Saturday, July 28, 2012

Newfoundland Journey

 Beautiful landscapes abound in every direction as we travel into the numerous peninsulas of this large rugged Island of Newfoundland.  We found the wildlife and the people to be as varied as the landscapes.  Each area seemed to be founded and inhabited by European nationalities.  There was the Irish Loop, the Viking Trail, the French fishing villages, plus the Scotch, Dutch, English and Portuguese.  All claimed a piece of this New Found Land.
Upon closer examination we found the diverse habitats teeming with abundant wildlife.  Every pond, stream and lake showed signs of beaver activity which included this cooperative and industrious pair.  He became very "talkative" (mewing sounds) when his female counterpart joined him for a birch twig snack.
Many of the sheer cliff faces and rocky haystack islands were colonized by Atlantic Puffins, N. Gannets, Common & Thick-billed Murres, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Black-legged Kittiwakes and numerous other nesting seabirds.  What made this experience so incredible was the proximity and eye-level viewing.  We visited three different Puffin colonies, one at Cape Bonavista,  five nesting islands at Elliston harboring 10,000 pairs, and Witless Bay Ecological Reserve with many thousand flying like swarms of bees over the islands and water.  Some Puffins were excavating burrows in the soft peat, some flying in with fish for their young, some fighting, while others posed for the camera like these pictured.
 Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve on the Avalon Peninsula exhibited a phenomenal colony of sea birds distributed apartment-like on the steep 900 foot high cliffs.  At the top were 24,000 pairs of N. Gannets with big fluffy chicks (pictured), below in layers were ten thousand pairs of Com. Murres, 10,000 pairs of Black-legged Kittiwakes and additional seabird species.  (No we did not count them but the biologists did).  This coastline is shrouded in dense fog 28 days a month.  However this day we were blessed with sunshine and blue skies affording spectacular views.

The cacophony of calling Gannets, bill clacking, mock bill sword fighting, mutual preening and chick feeding filled the air with both deafening sound and the rich aroma of fishy guano making for an over-whelming and unforgettable experience. Other birds of interest included: 17 fly-over Whimbrels, numerous Shearwaters, the best a Cory's which was a new life bird for us.

Certainly one of our memorable Newfoundland experiences was spending an pleasant afternoon visiting with Neil & Jan Payne (parents of Mark Payne, Wildlife Sanctuary Ranger).  From the porch of their lovely summer home in Campbellton we saw and heard a Minke Whale on the calm waters of Notre Dame Bay.

Our journey here is nearing an end as we head to the Ferry Dock for our return to Nova Scotia.
A fond farewell to Newfoundland, Canada
Ty & Ida Baumann

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Western Newfoundland

 Our six hour voyage on the Atlantic Vision Ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland with sunny, calm waters was an enjoyable pelagic bird filled trip.  We added Manx and Greater Shearwaters to our life list along with N. Fulmars, Sooty Shearwaters, Wilson's and Leach's Storm Petrels.  A number of dolphins and whales added to our wildlife observations.

We found Newfoundland's landscape to be amazingly diverse.  The harbor's barren rock with it's wind stunted evergreens gave way to sharp mountain peaks, boreal forests, interspersed with extensive bogs, rivers and ponds.  It's unique coastline, rock formations, large estuaries, quaint fishing villages nestled in each cove provided a local flavor and historical perspective along the Viking Trail.
 We stopped at many provincial parks along the route, this one with beautiful arches and waves splashing into the openings.  The openings stood about 15 feet and twenty five at the top.  Another park we stayed at was called "Blow Me Down Park"  and we experienced it's namesake of strong gusting winds.
 Our mountaintop vantage point on Onion Cape gave us views of Labrador's coast in the background, massive icebergs being carried south by the ocean's currents, and the historic place (L'Anse aux Meadows) where Lief Erickson landed over 1,000 years ago.  From here we also saw over 20 Humpback Whales entertained us with pectoral fin slaps, fluke waves, and full breaches with water flying everywhere.
This is a close-up of the above iceberg which was over 200 feet tall as you can see it dwarfs the village in the above picture.  From this harbor in St. Anthony's we also had a very close encounter with a minke whale, (hard to get a picture of).  At least icebergs don't move fast or disappear under the water.

