Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Holiday Gift Ideas

Are you wondering what to give that special someone for a gift. Why not consider adopting a humpback whale? The recipient will receive a framable certificate, a biography, sighting history of "their" whale as well as fact sheets and our annual newsletter for 5 years. The cost is $25 and is directly applied to our research efforts. More information on our program can be found at

One of our adoptables, Foggy.

Another gift idea is a gift certifcate for whale watching.

For any information on these ideas please call 1-800-656-3660. (Toll free USA and Canada)

Monday, November 5, 2007

End of Season Summary

The 2007 whale watching season came to an official close for us on a very windy October 16. Even though the weather was not the best, sightings were good despite the choppy water. During the last few cruises, we watched the humpbacks as they fed at the surface on krill, a small shrimp-like crustacean. The water appeared red with the abundance of the substance much to the satisfaction of the whales!
Humpback whale feeding on krill
We do know that another whale watching company that runs a zodiac out of Tiverton was still doing cruises up until this past weekend and was reporting successful cruises. These whales have been known to stick around in the Bay of Fundy even up until December and Lobster fishermen have sighted them in January! Usually these whales migrate to much warmer waters, like the humpback whose winter breeding grounds are found in the Caribbean.
The season was the best we have ever had in 24 years of research. We have identified 169 individual humpback whales which includes 19 calves and 18 new individuals sighted by us in the Bay of Fundy. Right now, we are working on the photographs and data that were collected and organizing those to be sent to Provencetwon Center for Coastal Studies, Allied Whale, New England Aquarium and Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
We are thankful to Jooke Robbins of PCCS who helped to identify the new whales for us including a mother that we sighted in June. Jooke just identified her as Stalagmite, a whale that hasn't been seen anywhere since 1992!


Other whales identified during the last part of the season were Bat, Jurassic, Alpha, Grommet, Perimeter, Frost, Tab and 0985. (unnamed)

Be sure to check with our blog every week as we hope to post new information about the whales and any announcements throughout the winter months.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

An Overdue Update!

A humpback whale named "Pierce".

Hello everyone! Again I apologize for the lapse in the updates! It's not that we're not seeing whales, we are and plenty of them! In the last week we have added soem new individuals to our list, there are whales that we have not seen in the Bay of Fundy. The whales identified were: Dome, Pierce (Previously sighted this year by Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies), and Trickle. We also documented some familier whales that have just been sighted for the first time this year and they were: PD, Spoon, and Frost. These humpback whales bring our sightings to a total of 166 individual humpback whales! A record year for Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises!

Students of Westport Village School

On October 5, we had the pleasure of hosting a number of students and parents from our local school on their annual whale watch. Every fall I (Shelley) go into the classroom and give a power point presentation to the students of Westport Village School. A few days following the presentation, after a few cancellations because of weather, they were able to go out on a beautiful calm day. The first whale that was sighted was Rooftop (One of our adopt a whales) who as a reaction to dolphins that were nearby, breached much to our delight! After Rooftop approached us, we watched two more humpback whales that were identified as Trickle and Spar.

Our last cruise will be on October 16 at 130pm. We are sorry to see the season come to an end as we know that there are still whales out there to be see. However, we will be conducting some reseach cruises and I will keep you posted as to what was seen.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Great Day in the Fog!

Calf breaching next to our boat, the Cetacean Search
Fog certainly does not stop us from having great cruises and September 22nd proved just that. Our boat, the Cetacean Search was just heading out when we received a call that our other boat, the Mega Nova was with two humpback whales. On foggy days, the whale watching boats work
together to make it easier for others to locate the whales. Usually we rely on our ears to find them in the fog and this process can take us a bit of time. The first two whales we watched were Shark and her calf which were travelling. We watched them for a bit then decided to go and find something else. We then found Flash and her calf and an adult male named Cloud, who is the oldest whale of known age. He was born in 1977. Shortly after we started watching them, the calf started to breach......and breach......and breach for two hours straight. At one point, the calf breached so close that it it got some of our passengers wet. Our crowd went wild, and we even had our very own cheerleading section! It is indeed the whales and the people that make for a great cruise and in the 18 years that I have been whale watching, I have to say that this was the best day that I have ever experienced!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Another new species for 2007!

