Thursday, August 2, 2012

Newfoundland (and new-found-birds) (#224-227)

Ruby Wednesday
I'm outside tonight, tending my little garden and hear a little motor above my head. I look up, and it's my good friend Ruby, whom I've been a little out of touch with. He/she hovers for a moment and takes off in a huff, reminding me of the things I have been neglecting: 1) replacing the sugar water in the feeder and 2) keeping up to date on my bird blog. I hang my head in shame at the ants that have collected in the feeder and take it down, set it inside meaning to fill it and start back in the garden. Not long after, he/she (or another friend Ruby) returns and I feel like an ass for not having done it right away. Clearly the stuff is in high demand, and they love my garden as much as I do. So I head in, clean it out, hang it up, and sit and wait. No action until the mosquitoes found their own nectar, and now I'll have to wait until another day to catch up with old friends. If you can't wait that long, you can get your fix now:

Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones on Grooveshark

In other (sort of) local news, I found myself lawn bowling in the middle of Toronto last week, and looked up, and wouldn't you know, there was a whole whack of chimney swifts above my head! I was distracted enough that I had someone sub in for me, but didn't go to the get the camera. But I have been wanting to see one for a long time! It's too bad I can't share pics here. 

On a whim Edge and I decided to hop, skip and jump ( over to Canada's beautiful east coast. We've been interested in visiting Newfoundland for a while now...for one because we loved Ireland so much and heard it was similar (sort of...) and for two because the commercials are so damn convincing!

A lot of the birds in Newfoundland are much like the ones at home--it's not like you are headed into the tropics or anything, but out there you get lots of sea birds that don't come anywhere near landlocked Ottawa, and that was a special treat!

Our first day we drove a good part of the east side of the "Irish Loop," stopping at one point to hike a little section of the Beaches Path, where we got our first views of ATLANTIC PUFFINS (heart is screaming!!) right from the shore. They were still a bit out for good seeing but they are kind of...unmistakeable. In a matter of a few minutes we had our first two lifers of the trip--the puffins, and also BOREAL CHICKADEES. CUTE! I'm sure any Newfoundlander would laugh at how excited I was too see this so-apparently-common bird (not the only "common" bird there that was a lifer). They look just like the black-capped, but something about the colouring just makes them seem oh-so sweet...and soft. It was a little odd to get a few lifers on our trip of birds that we do have in Ontario--I just haven't found them (In the end, I think by the end of the trip there were at least three that would meet that criteria)

#224: Boreal Chickadee; June 30, 2012; Beaches Path, Newfoundland

We also got our first views of the trip of Greater Black-backed and other gulls. This path is close to Witless Bay, where a humpback was hanging around, and which where there are four islands that are ecological reserves and bird colonies. While the birds nest out on the island in high concentrations, the odd few venture closer to the mainland area.
Herring Gull by the sea
 Matt decided the following day that he really wanted to go out to see the whales in the bay, and this meant we'd get to get closer to the ecological reserve islands, so we readily forked over our cash to Ecotours, a company that runs a small zodiac out into the bay and to the islands. The zodiac was great because it was fast and manoeuvrable and we were weren't with a hundred other people on a huge boat. We had to wear these huge full-body orange life suits that were kind of ridiculous--felt like we were preparing for disaster in Antarctic waters or something! It just happened to be Canada Day and I was feeling particularly patriotic being able to take in the stunning richness of this little corner of our country.
nothing short of spectacular
The first 45 minutes were spent admiring a magnificent humpback whale and a few Minkes in Bay Bulls, and the second half we spent cruising around the big island. As we approached we got a good strong whiff that tells know you are approaching a sea bird colony. It's home to the largest North American colony of Atlantic puffins, but there were also Common Murres in abundance, Black-legged kittiwakes, herring and black-backed gulls, and razorbills. The island is also home to a significant number of Leach's storm petrels, which we unfortunately did not see, as we learned that they are nocturnal and hide in burrows all day.

Now of course we saw puffins in Alaska, but not Atlantics! Actually, I think I did see puffins as teeny tiny specks in Ireland in 2009 (?) at the Cliffs of Moher, but it was too windy to take a boat out (I was still in love with puffins back then, even before the birding thing happened). It's worth noting that puffins are called "sea parrots" or "clowns of the sea." I'm more inclined to call them the "cuties of the sea."

#225: Atlantic Puffin; July 1, 2012; Witless Bay Ecological Preserve, Newfoundland

check gull in the back for scale. they're tiny!
Thought we had seen razorbills in Alaska (a lot of the birds were similar to Newfoundland), but nope!

#226: Razorbill; July 1, 2012; Witless Bay Ecological Preserve, Newfoundland

There was also an unbelievable number of common murres (common there, anyway). The murres were one of the more abundant birds we saw there. Not great fliers, they would jump off the rocks and sort of splash and sputter over the water if they didn't get a good take-off. Great swimmers though!
Some of them have a neat white line around their eyes. Those ones are "bridled," and are also adults
murres lined up
Both of the murres and the razorbills look so unreal--their markings are so perfect--that they look like they are painted.

I wanted to add some videos so that you could get the feeling of the scale out there. I'll admit that the camera handling is absolutely horrendous (you try shooting a video with a point and shoot on a zodiac in the ocean!) but you get the idea :)

Murres below, puffins on top

So many murres......

Black-legged kittiwake nesting
Us with our captain
The next day we had plans to hike the Spout Path from Bay Bulls. The Spout Path is a section of the East Coast Trail, a 540-km coastal trail. Having already done the West Coast Trail, this only seemed appropriate. Well we set out at noon for a 9-hour hike with only 2 bottles of water between us in 30 degree C weather--we ran into a trail custodian who urged us to turn around and we refused, with dehydration and darkness imminent, but anyways, what I'm really trying to say is that I finally spotted my first pine grosbeak on that hike, perched silently on some low heather (I always thought they'd be higher up in the trees? Although I suppose we had some altitude on our side) and not particularly concerned about us. One more lifer, and one more lifer to add to the list of birds we have at home but I haven't seen. Thank ye for obliging, Mr. Grosbeak!

#227: Pine Grosbeak; July 2, 2012; Spout Path (Bay Bulls end), Newfoundland
Well I'm feeling a little bit like I did after I did after that hike so I'm calling it quits. I can't promise when the next post will be, but I promise it will be good!

1 comment:

dwaynejava said...

Jenna, wow... wow! Its good to know that you still have the birding bug! Amazing posting! :-)