Quest favorite has been spotted regularly on our 2½ to 3 hour cruise, the Harbour Porpoise. The Harbour Porpoise is one of the smallest ocean mammals, their size ranges from 4.6 - 6.2ft in length and are on average 120lbs. Considered a threatened species, the harbour porpoise is not commercially hunted. These little guys are the hardest to photograph because they're just so darn quick!
Our nature cruises just wouldn't be complete without seeing those majestic American Bald Eagles, a regular for the experienced Island Quest crew to point out. Recently taken off the endangered species list, the Eagles here in the Passamaquoddy Bay-Bay of Fundy region are thriving. Here are a few photos I've snapped since our opening June 10th! Hope you enjoy!

Getting the Island Quest ready for launch day with the help of my neice and nephew, Hannah and Dylan, they love to help out with the boat!

Great views of an aquaculture site from our top deck!

Local Cormorants, one of the many types of birds we see aboard the Island Quest. Notice the outstretched wings, cormorants are less water resistant than other diving birds so they dry themselves by holding open their wings.

One of my favorites, the mature American Bald Eagle sitting atop one of it's usual hang outs. Stunning!