The high dorsal fin of a Sei whale!

Hi Everyone! Whale watching continues to be at its finest on the Bay of Fundy. We are still seeing a fair number of humpback whales in the area as well as some visitors to the Bay of Fundy. On September 18, our research boat, the Cetacean Search, went out on a short research cruise to locate other humpback whales that may be just outside our usual viewing area. We covered quite an area and when approaching one of the usual spots, we sighted several spouts in the distance. We were very excited thinking that we had found more humpbacks and that possibly we would be documenting some new ones. As we got closer, we noted the dorsal fins to be quite high and immediately identified them as Sei whales! This species is normally found further offshore and are not indigenous to the Bay of Fundy. They are though, a baleen whale and feed on the same food, copepods, as right whales. We were not surprised to see a right whale nearby. After recording the 16 Sei whales in the area, we continued up the Bay only to find a large pod, well, 50 or so, Pilot Whales. You may recall in an earlier post that we had sighted this species previously in the season.

North Atlantic Right Whale

We added a few new individuals since the last post as well. New to the Bay of Fundy are Owl, Kalimba and Raindrop's 2005 calf.

Humpback whale named Owl.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

September is so far, so good!

Mocha's 2007 calf coming in for a close look!

I can't believe it's been almost two weeks since my last post. I'm so terribly sorry for keeping everyone waiting! The month thus far has been full of activity and more humpback whales being added to our sightings list. 2007 has proven to be a record year for sightings of individuals and of calves. The highlight was Mocha's calf who was very curious of the boat. This always makes for a special occasion as whale watchers become awed at just how intelligent these animals really are. The calf circled the boat and spy hopped several times so that everyone could see her. Calves are born in the Caribbean during the winter, making them about 9 months of age at this time of year.

Our count is now at 156 individual humpback whales. The whales that we have identified within the last two weeks have been: Tab, Blanco, Cone, Pyramid, Decimal, Chromosome and Quote. We also sighted Mr. Burns close by, who is one of our favourites! Mr Burns received his name from us because his doral fin resembles the nose of a character on a popular cartoon series. We have since found out that his "real" name is Ibex and he was born in 1988 to Petrel. He will always be Mr. Burns to us.

The highlight of the weeek was our short cruise to the Grand Manan Basin to take one of our volunteers to see the right whales, which she has never seen before. There were still a few in the area including one mother and calf pair.

We are looking forward to the upcoming weeks, as we never know what it may bring. We are hoping to conduct several more dedicated research cruises and try to find some of the individuals that have yet to be found.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Close Encounters of the Whale Kind!

Hello everyone and thanks for checking in! We are very pleased to report that we have been seeing many whales in the last few days, mainly humpback whales but also a few fin whales and minke whales. On August 28 we were pleased to sight North Atlantic Right Whale, the rarest large whale in the world. They are considered to be critically endangered.

Tigris coming in for a closer look!

Each cruise does indeed offer something different and on a few occasions the humpbacks approached the boat to examine the occupants within by spy hopping next to the boat. This is when they lift their head out of the water to see what is above. This curious behaviour does not happen very often but when it does, it is quite memorable! Each humpback whale seems to have their own personalities and there are some who are more prone to come close to the boats such as Peajack, Tigris and Lacuna.

Peajack and Tigris approaching our boat the Cetacean Search.

On top of a humpback's head, you will notice that they have a lot of bumps there and they are called tubercles. Each one has a hair growing from it that has a sensory function. So probably very sensitive to its surroundings. At times we will see humpbacks playing in rock weed streaks, raising their heads through the rock weed, seeming to like the feel of it on the tubercles. Lacuna was amusing us by doing this on August 30. It was fun to watch how whales will play with the kelp the same way a kitten plays with a roll of string!

