Lots of whale sightings are adding up to a busy season for whale-watching tour operators and spectacular shows of nature for patrons.
“The season is going really well,” says Shelley Lonergan, chief naturalist and research coordinator for Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises. “There’s lots of sightings around.”
The minkes and fin whales were the first species to arrive, followed by the beloved humpbacks around the first of July.
“We are seeing good sightings of humpbacks,” says Lonergan. “Humpbacks are the ones we see the most and the ones everybody wants to see.”
So far this year tour operators have seen nine mother-and-calf combos, says Lonergan, which is “what we expect for this time of year.”
One humpback calf is becoming a media darling. For several weeks now the calf of Kalimba “has been putting on quite a show,” said Amy Tudor, tour guide with Mariner’s Cruisers Whale and Sea Bird Tours. “Calves are generally curious but this calf is extra curious and extra friendly. He enjoys people watching and comes right up to the boat,” says Tudor, noting while mom Kalimba isn’t very far away, the fact she doesn’t come between the calf and boat indicates how much she “trusts us.”
A compilation of videos done by Mariner’s Cruises of the calf was broadcast by CBC N.S. last month. “We’ve been seeing it a lot,” says Tudor. “It’s the friendliest calf I’ve ever seen. It’s a beautiful creature.”
Calves of humpbacks are born in southern waters between January and March, said Tudor, making them three to six months old by the time they reach the Bay of Fundy. “The calves don’t get named until they are solo,” said Tudor. Until then they are identified by their mother’s name.
August is peak time for whale watching in the Bay of Fundy, says Tudor.
“The ones that are slow to migrate have arrived by early August and the ones that are here aren’t in a hurry to go anywhere,” she says. “It really is one of the best times for whale watching in the area.”
The whales stay in the area until about mid-October before heading south for the winter, says Lonergan. Since 1984, Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises has been involved in humpback research, networking with other researchers all along the eastern seaboard. “We all work together,” she says.
Lonergan notes part of the research they have done has enabled them to identify the whales by the markings on the underneath of the tail. They all have different patterns, she says.
It’s not known how long humpback whales live. The oldest humpback on record is Cloud, who was born in 1977.
“We saw him just last week,” said Lonergan at the time of this interview. “We expect they live to be 50 or 60 years old.”
Humpbacks are solitary by nature, says Lonergan.
“Usually we see them in groups of two or three or alone, or we might see eight or 10. Every trip is different,” she explains. “We could see two or we could see 20. We can’t predict what we’re going to see.”
Both Lonergan and Tudor say there have been lots of people coming out to Digby Neck to take in one of the whale-watching tours this summer. They advise people to book ahead.