May 6: no sooner had the sun risen when one observer spotted two belugas in the morning light off La Malbaie. Her observations continued throughout the day and into the evening. The next day she saw another group of about twenty individuals, once again in the bay that gives the town its name.

She wasn’t the only one from the region to share such special moments. At first light on May 10, another collaborator spots belugas from Pointe-au-Pic. These are not her first “encounters” of the season with these white whales, as on May 1, while kayaking in Saint-Irénée, she crossed paths with about fifteen belugas, with white adults intermingling with gray juveniles.

Elsewhere in the region of Charlevoix, and also on May 10, a resident of Cap-aux-Oies discovered nearly a dozen belugas. Depending on the light and the position of the animals, their backs sometimes appear white and other times black. The herd eventually heads west before leaving the observer’s field of view.

At the foot of the dunes in Tadoussac, two blue whales make a surprise appearance on May 6. Their incredibly loud spout resonates; their broad blue back gleams in the sun. On May 8, a blue whale is also spotted off Les Bergeronnes. The animal is feeding near the water surface. That same day, three minke whales are also spotted. Less gigantic than their blue “cousin”, these “small” whales nevertheless measure nearly 7 metres long – the length of a limousine – and weigh 7 tonnes, as much as an African bush elephant. Their backs are black and their curved dorsal fins are visible almost as soon as the animals come up to breath.

The backs of humpbacks are also quite dark, but they can be distinguished by the namesake hump under their dorsal fin. Two humpback whales are seen in Gaspé Bay off Grande-Grave on May 6. Another individual is seen at the same location the following day. A few minke whales are spotted from atop Cap Gaspé. Above and all around them are droves of birds, including mergansers, eiders, scoters and gannets.

Minke whales and gannets also make up the week’s landscape off the coast of Franquelin, according to reports from a village resident. On May 5, she catches sight of a very large spout in the distance, but is unable to determine the species. A minke whale is also observed near the docks in Havre-Saint-Pierre.

Sometimes, the back that breaks the surface is not smooth like a whale’s, but furry instead! In the Bay of Sept-Îles, six harbour seals are recognized by their telltale spotted coats and canine-like heads. Lastly, in the Saguenay Fjord, about 20 harbour seals bask on the rocks opposite the Caribou-Qui-Pisse waterfall.

Observation of the Week - 10/5/2018

Marie-Sophie Giroux

Marie-Sophie Giroux joined the GREMM in 2005 until 2018. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology and a diploma in Environmental Consulting. As Lead Naturalist, she oversees and coordinates the team working at the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre and writes for Whales Online and Whale Portraits. She loves to share “whale stories” with visitors to the CIMM and readers alike.

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