We continue to add to our calf list. It has turned out to be a record breaking year with the arrival of 19 calves! This number is far better than our typical 3 or 4 that we usually see during the summer. The latest mother that has arrived in the Bay has been Wigwam.

Friday, August 24, 2007

What a great day!

OK, just when I thought things couldn't get any better....but on Wednesday, August 22 we decided to conduct an all day research cruise to determine just where the larger numbers of humpback whales have been hanging out. We have been seeing quite a number of humpbacks on our regular 3 hour whale watch cruise but we wanted to get a general idea of just what was out there. We left port at 6 AM and headed south to an area called the McDormand Patch, but were forced to go elsewhere when the fog shut in and we were glad we did! It wasnt' too far into the cruise when we spotted 9 whales in the vicinity and all were involved in surface feeding. We were able to determine that they were feeding on krill, a small shrimp-like crustacean. Once we documented and photographed the individuals, we headed further and found more humpbacks. As the day progressed we were able to record 39 individual humpback whales, including two mother and calf pairs! They were identified as Knuckles, Foggy and Vector. Other whales that we photoidentified and sighted for the frist time in 2007 were: Mallard, Stub (Who we haven't seen here in the Bay since 1988), Hopper, Sequin, Ditto, Dapple, Spy, Porthole, Bungee and Cat's Paw.
We also recorded a number of Pilot whales in the area as well. This species is not native to the Bay of Fundy but will occasionally wander into the area chasing prey. The most interesting behavior that we witnesses was when Sunburst and his companion charged after the Pilots, as if protecting their territory. Maybe there is a reason why these smaller toothed whales do not come into the Bay!
Sunburst chasing Pilot Whales

To top things off , Gremlin and Luna flipper slapped next to the boat and for the grand finale, Gremlin breached so close I could almost touch him.

I felt so fortunate that day to have a job that I love, where I can observe these animals in their own habitat and for them not to feel threatened by our boats. Things sure have come a long way since the whaling days when boat were a definite threat. Now these creatures can approach these boats, investigating the occupants within and not feel that threat, instead we are in awe!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Brier Island Whales and Weather

Greetings whale watchers! The weather and whales have been excellent at Brier Island The last few days! Not only has the fog cleared......and hoping it stays that way.....but the whales have moved in as well. We have noticed an abundance of krill in our waters, which has been enticing the herring and the whales into our area. Not only are we seeing more humpbacks righ now but also more fin whales too! Fin whales are the second largest whale in the world, reaching lengths of 80 feet! Most of the humpback whales that we have seen have seen have been individuals that we have sighted previously such as Ase, Milkyway, Baton, Patch, Flame, Gondolier, Slumber, Raindrop, Foggy and her 2007 calf, Colorado and Patches. The above photo is of Foggy's calf. We have also documented some new whales for our area and they were identified as Calanus, Unequal, Mets, Iron and Zero. On a sad note Colorado was sighted without her calf. We had previously documented her with a calf in June but were dismayed when she was without. She was close by Foggy and her calf as if she wanted to be nursemaid. Sad!

Humpback whale named Ase.

Another treat has been sightings of the rarest large whale in the world, North Atlantic Right Whales. We were pleased to see a mother and her calf.

The birds have been very numerous with sightings of Puffins, Northern Gannets, Northern Fulmars, Wilson's Storm Petrels, Greater Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, an occasional Manx Shearwater, Red and Red Necked Phalaropes.

Phalaropes in flight.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Whales Galore!

Lunge feeding humpback whales

Last night was one of the best cruises that I have been on so far this year. There were plenty of humpback whales on Moore's Ledge due to the abundance of herring and krill. Whales could be seen surface feeding on the mixture. There was plenty of activity as well with breaching, tail breaching and tail lobbing.

Last week, we were able to conduct a short research cruise. It was quite productive as we documented two new moms for the area. They were identified as Shuttle (a local favourite) and Mocha. this brings our Bay of Fundy calf count to 13!

