Humpbacks have returned to Bay of Fundy a bit earlier than usual

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on May 21, 2014

The Humpback Whales are back in the Bay of Fundy.

Whale watch operators and residents on Brier Island and Long Island reported sightings of the playful marine mammals this week.

Harold Graham, captain with Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises, didn’t even have to leave the dock to make his first Humpback Whale sighting of the season.

He was cleaning up the Mega Nova at the Irishtown wharf (at the south end of Westport on Grand Passage) this afternoon, Wednesday, May 21 when he heard a whale spout right behind him.

When he turned around he saw a pair of Humpbacks swimming north through the passage.

He called Jamie Swift who captains the company’s Zodiac and Swift headed out with intern naturalists, Jordan Gardiner and Stephanie Davis, to get some identifying photographs and to document the sighting.

Shelley Longeran, chief naturalist with Brier Island Whale and Seabird Cruises, says they usually see humpbacks outside in the Bay of Fundy but not very often right in Grand Passage.

“We get lots of Harbour Porpoise and Minke Whales in the harbour and some Right Whales too,” she said. “But Humpbacks… maybe only three or four times a year.”

Longeran also said this is a little earlier than usual for humpbacks – last year they saw their first on May 27.

Swift, his crew and guests actually saw Humpbacks last Friday, May 16 on their first cruise of the season in the Zodiac.

They had had reports from fishermen of minke and fin whale sightings and also wanted to start offering tours on the long weekend.

They found a mother and calf pair of Humpbacks about 13 kilometers off Brier Island in the middle of the shipping lane, she said.

From photographs of that trip, they identified the mother as Shotput, the 13-year-old daughter of Mocha, with her first calf.

Longeran says she hasn’t had a chance to identify today’s whale but is sure it wasn’t Shotput.

Crystal McDormand lives right on the shore of Grand Passage at the northern end of Westport.

She was celebrating her birthday when a guest noticed two whales at the southern end of the passage.

She says they were logging, or just lying near the surface of the water without forward motion.

“And then a little while later she says, Oh here’s a whale right in front of the house,” said McDormand.

She sees whales fairly often from her living room and sometimes goes out on the boats but says it is always exciting.

“It never gets old,” she says. “It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen them.”

Other residents of Brier Island, like Amy Tudor of Brier Island Lodge, rushed to Northern Point today to watch the whales with her children.

“People get pretty excited when the whales are here this early,” she said. “This means people can start coming for tours, it means we can extend the season, it’s good news for the Islands.”