I looked down through the clear still water and the great eye of the Humpback Whale looked back at me. He and a companion had drifted slowly under our small silent Zodiac, huge animals curious to have a look at us for a moment.The slightest flick of a tail would swamp our little craft but they moved with deliberate care, rising slowly and breaking the surface with a blast of air. They stayed for a moment, satisfying their curiosity, and then moved on.
There were many groups of whales, both Humpbacks and Minke, in Witless Bay that morning, attracted by schools of small Capelin to feed on. Occasionally they would give tail flips and wave their white pectoral fins.
Gull and Green Islands in Witless Bay are home to huge numbers of breeding birds that also come here because of the supply of Capelin
Thousands of Common Murres crowd the ledges of the islands’ steep cliffs and set up a constant murmur that gives them their name. Huge rafts of them could be seen on the water, and on this mid-July day, many of their young chicks as well, giving high pitched squeaks.
Taking up ledge space lower down from the Murres is another member of the Auk family, and another study in black and white plumage, the Black Guillemot. Known by local fishermen as the Sea Pigeon, they have bright red feet, and when they cry, you can see that it matches their throat lining as well.They tend to be in smaller groups than the Murres, both in nesting and feeding on the sea.
Another member of the Auk family lives on the top of the cliffs, a colorful clown, the Atlantic Puffin.Their brightly colored bills are often seen lined with catches of Capelin. They prefer the hilltops because they need soft soil to dig out their nesting burrows.
Black-legged Kittiwakes also nest in the thousands each on its own precarious cliffs edge nest. As the young hatch and mature, these become even more crowded. The have one or two young per year.Other gulls are predators in these bird cities, the American Herring Gull and the huge Greater Black-backed Gulls, always on the lookout for an unguarded egg or chick.
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