As always we are looking forward to the upcoming cruises, never knowing what they may bring!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Whales in the Bay of Fundy Fog

OK, so where did all this fog come from? But not to worry, whales are still being sighted. It's always a bit intriguing to go whale watching in the fog. Usually on a clear day, we are looking for the spouts of the whales which can be seen a few miles away but on a day where the visibility is diminished, we have to rely on our ears to locate the whales. We go to the areas where the whales had been sighted on previous occasions, and shut down the engine and listen for the exhalation of the whales. Once heard, we then head in the direction from which is was heard and shut down again. This continues until we locate the whales. Though fog does make it more challenging, it is usually successful. Yesterday, we had thick, thick fog and we were able to watch 7 different humpback whales. The first two were adult females, who we identified as Lace and Touchdown. After watching Touchdown roll and flipper slap, we then watched 3 others who we identified as Churchill, Cloud, and Luna. Cloud has the distinction of being the oldest whale of known age. He was born in 1977 to Istar, who is now a Gulf of Maine grandmother! The last two whales we watched were Flash and her calf. So despite the fog, it turned out to be a very successful day!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Another calf arrives in the Bay of Fundy

On July 10, Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises welcomed another mother and her calf to the Bay of Fundy. The mother was identified as Squiggle, an individual we have been sighting in the Bay since 1990. The arrival of Squiggle and her calf brings our total up to eleven, much better than our calf count in 2006 which was three! Usually in a season we average 4-5 calves but in later years we have seen that average increase as we are covering a broader range.
The calf swam beside its mother but entertained us in the meantime by rolling and tail lobbing (slapping the surface of the water). We obtained excellent photos of the calf's fluke print and dorsal fin so that we will recognize it when it returns to the Bay of Fundy.
On July 14, we were pleased to see a North Atlantic Right Whale move into the Bay. This species is critically endangered with only approximately 350 remaining in the world! The Grand Manan Basin in Bay of Fundy is a summer feeding ground for the majority of this population. Another popular feeeding area for them is at Roseway Basin, off Nova Scotia's South Shore.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Birth Announcement

Foggy is one of the new mothers that have been sighted in the Bay of Fundy

The Bay of Fundy has become a bit of a nursery as of late with the arrival of ten humpback mothers with their calves. The moms that have been identified are Foggy, Flash, Colorado, Mirage, Umbra, Eclipse and Teo. There were three whales that we have not been able to identify. Foggy is special to researchers at Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises as we watched her grow to adulthood since she was brought here as a calf by her mother whose name was Bermuda. This calf is the third born to Foggy; her first, Sparkler, was born in 2000 and her second, Motley, was born in 2003. Her 2007 calf will not be named until it makes its return to the Gulf of Maine after it leaves its mother.

Humpback whale calves are born in the Caribbean after a 12 month gestation. They drink about 50 gallons of milk from their mother, gaining several hundred pounds per week. They stay with their moms for about a year after they have been weaned at the Northern feeding grounds.

There has been plenty of other activity as well. We have seen the humpbacks move in a bit closer to Brier Island. On one occasion, which was a research cruise, we watched as 4 adult humpback whales surface fed on herring. They would blow a column of bubbles and lunge through it with their mouths agape, taking in several hundred pounds of fish with each gulp. Humpbacks are baleen whales and use those to filter the food out from the water, much like a sieve.

There were also some curious whales, such as Orion, who approached us and spy hopped next to the boat as if he was doing the watching! It is times like this that we wonder who is watching who?

