November 5: we’re back on the waters of the Estuary for the last whale-watching cruise of 2016. Shortly after leaving the Tadoussac wharf we spot a large spout well offshore, not far from Prince Shoal. Probably a fin whale. But through my binoculars I spot a huge splash opposite Les Bergeronnes, rather close to shore. I try to figure out which marine mammal might be leaping so high in the air: minke whale or humpback? But now something else grabs my attention: more splashes, but much smaller! With my binoculars I can quite distinctly make out animals jumping in the air: dolphins! I motion to the captain, who changes course and heads toward them.
We approach and can see hundreds of white-sided dolphins at closer and closer range, as the dolphins are heading west, i.e. toward us! Shortly thereafter, we find ourselves right in the middle of this herd numbering between 500 and 800 individuals (conservative estimate!). And then we witness a wonderful and rare spectacle for our area: dolphins performing spectacular leaps and flips, others splitting the waves at top speed, others circling quite close to our boat. What more can we say? I’ll let the pictures do the talking with this photo album and video (click on the gear in the bottom right hand corner of the screen and then on 720 HD for a good image resolution!). One photo even shows a group of harp seals (recently arrived), with white-sided dolphins in the background.
Lastly, we never did manage to determine whether it was a minke whale or a humpback that was breaching in the distance, but no matter, the show put on by these dolphins visiting our area was incredible…
Now it’s back to dry land for the late fall and winter to scan for marine mammals from shore! Viewing from the mainland will surely have other pleasant surprises in store for us!
GREMM research assistant from 2003 to 2009 and from 2012 to 2014, Renaud Pintiaux is a passionate observer and photographer. Year round, whether from shore or on the water, he takes every opportunity to observe marine mammals and birds in the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park.