From the distant white dots identified every morning at the mouth of the Saguenay to the close-up views of animals near the docks in La Malbaie on April 22, beluga sightings are on the rise this week. The small group of three individuals seen just a few metres off La Malbaie wharf is not the only one that has been spotted in the Charlevoix region. A dozen or so other individuals are also noted by the same observer on April 22 and earlier in the week, she discovered other herds here and there. Beluga gatherings are also reported in the vicinity of Saint-Irénée (Charlevoix) and Les Escoumins (Haute-Côte-Nord).

On April 24, at the mouth of the Saguenay, a GREMM employee observes a beluga spending long minutes on the water surface. What is it doing? It is sleeping. To us observers, the sleepy whale seems to be floating lifelessly on the water surface; its breathing is barely perceptible and its movements are sluggish.

On April 21 and 22, an observer happens upon a few belugas in Les Escoumins. The whales are literally encircled by white “darts” that are dive-bombing the waters of the St. Lawrence. These darts are gannets. Expert hunters, these birds plunge below the water after doing a dizzying, full-tilt kamikaze (70-110 km/h) to snatch up the prey they spotted just a moment earlier from the air. Gannets are also noted in Baie-des-Sables (Gaspésie). This time of year, these majestic birds are making their way from the southeast US coast to the islands and rocky escarpments of Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where they will nest.

Bird life is also abundant in the Sept-Îles area, reports Jacques Gélineau, a collaborator for INREST. In the same region, researcher Anik Boileau, director of the Sept-Îles Education and Research Centre (CERSI), mentions three minke whales off Ferguson Beach and spouts of large rorquals in Moisie on April 21 and 22. We think it’s safe to say that more whale sightings will soon be reported in an upcoming News from Afield: the first cruises begin in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park next weekend.

Observation of the Week - 26/4/2018

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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