Humpback whale named Orion spyhopping next to our whale watch boat.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sightings up to June 25

Hello Everyone! It has been so busy on the Bay of Fundy that I can seem to get the chance to sit down and keep you informed as to what has been seen on our whale watching cruises! Which in a way is a good thing! Our cruises have been departing daily at 130pm. Each cruise has been a bit longer than usual as we have to travel a bit further offshore. No one seems to mind the travel time saying that once we get there, the sightings have been terrific. We have been going to an area called the Prong, a shallower area located about 18 miles northwest of Brier Island. The herring and other small schooling fish has been ample there, attracting large numbers of whales and seabirds. Of particular note is that we documented 5 mother and calf pairs in one day! We were only able to identify 2 of them; Colorado (Her first calf ever!) and Mirage.
Because the herring has been plentiful we have seen some activity by the whales as well. On one occasion, Three Dots, an adult female, entertained us by tail breaching and tail lobbing. It is thought that this may be a feeding strategy to concentrate the herring into tighter schools so that they can get more food at one time.

Three Dots tail lobbing!

There have also been a lot of birds in that area as well, including: Puffins, Greater Shearwaters, Sooty Shearwaters, Common Murres, Razorbills and Northern Fulmars.

Wilson's Storm Petrels

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Sightings June 14, 15 and 16

A humpback whale named "Scream"
Sightings have been excellent the last couple of days with Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises. On June 14, the Mega Nova set out on its regular whale watch cruise and headed toward the "rip", a shallower area where the Bay of Fundy tide is upwelled by ledges creating a soup of food for whales and seabirds. It wasn't long until we spotted the first spout, the whales's breath that resembles a plume of smoke rising from the surface of the water. We were able to approach the whales so that we could get a better look at them, however, they weren't going for deep dives so we couldn't see the underside of their tail to identify them. Because of those sightings we decided to go on a research cruise the next day to get identifying photographs and data on the humpback whales that were sighted. We saw the same whales as the previous day and were able to identify them as Luna, Orion, Flame, Magpie and Parrot. Other individuals that we documented that day were Maelstrom, Scream, Willow, Waterspout, Rope and Python. We recorded 17 humpback whales so there were some that remain to be identified.
The highlight of the cruise was when Scream, Willow, and Maelstrom approached the boat closely in curious behaviour.
On June 16, the fog shut in on the Bay of Fundy but that didn't deter us from whale watching. The only factor that dos is if there is a lot of wind. We returned to the same area and were able to locate three humpback whales by shutting down the engines and listening for their breath as they surfaced. Everyone was amazed just how quickly we could locate them using this method.
All in all, it has been a good week and the best is yet to come!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Whale Sightings up to June 9

Minke Whale

Whale watching season has begun on the Bay of Fundy with Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises. Our first cruise was on June 2. June is still considered a bit early in the season but we still see whales and the most common sighted whale at this time are usually minke whales. It wasn't long into the cruise when we saw a splash in the distance, followed by several more. My heart did a little skip, thinking that maybe we were seeing a humpback but because of the absence of the long pectoral flippers, and the shape of the body, it was quickly determined to be a minke whale, the smallest type of baleen whale in the Bay of Fundy. Sightings of these whales continued up until yesterday. That was when our research boat, the Cetacean Search, did just that, it went on a search to find humpbacks. We did find 4 humpback whales about 18 miles from Brier Island. Everyone on the whale watch boat, Mega Nova, was elated at such a find. We did identify the 4 whales by their flukes. Their names were Peajack, Radar, Haze, and Handstand.
Humpback Whale named "Peajack"

Friday, June 1, 2007

Lobster Season Ends

So while I'm waiting for the whale watch season to start, I thought I'd go out for the last day of the lobster fishing season in southwestern Nova Scotia. As a whole, I am hearing reports that it was not a great season with low catches, especially when the price of lobster was $15 per pound. The day was beautiful with light winds and calm seas. I didn't go on the first trip to get traps, that would have been at 5am. The first load of traps was unloaded by 10am and I jumped aboard to bring in the rest of the traps. I watched as each trap was landed and emptied of its catch. The traps were piled at the stern of the boat to be brought ashore to wait for "dumping day' of the 2007-2008 season. All in all, I enjoyed the day but much prefer watching whales...though I do like eating lobster!

Friday, May 25, 2007

What is photo identification?

