Killer whales or ‘snow birds’?

On their way south so soon?
It’s amazing what one can ponder based on the fascinating information that comes via satellites orbiting the earth.  I see that the killer whale pod we’re following spent a few days in the Bowhead whale sanctuary 120 km south of the Inuit community of Clyde River.  Perhaps they were feeding on a mature bowhead whale – fuelling up well for the long journey south to west African waters for the winter.

30 sept 2013 e baffin
Arctic Killer Whale tracker, September 30, 2013

We’re past the autumn equinox now, and the days are quickly getting shorter on Baffin Island, and sea-ice is now re-forming to the north of the island.  Our killer whale pod moved south into Home Bay, which is north of Qikiqtarjuaq (small community in Auyittuq National Park, where WWF support has helped install steel bear-proof food storage bins, to help reduce the conflicts between polar bears and humans).
I’ve been in Baffin Bay about 60 km east of Home Bay, and there from a ship my first truly marine polar bear on a  lovely calm day at dawn – a big male swimming steadily from Greenland to Canada, seemingly oblivious of our  ship.  Much more a marine mammal than a terrestrial one, I’d say!
Killer whale, British Columbia, Canada
©Natalie Bowes/WWF-Canada

I’d love to visit Home Bay – as a seabird ecologist by training, I was excited to read that the Little Auk (Dovekie) – that smallest member of the auk family, which are basically the northern hemisphere version of penguins – had been recorded nesting here on Canadian soil.  Actually it would have been in rocky scree or crevices high up on a sea cliff, as far out of reach from arctic foxes as possible.  It’s just one example of the many species that make their hone on the coastline of Baffin Island.  With its many inlets and offshore islands, it’s home to many productive marine food chains – good hunting grounds for killer whales at the top of those food chains.
Little auk stret
Little auk, Spitsbergen, Norway
© Wild Wonders of Europe /Ole Joergen Liodden / WWF

We are keeping our fingers tightly crossed, hoping that the remaining radio unit will stay in place and keep transmitting the whereabouts of the pod.  Soon they may strike out into Davis Strait and the deep waters of the North Atlantic, or continue south and hug the Labrador coastlines.
Stay tuned for more updates as we try to keep up with the killer whales of the Arctic!