Sunday 14 June 2015

Grand Manan Archipelago 'Little Big Year' Part 17

           June 7 2015 St John New Brunswick to Grand Manan Island and Whitehead Island.

Another sunny day and two ferry rides from the mainland. First to Grand Manan Island and then to Whitehead Island, home of author and Birdpal Roger Burrows. Roger has worked for Parks Canada and is also a skilled naturalist, interpretive planner and avifaunal consultant. He also runs bird tours from his cottage on Whitehead Island.

Roger suggested that I look out for alcids on the way over from the mainland and soon into the trip I spotted four Razorbills, a Minke Whale and a pod of Harbour Porpoises.

Herring Gulls follow a lobster boat,
For every Black-backed Gull there are ten Herring Gulls.

Common Eider
The crossing to Whitehead Island produced small numbers of Common Razorbill, Double-crested
Cormorant, Black Guilimot and thirty or so Common Eider. This male bird flew past during the thirty minute trip to the island (pop125)
It was here on the Grand Manan archipelago that the last pairs of Eider Duck were protected form certain extiction so valuable were their feathers and down in Victorian times.

As we arrived at Whitehead Harbour several groups of Common Eider, maybe thirty birds, both male and female were feeding along the Dulce beds.

This male was quite a way but better have an ID shot than nothing.

At Grand Manan I first went to Castalia Marsh to look for Nelson’s Sparrow, a had a quick glimpse but will have to go back on my way to the mainland. The next stop was a long shot. A Yellow-crowned Night Heron had been seen feeding behind a church, I could't find it plus it was in the middle of the afternoon and there had probably been too much activity around the area by then. I’ll have to try again (Never did see it)
Lobster fishermen keep their catch here until time for market
When the cod fishery collapsed the lobster population exploded as lobster larvae and young were a prime food for the vast cod shoals that once scoured the Bay of Fundy. It will be interesting to see if the lobster population can stand all the fishing pressure as every bay and even open sea had lobster pots. Even the ferry had negotiate around the strings of traps and at one point became entangled. The ferry won!

Young people dry out Dulce, a seaweed that is exported worldwide and a way for young people to earn a modest income. Most eventually leave the island for work but some stay and fish or cater for tourists and cottage owners who bolster the population and economy during the warmer months. 

Then it was off to Cap Southern Head where Basalt cliffs rise 300 feet out of the Bay of Fundy. Down below Black Guilimots could be seen fishing. Even with my super zoom P900 they were still too far away, besides I get terrible vertigo when I lean over the edges of cliffs.
Basalt column rise 100 metres out the ocean.

After meeting Roger for the first time and settling in I set off on a little walk around the village. I sat on some rocks overlooking the beach. Two non-breeding Common Loons fished in the bay. At the end of the sandy beach near the kelp covered rocks two female Eider Ducks, the mother and one a non breeder chaperoned four young chicks. Too far way for my 150mm-600mm but good for a long range shot with the P900.

Common Eider with chicks.  
I used the P900 handheld for this shot as they were several hundred metres away from shore. The P900 with 2000 mm optical zoom is great for ID shots and presentations and came in handy for this shot.

Roger has published 10 books include Birding in New Brunswick and Birds of Atlantic Canada.

Alder Flycatcher
This flycatcher was easy to identify having probably recently arrived and was in full song. No need to phish or play a call, it flew around us declaring that this bit of meadow was his and his alone. We quietly left so as not to disturb it more than needed.

American Lady

Yellow Warbler
As you can see, we did actually do some birding in between the Women's World Cup games and the day ended with one of my favourite shots.

Black-throated Green Warbler
Although I had photographed a female Black-throated Green Warbler earlier in my trip (see Lake Superior) I was very happy to have been able to capture this male in full breeding plumage.
It too, like the Lake Superior bird was taken metres from the shore on a rocky outcrop covered in stunted conifers.

The time to leave the island and continue my journey but not before wondering how John James Audubon came to the very bay of the above picture to observe tree nesting Herring Gulls. Normally Herring Gulls nest on secluded beaches, apparently there were so many gulls during Audubon's time  they adapted the unusual behaviour, an interesting enough phenomenon to pique the interest of Audubon and draw him to the island. Now I am going to have to find the painting he made and perhaps frame it as a memory.

                                                            For more about the island

I left the island with a few more Canadian lifers*  (26 on this X Country trip)
*White-winged Scoter
*Black Duck
*Black Guillemot
*Greater-black Backed Gull
*Common Eider

 and 7 new birds for my 2015 Canada list

Great Egret #264

Great Egret.

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon"
BC Canada

No comments:

Post a Comment