I mentioned in the last post that fin whales can be identified individually by the blaze and chevron that is on their right side. Whale researchers or cetologists use these patterns to gain information on a variety of factors such as population estimates, migration patterns, reproductive rates and site tenacity. The patterns are photographed and compared to species catalogues which have been compiled by research organizations. The whale is identified to see if it has been in the area on previous occasions or if it is a whale that has never been sighted before. In humpback whales, we look at the underside of the tail. These can be anywhere from all white to all black and variations in between. To identify right whales, the callosity pattern in photographed. This is found on top of the whale's head as well as their chin and lip ridges. Scarring is also useful when looking at individuals. Whales are also named and numbered. With humpback whales, the names are derived from the what the pattern on the underside resembles. For example, the whale at the top is called "Shark" because of the shark on the right side. The whale on the right is named "Obsidian" because of the black coloration.

Callosity pattern of a North Atlantic Right Whale

Saturday, May 19, 2007

More Bay of Fundy Whales

As we wait for the new season to start, I'll continue to write about the whales that can be seen in the Bay of Fundy off Brier Island.

Usually the next species to arrive after the minke whale is the fin whale, or finback as it is commonly called. This species is the second largest whale in the world, and actually the largest that we regularly sight in the Bay.

Fin whales are baleen whales that can reach lengths of 24metres, the largest ever recorded was 27 metres. They have been dubbed the "Greyhounds of the Sea" because they can swim very quickly at times reaching 35 kilometres per hour. They also are assymetrical in coloration. On their right side they have a pattern called the blaze and the chevron which interestingly enough is different for every individual whale. Also, their lower right jaw is white and if you were to look on the left side of the whale you would see that it is dark.

Fin whales can be found worldwide and in Canadian waters, they are considered a species at risk!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bay of Fundy Whales

One of the most commonly asked questions I get is, "What kind of whales am I going to see and how many?" Though I would very much like to predict that for you, I can only tell you what you may see. In May, the whales are only starting to arrive from their winter breeding grounds. Usually the first to arrive are the minke whales. This species is the smallest of the baleen whales, only reaching lengths of 10 metres.

This species is easy to identify as when they come to the surface, they don't have a visible spout when they exhale as the larger whales do. The first part of the whale that does surface is their pointed nose and fishermen gave them the name "little piked whales" because of that physical feature. Also, they have white bands on their pectoral flippers. Minke whales are seen worldwide and are the most numerous. It is estimated there are up to a million of this species in the world. Sadly, they are the only whale that is being commercially hunted today.
As for how many, baleen whales are solitary by nature so they are usually by their lonesome or if feeling social may be with one or two other individuals. These are temporary groupings and are not pods. The pods are formed by toothed whales who are in permanant group structures such as the orca who form family groups.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A New Boat for Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises

Hello everyone and welcome to our new blog! I'm hoping that throughout the summer I can keep you updated as to sightings in the Bay of Fundy and also any announcements we may have for you.

Our biggest announcement is the addition of the Cetacean Search, a 42 ft vessel that is jet propulsion, giving her a cruising speed of 22 knots! This will enable us to reach the whales much quicker and allow for more time observing them. The Cetacean Search will also serve as our research vessel and because of her speed we will be able to cover more area in a day. Also, because there are no propellers it means it is safer for the whales too!

Research and education are the main reasons we are in this field. The research is vital to the studies being conducted in the Gulf of Maine. Our area of the Bay of Fundy is not surveyed constantly by other organizations and they rely on data that is collected by others to fill in the gaps. We contribute annually to populations studies of the critically endangered Northern Right Whale and also Humpback and Fin whales. Our main focus of study is the humpback whale and we work closely with Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies and Allied Whale.

To those of you familiar with us, you know we had the Cetacean Quest. She is now in Newfoundland where she will be taking people to see icebergs rather than whales. Though sad to let her go, we are very excited with the new boat and we know you will be just as pleased!

We are looking forward to starting our new season. We are unsure of the start up date as of yet. We are anxious to get out there because there have been reports of whales by local lobster fishermen. From what I understand, there have been sightings of humpbacks and minke whales.