May 13/15 Port aux Basques to St John
When the ferry arrived at Port aux Basques on the West Coast of Newfoundland the shoreline was barely visible.
|Fog shrouded Newfoundland|
I had just retreated into the van to hide when a Northern Parula landed on my side view mirror. At first I thought it was picking off insects caught by my resident spider but then I realized it was attacking its own reflection, territorial behaviour I expect.
|Northern Parula checks out the Westfalia.|
It was almost dark so I had to use a flash to capture the action. This is the best of many attempts.
Next morning and itching all over I made my way through the mother of all rain storms across Newfoundland and when I could drive no longer I stopped off at Notre Dame Provincial Park.
A good thing about Newfoundland Provincial parks is they cost only $17 a night. They have showers, indoor plumbing laundry and wildlife. In Ontario the cost with taxes is almost $40 per night.
Just before the park I saw my first Moose and a little later five Woodland Caribou with young but by the time I had applied the brakes and grabbed my camera they had retreated into the forest.
At Butter Pot I fond Ruffed Grouse, American Redstart, Blackpoll Warbler, Wood Thrush, Song Sparrow, Gray Jay, Savannah Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Warbler and no doubt others whose song I couldn't recognize. A much as I tried, the shy Wood Thrush would not pose for me but at least I saw one.
|Blackpoll Warbler in non-breeding plumage. Thanks Mel for the ID.|
When sun finally came out I took the opportunity to visit St John's waterfront and heritage district. It was as unique as anything I had seen on any of my travels.
If I had my time again in Newfoundland I would visit the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve rather than Bird Island In Nova Scotia. I just didn't have the time to go everywhere. However I see there are direct flights to St John's from Dublin or London so next time I visit the UK a return trip might be possible. I would plan at least 2-3 weeks for Newfoundland alone with an extra week to visit Labrador. For iceberg and whale viewing I would go July as I was a little early for both but for birding early May would be better for shorebird migration and later in summer for pelagics on the ferry crossings.
|The Heritage district of St John's streets colourfully painted houses.|
I liked birding the hillside as the wind which kept the bugs away and the views are stunning. I even saw a whale spouting off shore.
|As the crow flies it is the same distance from St John's to Bristol UK and Vancouver BC.|
|The view atop Signal Hill|
June16/15 St Mary's Ecological Reserve/Avalon Peninsula
Heading out to St Mary's can be a bit of a lottery. I was warned the colony could shrouded in fog or battered by high winds or worse rain. As I drove from St John's the roads became progressively worse, cavernous potholes appearing without notice.
|The village of Jigging Cove|
I passed through many small fishing villages that once existed on the cod fishery but now rely solely on the lobster catch. Due to the absence of cod the lobster fishery is now booming. The enormous shoals of cod used to scour the bottom of the ocean for the tasty crustacean but with the cod long gone, the lobsters have few natural predators and have proliferated. It will be interesting to see how long the lobster fishery will last, from the amount of lobster pots out in the ocean I would guess a decade or so and then what?
The fishing communities I drove through were unlike any I had seen before, even in Newfoundland.
The weather battered homes looked like they needed a coat of paint, the children and men weathered and no sign of prosperity that many in the rest of Canada enjoy. So, after all those years of listening to CBC and Peter Gzowski's Morning Show I was finally travelling across my adopted country and the scenes in front of me began to make better sense. All the interviews, the stories, the place names I used to hear about suddenly synthesized and this whole trip I am undertaking came into focus.
CBC detractors can skip the next link!
|The Gannets, Common Murre and Black-legged Kittiwakes nest only 30 metres from the path.|
|Panorama St Mary's from Nikon P900|
For those of you who have been to St Mary's, the interpretation centre is the tiny speck on the top right hand side of the picture.
|Northern Gannets cover every inch of rock.|
A Black-legged Kittiwake repels a Common Raven from stealing eggs. Nests on the edge of the colony were the most predated but even the larger gannets nests suffered the same fate.
|Black-legged Kittiwakes prefer a ledge to build their nests.|
|Black-legged Kittiwakes bringing in nest building material.|
|Northern Gannets pair for life.|
On a bird colony like St Mary's there is quite a lot of, for a better word...Poop! It, the poop has to go somewhere and often it would lands on an unsuspecting bird below. Way below I watched hundreds murres in the ocean, all they seemed to be doing washing themselves.
Ungainly on land, the Northern Gannet use upwinds to take off and land. Out at sea there is nothing more elegant than seeing a gannet dive from a hundred metres in the to catch a fish. The species return to Newfoundland each year from the Gulf of Mexico where it winters.
More about Gannets
The least common bird to found at St Mary's is the Razorbill.
|A wide angle view from the pathway. Not the place to be tripping over a tripod and big lenses!|
More about St Mary's
June 17/15 Port aux Basques
|Finally the clouds part and the sun re-appears.|
|Black and White Warbler|
When I arrived in St John's I contacted a few birders who gave me some tips about where to go and the first suggestion was Codroy Valley, the very first place I had started my journey and camped a week earlier. I had decided to spend a day there, weather permitting on my return journey. This time the sun was out and the birds were active. Red-winged Blackbirds, Black and White, Yellow-rumped and Yellow Warblers were the most common birds. I did spot numerous Great-blue Herons and a pair of nesting Black Duck.
|The picturesque Codroy Valley is and the Wetlands Interpretation Centre is only ten minutes from the ferry and Port Aux Basque.|
The final hours in Newfoundland I walked and drove around the town of Port aux Basques. Away from the busy ferry terminal the pace of life was quite different. Although I wore a fleece and tuque due the crisp breeze off the ocean many of the residents had already decided summertime had arrived and were in flip flops and t-shirts! A hardy bunch I say!
|Last view of Port aux Basques and Newfoundland.|
The next leg of the trip will take me from Nova Scotia's Bird Island around Cape Breton's Cabot Trail another exiting adventure to look forward to.
It's never too late to start travelling"