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Whales putting on late season show in Digby and at Canso Causeway


DIGBY, N.S. - Nova Scotians from Digby Neck to the Canso Causeway are seeing whales later than normal this year.

Joan Comeau, a birder and photographer from Brighton, Digby County, photographed humpbacks off Point Prim Nov. 21.

Comeau was at the mouth of Digby Gut on the Bay of Fundy just outside Digby looking for gannets - the white seabirds make spectacular high-speed dives into the water to catch fish.

“And then I saw the big puffs of breath from the whales,” she said. “They were quite far off when I saw them but they swam in towards the point and I couldn’t believe how close they came.”

Comeau estimates the whales swam within 100 metres of shore.

“I was so excited, of course it was the one day I had to leave and do something else but we watched them for a half hour. I saw two of them swimming towards the Gut,” she said.

Joan Comeau, a birder and photographer from Brighton, Digby County, photographed humpbacks off Point Prim Nov. 21.

Comeau was at the mouth of Digby Gut on the Bay of Fundy just outside Digby looking for gannets - the white seabirds make spectacular high-speed dives into the water to catch fish.

“And then I saw the big puffs of breath from the whales,” she said. “They were quite far off when I saw them but they swam in towards the point and I couldn’t believe how close they came.”

Comeau estimates the whales swam within 100 metres of shore.

“I was so excited, of course it was the one day I had to leave and do something else but we watched them for a half hour. I saw two of them swimming towards the Gut,” she said.

Joan Comeau saw these humpback whales just of Point Prim Nov. 21.

Comeau was standing on the same point where Digby Mayor Ben Cleveland was standing in October when he captured pictures of humpbacks breaching.

[There she blows - watching whales breach from shore near Digby, Oct. 23, 2016]

Digby fisherman Ralph Cummings saw a whale breaching in the Annapolis Basin on Nov. 25 not far from the Digby ferry terminal.

He saw another or same whale near the salmon cages close to Digby’s Shore Road on Nov. 21 and saw two whales off Culloden on Digby Neck about two weeks before that.

Lots of fish

Tom Ellis, a fisherman from Victoria Beach, has been seeing whales at the mouth of Digby Gut and in the Annapolis Basin every two or three days since Oct. 14, when the lobster season started around Digby.

“In a regular year you might see one whale, you’d be lucky to see one,” said Ellis. “But this year, it’s been every other day, every third day. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Joan Comeau saw these humpback whales just of Point Prim Nov. 21.

Ellis has been fishing for 35 years. He says “years ago” they used to see more whales this far up the Bay of Fundy.

“But we haven’t seen this much fish around for 25 years, herring and mackerel, there’s lots around, and other fish we don’t normally see,” he said. “In one of our traps we caught a sea trout. Pollock, big pollock we haven’t seen them like that for years, and codfish. There’s codfish around too,” he said.

Others are seeing whales in St. Mary’s Bay. Rex Halliday told the Courier he was standing on the Sandy Cove wharf and saw spouts of whales in St. Mary’s Bay on Nov. 21.

Dolphins at the Canso Causeway

Two dolphins stranded and died on Big Island in Pictou County on Nov. 16.

And people are also seeing whales and dolphins near the Canso Causeway, between mainland Nova Scotia and Cape Breton.

Jennifer Jamieson of Mulgrave captured a spectacular video of dolphins swimming and leaping through the air near the causeway on Nov. 21.

She was just returning from the Port Hawkesbury hospital where her husband was receiving emergency treatment.

She stopped on the mainland side of the causeway to make the video which, four days later on Nov. 25, had 127,000 views and 3,000 shares on Facebook.

Jennifer Jamieson photographed these humpback whales beside the Canso Causeway Nov. 21.

“I don’t normally post things publicly on Facebook but I know a lot of people were getting photos of the whales and dolphins so I thought I’d share it,” she told the Courier by phone on Nov. 24. “My daughter came home from school and told me her teacher had told her my video had gone viral. That’s how I found out.”

She stopped again later that night when she brought her husband home from hospital and they watched humpbacks whales swimming near the causeway.

“It brought a smile to his face, that lifted our spirits, I can tell you, we needed that,” said Jamieson. “Watching a pod of dolphins, for free, and whales, from shore, to be able to see them so close, hearing them swimming by you and whales going by and the spray is almost coming up to the rocks, it is pretty special.”

[RELATED: Surprises in the waters around us here in Digby, Aug. 2014]

Jamieson says many other locals have captured photos of whales breaching.

She has also seen schools of small fish in the water – very likely the reason the whales and dolphins are there.

Laurie Murison, the executive director of the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station, told the Courier by email on Nov. 23 that the Canso Causeway traps herring and many other species most years in the fall and bird watchers often go there to see gannets feeding on the trapped fish.

This year, it appears humpbacks and dolphins have also discovered the trapped herring.

Murison says the whales in the Bay of Fundy will also go or stay where the food is; in the case of humpbacks that is herring and krill.

For more explanation of why we are hearing of so many whale sightings this year, see Following the food.

jriley@digbycourier.ca

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