As fluffy snowflakes invaded eastern Quebec and a white blanket quietly covered the ground, marine mammals continued on with their activities. With temperatures heralding a fast approaching winter (much to the delight of cold weather lovers), some enthusiasts put on their boots, parkas and knit hats to brave the elements, head toward the river and scan the endless horizon.
As for sightings, a few white backs are still hanging around near the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord, blending in with the mountain landscape. Although belugas are year-round residents in the St. Lawrence, they do undertake short seasonal migrations. In summer, the population is concentrated in the estuary between Île aux Coudres and Forestville. In the winter months, these white whales move to a part of the estuary farther downstream and into the northern portion of the gulf.
Farther up the fjord, in Baie des Ha! Ha! in the town of La Baie, two porpoises were seen on November 13: “We lost sight of them around the centennial cross,” explains one curious resident, “but they were heading toward Anse à Philippe and Anse à Benjamin.” A little later in the week, another harbour porpoise, a solitary one this time, was spotted near the marina in Saint-Siméon. “They really seem to be abundant this fall,” notes naturalist and wildlife photographer Renaud Pintiaux. A few seals and a lone minke whale were spotted by a local resident, but it was the presence of belugas that astonished her most: “Much to my surprise, a good ten or so belugas passed by en route to Tadoussac, clearly visible despite the low light.”
Sunsets and sunrises light up the river with their colours. Cap de Bon-Désir in Les Bergeronnes appears to be teeming with life. Renaud Pintiaux sums up one of his days in the field: “A cold and windy day, but full of exciting observations […]: harbour porpoises, grey seals, a mink with a fish in its mouth, beautiful black guillemots everywhere, not to mention bufflehead near my favourite rock and… a stunning and very rare thick-billed murre!” Harbour seals, a few minke whales and even a humpback whale have also been present in the area.
Rorquals on the move
In Tadoussac, minke whales surface in the bay and feed off Pointe de l’Islet. Will they be undertaking their migration anytime soon? Beginning in November, individuals of this species head to the Caribbean, where they spend the winter before returning in May. For the time being, they are still rather plentiful in the sector!
The arching back of a cetacean – a lingering minke whale as it turns out – breaks the surface near Franquelin. One marine mammal enthusiast also observes a humpback. Could it be the same one that was observed the next day from Pointe-des-Monts? A little farther down the river, between two shovelfuls of snow, mariner Jacques Gélineau ventures out to sea. He has the good fortune to encounter a humpback whale and was even able to take a few photos. He also enjoys the opportunity to observe grey seals offshore and harbour seals closer to the coast.