Three magnificent photos from Andy Murch in Churchill. The Arctic tern is an amazing bird with the longest migratory path of any bird travelling pole to pole throughout the year. Watching terns scavenge capelin from the waters surface in Churchill after being churned up by feeding beluga whale pods is quite an experience. Arctic Terns are truly an opportunistic species!
People on Bell Island of Newfoundland and Labrador have united to rescue a pod of dolphins stuck in thick pack ice since Sunday. In all, the group of islanders successfully rescued four dolphins by Monday.
“It was amazing to see a community come together to help these animals out,” said Jim Bennett, who was one of several people trying to help the stranded mammals.
Dolphins trapped in ice off Bell Island. Christopher Kitchen photo.
The Whale Release and Stranding’s Group initiated their effort at daybreak and worked tirelessly throughout the day. However, as with many stranding’s of this sort, casualties are part of the deal. Five of the dolphins died due to the extreme conditions – four were crushed by the ice and one didn’t survive transport to the release site.
After resident Lisa Gear posted a picture of the dolphins on her Facebook page depicting the dolphins nearly frozen into the ice, rescuers responded and had to work out some logistics and methods for moving the dolphins to safe water. After first using a sled to try and move them, a tarpaulin sling was eventually used for transport of the fragile beings.
An extension ladder was used to save one of the dolphins out farther in the ice. Walking past a few of the already expired dolphins was “surreal” for Jim Bennett. Working their way out to the animal allowed them to get a rope around it and guide it in.
A dolphin gets love and attention from Bell Island rescuers. Christopher Kitchen photo.
“[The dolphin] looked like it was on its last legs and all the community were hanging on to the rope by the shore and they pulled it in,” recalled Bennett, who said he is from Ontario.
“I was completely impressed how people came together in crisis down by the water. This could only happen in Newfoundland. It was really great.”, stated Bennett.
The surviving dolphins were bleeding from their ice – scraped skin layer. While the injured dolphins were attended to some Bell Island citizens brought thawed capelin and herring to feed the animals.
“We were told that to just leave them alone but, as animals ourselves, it just didn’t make sense to just let them perish.” added Bennett. For now the survivors look good and energized.
A short video clip by National Geographic documenting springtime for beluga whales in the north. Belugas migrate south in the spring from the Hudson Straits to the estuaries of the Hudson Bay. Thousands of belugas make the trip to the warmer waters and shallow, gravelly rivers to give birth, nurture young and gorge on capelin and other plentiful marine organisms. There’s no other time like spring and summer in the Churchill region. Life is bursting from the tundra and the sea and rivers. What an amazing time to experience the northern web of life…Arctic style!
Thousands of beluga whales are gradually appearing in the Hudson Bay and Churchill River around the Churchill area. After leaving late last fall, early October, these magnificent milky colored whales are resurfacing for another fantastic Churchill Arctic summer season. We can’t wait to bring you all the photos and news from the water as the whales congregate, tend to young and feed on capelin in the cold water. There will surely be surprises each week as we follow Natural Habitat groups of travelers on their northern adventures!
Beluga whale underwater in the Churchill River last season. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.