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Whales of 2003 Whales of 2003

by Dave Snowby Dave Snow
Acrobatic humpback whales - two members of the planet's largest gathering

The spring of 2003 started with reports of two curious narwhals swimming among the icebergs near St. John’s. Soon these were joined by huge numbers of humpbacks that appeared to arrive in early June. 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 whale calves. It is unusual to see young fin or minke whales but this year there were obvious calves in the company of adults. The humpbacks had an especially good year as most of our Wildlife Adventures and all of our Whale Study guests had up close encounters with curious calves. 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, and we thank everybody who has submitted their photos to us. It was also a great year for spotting dolphins on our Viking Trail holidays. The seabirds appeared to have an excellent summer as our leaders reported the most fledgling kittiwakes seen since the 1980s.
This year long-time repeat guest Arlene Ervin spent two weeks volunteering with Allied Whale, the folks who coordinate the global census of humpbacks. She found that one of our 2001 Whale Study Week humpbacks had not been seen since 1986. Arlene found another Newfoundland humpback, which was documented 30 years after its last photograph. Despite being the best place in the world to view humpbacks, very little census work is done here — other than our own Whale Study Weeks. Arlene’s findings generated so much excitement that she became the first person to book on to our new 2004 Southern Labrador Adventure holiday.
There were fewer rare whales spotted in 2003. Orca sightings were at a third of the 2002 level with our last sighting on November 1. Dan Hickey and one of his groups spotted a sei whale. Several folks reported single beluga whales, but none appeared to take up residence. The summer’s best news came from the Terra Nova area and Newfoundland’s south coast where our groups spotted more harbour porpoises than ever before (12 on one crossing to St. Pierre). The population of these endangered little dolphins appears to be recovering.
For 2004 we are increasing our efforts at documenting the numbers of whales found in northern Newfoundland and southern Labrador. Whale and iceberg enthusiasts are encouraged to check out our new Southern Labrador Adventure holiday.

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