Armed with his camera, wildlife photographer Renaud Pintiaux sets up on the shore of Cap de Bon-Désir this past Monday. Braving the cold, he scans the horizon… and he’s not disappointed! After a long and careful observation, his gaze lands on a humpback whale. “After three hours of contentedly watching and waiting, I spotted her,” he says. This is the first one to arrive in the Estuary this season. After a few blows and a couple of snapshots, the whale dives without showing its tail.
Nevertheless, while scrutinizing his photos later that day, Renaud recognizes the dorsal fin of this whale, which he saw for the first time in December 2021! This individual is also a recent addition to the GREMM catalogue, since it was only first seen in our waters late last summer. It has not yet received an ID number.
Action in Les Escoumins
After spotting this humpback whale, Renaud heads toward Les Bergeronnes, where he locates a stealthy minke whale. A little later, at the ferry terminal in Les Escoumins, he sees another minke, as well as nearly a dozen belugas. Among them is DL0098 a.k.a. ‘Cumulus’, an old bull who is believed to have been born before 1968! “We always see him in the Estuary at the start of the season,” says GREMM Scientific Director Robert Michaud.
And the intrepid photographer is not the only one to have seen belugas in the area! On April 6, a local resident also had the pleasure of observing white backs near the shore. Ship captains have also been spotting them daily from the pilot station in Les Escoumins, in addition to reporting a minke whale in the area on Wednesday. Another beluga was observed swimming between Matane and Baie-Comeau. On April 13, a minke whale was at the ferry docks in Les Escoumins, and the next day two more cruised past the Essipit lookout.
Seals and spouts
An observer based in Franquelin reports that two minke whales passed near the shoreline on Tuesday. A fin whale was also seen. Not far from there, in Gallix, a marine mammal enthusiast scanning the waves in search of marine mammals laid her eyes on the small head of a seal. “It was quite far away, but the shape of its head reminded me of a harbour seal,” she explains. In Port-Cartier, the bearded seal seen last week is still taking advantage of the last sizable chunks of ice to bask in the sun.
Pinnipeds were also plentiful in the Gaspé this week! On Sandy Beach near Penouille was a group of several hundred resting seals. Grey seals were seen near Pointe Saint-Pierre, while in Baie de Saint-Yvon, harbour seals and a single fin whale made a splash. After making this exciting observation, one local resident got a bit carried away. “This was my first whale of the year. I tripped while rushing to grab my binoculars, a bit like in the movies!” she exclaims. An observation made all the more thrilling by the breaths being spotted daily off Percé, and which will surely be increasingly frequent in the weeks to come!