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2006 Wildlife Report 2006 Wildlife Report

by Dave Snowby Dave Snow
We hang out with puffins while we watch the whales

During 2006 we enjoyed a wonderful summer full of whales, wildlife and cultural adventures. A major part of all our excursions is the whale research; and 2006 was a summer of discovery and insight. We established to our own satisfaction that the Avalon Peninsula of eastern Newfoundland has humpbacks that visit annually and hang out for the season. While we see hundreds or thousands of individual humpbacks over the summer, most continue to swim further north or hang out offshore while year-after-year the same ~200 humpbacks appear to stay in the near-shore region for the peak summer feeding season.

Our orca research was even more insightful. Our small but growing catalog of orca dorsal fins enabled us to establish that we have one large family of orcas off the southern Labrador coast where we had previously thought we had three smaller families. Check out www.atlanticwhales.com to review the orca families of eastern North America and to listen to the first ever underwater recordings of western Atlantic orcas — recorded in 2005 as a pod of seven orcas circled a group of three humpbacks. The recording is also remarkable for the loud, elephant-like trumpeting of the humpbacks.

Newfoundland and Labrador is a place where north meets south and where east meets west. Our mixing of currents and weather systems ensure a rich smorgasbord of food choices for all our wildlife (and our guests). North American birders flock here to seek out European vagrants. Dovekies leave their Greenland nesting areas to overwinter in our coastal waters. The past summer was remarkable for the tropical birds, European species and monarch butterflies that were either swept here by the weather or decided Newfoundland was a great place to explore. Giant egrets, sunfish, great white sharks, beluga whales, blue lobsters, gyrfalcons and an 8-foot giant squid that a fisherman actually threw back (alive) into the ocean all either made our trip lists or else were narrowly missed by our many small groups of curious explorers.

When our friends at Battle Harbour on the Labrador coast arrived to reopen the site for the springtime, they found themselves in the company of a curious polar bear and dozens of icebergs. When our Southern Labrador Adventure departed Battle Harbour as their last group of September explorers, we included orcas, humpbacks, hundreds of playful dolphins and a tropical sea turtle on our trip list. Further north, the staff at Labrador’s new Torngat National Park tagged 123 polar bears during five days in July and reported a wolf den that continues to produce healthy batches of pups every summer. Once we are able to ensure guests will not be eaten by the bears, look for us to introduce a series of safe but challenging northern Labrador adventures — hopefully in 2008. Keep checking our website for updates.

The natural and cultural adventures that go with life in Newfoundland and Labrador continue. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your contributions to a memorable 2006 and we wish you the best of health and adventure as we move into 2007.

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