End-of-Season Field Notes 2017 (Part II)… by Renaud Pintiaux

  • © Renaud Pintiaux
    13 / 11 / 2017 Par Marie-Ève Muller

    The last trip offshore for the year took place on November 4. Here is the second part of these Field Notes, accompanied by a large photo gallery.

    First let’s look at gray seals and gulls.

    Prey are often common to several species © Renaud Pintiaux

    Near the Prince Shoal Lighthouse, we spot a herd of a hundred or so gray seals and above them, over a hundred gulls (great black-backed, herring, but also a few Iceland and glaucous).

    Seals and birds can share the same habitat. © Renaud Pintiaux

    In the midst of the seals, the gulls are in a frenzy as they snatch up their prey from the surface: small fish, probably sand lance. Several photos show these fish in the gulls’ bills while seals were sometimes swimming just a few centimetres away! Several minke whales have also been frequenting this area.

    On this picture we can see a fish in the left bird beak. © Renaud Pintiaux

    © Renaud Pintiaux

    A bit farther afield, northeast of Île Rouge, it’s “another sector, another scenario”… and other prey for other gulls! Here we find ourselves in the presence of thousands upon thousands of kittiwakes (and a few hundred Bonaparte’s gulls) pecking at the surface of the krill. I had never seen so many kittiwakes in my life!

    It is almost chaotic! © Renaud Pintiaux

    Not far from these gulls, a fin whale that also probably spotted this massive school of krill.

    A fin whale blow © Renaud Pintiaux

    We continue our course and cross paths with other birds: several thousand long-tailed ducks (who will spend the winter here in the ice-free waters), a number of flocks of shorebirds making their way south, and a few red-throated loons…

    A cloud of long-tailed ducks © Renaud Pintiaux

    We also observe a few groups of razorbills that will certainly leave the area soon as well as a handful of Atlantic puffins, alcids that are rather uncommon in the area, but sometimes spotted this time of year near the tide rips far offshore.

    A Atlantic puffin © Renaud Pintiaux

    A group of razorbills © Renaud Pintiaux

    And there you have it, another season is getting underway. The one that will have me pacing the shores of the St. Lawrence in search of potential marine mammals. A winter to admire the St. Lawrence, its whales, its birds, its beauty… from the mainland. See you soon!

    To read the first part: End-of-Season Field Notes 2017 (first part)

    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.