Strangers in the Bay…

Well we have been stuck on land now for a few days due to some pretty windy conditions, but last we knew we still only had trusty #3390 and her calf in the Bay. We are hoping the other mom’s are just running a little late and will join in soon! There have been other surprises to keep us on our toes in the meantime though, and I’ll take this day off as an opportunity to share what we have seen. Some interesting species have been spotted this year that are “strangers” to the Bay. Some have not been seen in years, some are seen only every few years, and some have never been documented here at all! (I do note however that just because they have never been documented before does not necessarily mean they have never been here; it may be that they have been here and never spotted, or spotted but never documented. This is always a difficulty when working with animals that spend most of their lives out of our sight. Regardless, it is still very cool!).

Our first stranger of the year was the sperm whale. Up until 2010, sperm whales had not been seen in the Bay of Fundy since the 1980’s. While the Bay is technically included in their home range, sperm whales prefer deep water where they dive down to catch squid. In fact, they routinely dive to depths greater than 1,300ft with some animals off of the coast of Japan reported to dive to almost 2,800ft! This makes a sperm whale sighting here in the Bay very unusual, and very interesting!

Photo: National Geographic

Another stranger is the white-beaked dolphin. While this dolphin is technically not a total stranger, it has only rarely been seen during the many years that researcher’s have been doing surveys in the Bay…that’s 33 years for the New England Aquarium! This obviously makes sighting these dolphins very exciting. Check out the New England Aquarium’s blog for great pictures and even a video!

Photo: BBC

The next species on our list is not a whale but just as neat to see…the blue shark! While the Bay is included in the home range of this shark, according to scientists at the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station there has never been a documented sighting here. Again, this does not necessarily mean they haven’t been here; since sharks don’t need to come to the surface to breath, they are even harder to keep track of than whales sometimes! However this year we are seeing them, and we are seeing quite a few, which is definitely a new thing! While they only get to about 13ft, not nearly as large as the basking sharks that are common in the Bay, they are still very cool to see! I think all sharks are pretty neat though…

Photo: Andy Murch

Last but certainly not least, the most unusual stranger we have encountered this year is the bowhead whale. Yes, that’s right, a bowhead! These large baleen whales are actually in the same family as the right whale and even look very similar. One of most notable differences is that bowhead whales lack the callosities that make right whales so distinguishable. The usual distribution of these whales is almost exclusively in the Arctic, although a bowhead was spotted off of Cape Cod earlier this year. That is possibly the most southern documented sighting of a bowhead! No one is sure yet if it is the same whale, but either way this is all pretty amazing! Check out the blog from the New England Aquarium for more details.

Illistration by

Keep checking back to see if we have discovered more rare and interesting species here in the Bay of Fundy and to check on our progress with our mom/calf research!

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