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2005 Wildlife Report2005 Wildlife Report

by Dave Snowby Dave Snow
This orca group from 2008 was still together during our 2009 expedition

The year 2005 started with two giant squid washing up on the northeast coast. Next, we heard reports of springtime pilot whales at the edge of arctic ice… a surprising occurrence considering these whales are more commonly found off the Azores or pursuing summertime squid and herring in the deep bays of Newfoundland.
By late June the centuries-old patterns of whale distribution were in full swing as huge numbers of humpbacks arrived off St. John’s and the Northeast coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. From June to August our tour participants reported excellent numbers of fin whales, minkes, and humpbacks (we have the world’s largest gathering of these playful acrobats). It was also a wonderful year for spotting humpback calves and many of our guests were treated to some unforgettable encounters with playful calves and yearlings. We were fortunate to get some great tail photos which are used for identification and censusing purposes. The mother and calf photos are especially useful as researchers track these whales through the generations.
During July, a pod of three orcas was seen in the St. John’s area and they seemed to delight in worrying the humpbacks. Here are two photos of a humpback’s tail following one orca attack. The first photo shows the damage a couple of days following the attack while the second shows the same tail after several weeks of healing.
Our Southern Labrador Adventure introduced us to an orca pod of seven animals — all females and juveniles. We watched this pod surround a group of three humpbacks. We collected what we believe to be the first underwater vocalization recordings of local orcas together with the dramatic trumpeting of the frightened humpbacks.
During the summer some of our guests also saw fin whales (the planet’s second largest animal), white beaked dolphins, white sided dolphins, harbour porpoises, minke whales (the smallest baleen whale) and a single beluga. Our whale research network provided two reports of an orca superpod in July — with the pod numbering 30 animals. Sadly our Trinity Bay sperm whale swam out of the bay after providing reliable sightings for over a year; but overall 2005 was a wonderful, whale-filled season.
It was also a great year for bird watching and sightseeing all around Newfoundland and Labrador. Several holidays generated interesting trip lists of whales, birds, butterflies, rare plants, and rare animals. After 20 years of telling birdwatcher guests not to expect to see a summertime dovekie (the tiny, Greenland-nesting cousin of the puffin and murre) we had two different tour groups spot individual dovekies along the coast. The rare animal sightings include basking sharks, sea turtles, several vagrant songbirds, and several sunfish.
We continue to coordinate the Newfoundland and Labrador portion of the global census of humpback whales and our catalogue of local orcas continues to grow. We continue to welcome all photos and stories. Your contributions make our day!

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