Visitors to Grand Manan and the Bay of Fundy are being treated to some excellent whale‑watching this summer. While North Atlantic right whales tend to arrive in numbers at the end of July or early August, other species have been here since May. Whale‑watch captain Sarah McDonald says it's a common misconception that there are few whales in June and July. By the end of June they had seen 44 humpbacks -- which are identified by the patterns on their tails -- including seven mother/calf pairs. About 150‑200 visit the bay each summer. Two females are only seen in the bay when they have calves.
Biologist Laurie Murison says there should be lots of mother/calf pairs this summer. Humpbacks are generally loyal to their summer feeding grounds. While there are few on Stellwagen Bank, a favorite summer location north of Cape Cod, and "no one knows where they are," in the Bay of Fundy "we're off to a good start. July can be spectacular."
Humpbacks' behavior can be quite varied, ranging from active breaching to dozing at the surface, known as "logging." Fin whales can be equally dramatic, especially in the large groups that have been spotted so far this summer, as they rush through tide rips feeding. Whales‑n‑Sails' Allan McDonald describes them as his favorites.
Other species often seen are harbour porpoises and minke whales, and there are occasional sightings of Atlantic white‑sided dolphins, basking sharks and sunfish. A few leatherback turtles were spotted last summer. Rare sightings may include sperm whales, and Sarah McDonald says they saw a bowhead whale -- an arctic or sub‑arctic species -- last August. A variety of seabirds can also be seen.
Over the past five years, the water temperature has risen. Murison says some harbors in Nova Scotia reported tropical triggerfish last summer. This summer the temperature is more seasonable, "but it has the potential to be warmer."
Grand Manan's whale‑watching season runs from the third week in June until mid to late September. For information on tours with Whales‑n‑Sails or Sea Watch Tours, visit <http://www.grandmanannb.com/todo.htm>.