#19 Bay of Warmth (Part 4): Gannets Everywhere

This is Part Four of a series of posts about surveys taking place in the Baie de Chaleur in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Click on the links to read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three!

While hauling the R/V Callisto, Alex noticed an adult northern gannet with limited movement at the boat ramp. Upon approach he saw that there was a hook stuck in its wing with line originating from its mouth; the line wrapped the wing in such a way that it could not extend it and who knows how long it had been entangled like this. We knew that we had to do something to help this individual.

The injured gannet at the boat ramp. Photo Credit: Alex Loer
We promptly devised a plan to safely secure the bird and gathered the appropriate tools (gloves, wire cutters, towel and sunglasses as safety goggles) to remove the hook and monofilament line. Alex blocked its access to the harbor and distracted it so Monica and I could carefully capture it.

Monica assessing the hook in the gannet's wing. Photo Credit: Alex Loer

We successfully cut the hook and removed as much line as we could, and were happy to see the gannet flee to the water with its wings lifted. 

The newly freed northern gannet hastening away from our team. Photo Credit: Alex Loer

On Tuesday, August 25th, we had a great forecast so decided to travel to the northern opening of the Bay of Chaleur in an attempt to make it as close to the Gaspé Peninsula as time and weather would allow. We encountered some fin and minke whales, but other than that the survey was relatively quiet. We reached Percé in the afternoon and stopped for a quick lunch break and to take in the beautiful views.

Percé Rock off the Quebec coast. Photo Credit: Alex Loer

Here we got to watch northern gannets on Bonaventure Island, the largest colony in North America.
Males are competitive for prime nesting sites and are the principal nest builders using mud, grass, seaweed, and feathers. Northern gannets are monogamous and long term pairs often use the same nest for years and potentially mate for life. Both parents incubate the single egg and are active in feeding the chick.

Gannets nesting on the cliffs of Bonaventure Island. Photo Credit: Alex Loer
It was amazing to see the white bodies crowding the cliffside and the active scene on the island and in the air. As we watched the gannets on and around Bonaventure we pondered (and hoped) that the one we had helped earlier in the trip was there and reunited with its mate. After this refreshing break we continued our tracklines back towards our dock and scanned the water for what we had come to find- a right whale.


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