The generous number of "Moose Crossing" signs posted along the highway kept us ever vigilant. We did see 17 moose along the Viking Trail from the ferry landing to the northern most tip of Newfoundland.  Birds of note included nesting Blackpoll Warblers, Fox Sparrow, Com. Redpolls, Pine & Evening Grosbeaks, Gray Jays, Boreal Chickadees, Black-backed Woodpeckers and Piping Plovers.

Greetings to all from the far north.
Ty & Ida Baumann

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Northeast Nova Scotia

 We had a great send off from New Brunswick seeing our third moose; three red foxes running on the beach; and a yearling black bear crossing the highway.  Just into Nova Scotia we slowed down for two Am. Woodcocks on the road and a doe with twin fawns.  We camped along the Northunmberland Shore seeing this beautiful sunset with Prince Edward Island to the north.  We drove along St. George's Bay then traveled NE to Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
 The Park includes miles of breath-taking coastline with steep sea cliffs, sheltered coves and crashing waves.  Corney Brook campground provided an interesting day with Pilot and Minke Whales and an assortment of seabirds followed by a nearly sleepless night with 50+ mph winds buffeting the RV.

The next morning brought calm and sunshine.  We walked the 5 mile Skyline Trail on French Mountain.  What a unique experience with Spruce Forest and bog environment (pitcher plant to the right) leading out to a beautiful coastline vista.  We finally found our boreal birds that we had been looking for since we left Wisconsin: Spruce Grouse, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, Red Crossbills, and Pine Grosbeaks.
Our seabird boat trip adventure took us to Bird Island off the eastern coast of Nova Scotia  We saw over 800 pairs of Atlantic Puffins and Razorbills on the rocky cliffs of these colonial nesting islands.  In addition to these were Black Guillemots, Great Cormorants, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Gr. Black-backed Gulls and 20+ Bald Eagles sitting in the sea caves waiting for unattended gull chicks.

Next up?  The six hour ferry ride to Newfoundland and another new adventure.
Best wishes and prayers,
Ida & Ty Baumann

Sunday, July 1, 2012

St. Lawrence Seaway & Gulf

 As we rounded the bend in the highway along the Saguenay Fjord we saw our second Moose of the trip while traveling to the ferry at St. Simeon to cross the St. Lawrence Seaway.  On the 34 km trip we encountered our first east coast sea birds: Razorbills, Com. Murres, Com. Eiders, Black Guillemots, Gr. Black-backed Gulls and Black-legged Kittiwakes.  After landing we found an overlook and saw a pod of Beluga Whales, at least six; beautiful white in the blue water.  We traveled inland and up the mountains to Reserve Fauneque Duchenier and located two singing Bicknell's Thrushes - a life bird!
 We drove along the entire coastline of the Gaspe' Peninsula of SE Quebec encountering our first of many N. Gannets, their white plumage only rivaled by the hundreds of drake Com. Eiders in nuptial attire, (one pictured at right).  We also saw hundreds of Black-legged Kittiwakes, Thick-billed Murres, Arctic Terns and some Gray Seals.

While watching thousands of birds feeding  from Pointe Ste-Pierre: "Thar she blows" 6-8 Humpback Whales put on quite a show over a 2 hour period - spouting, backs rolling, and tail wags.
Many of the small towns had large, old churches along the water that turned out to be great places to bird from.

Just into New Brunswick, we watched a Fisher cross the road in front of us.   More people speak English here which is a relief to us non-French speaking folk.  We turned our clocks forward again into the Atlantic Time Zone.

We found a small park to stay at Maisonnette Point where we surprisingly found 7 species of shorebirds including nesting Willets and Red Knots in breeding plumage.
We continued along the coastline spending the bulk of the day on Miscou Island.  We walked on elevated boardwalks through a unique bog environment with its complement of heath family acidic adapted plants: the insectivorous pitcher plants, sundew & bladderwort, the bog rosemary, bog laurel, leather leaf and grass-pink orchids.  Interpretive graphics informed us that 40% of this island is peat bog, some as deep as 25 feet, (pictured to right).  We found the peat harvest operation and large (other-worldly looking) vacuum equipment to be most interesting.

Another coastal point of interest included a boardwalk through a short-grass marshland bearing a colony of Nelson's (Sharp-tailed) Sparrows.  Adjacent to the marsh were hundreds of black floats, according to locals, marked the large Oyster "seed beds"
Tomorrow we head south toward Nova Scotia as we continue our Canada journey.
Happy Canada Day & U.S. Independence Day!     Ty & Ida Baumann