Monday, August 13, 2012

Newfoundland III: the rest of the best (#229 + update #131))

I almost forgot to post these little guys, which we had seen along Battery Road in St. John's. There were lots of juvenile gulls around but I just had to laugh at this nest, so exposed on the roof, and the chicks just walking around, awkward looking as they are.

Another one of our hosts in Newfoundland, Tina, was actually a wildlife biologist with the Newfoundland Parks Service...i.e. she studies birds for a living! Then I realized that this girl had my dream job and I need to do something about it. The fact that she was about the same age, and according Matt, even looked like me was a little crazy. Anyway, she was awesome and gave us lots of hints and it was great to bird-nerd with her. She laughed at how badly I wanted to see a gray jay (she said, "don't worry, you'll get your gray jay!").

As bizarre coincidence would have it, I just happened to flop one of the guidebooks open to the right page while we were in the right area that mentioned a tern colony at McIver's near Corner Brook. This was never on the original itinerary but we changed course to check it out. The book said it was Arctic terns but I only saw commons (I think I might have seen some Arctic terns later on, a would-be lifer, but I said "I'll get a pic later"---which completely backfired on me). The colony is a small little island close to shore. it would have been nice to have kayaks to get a little closer, but not sure that's even a good idea when they are nesting.

gone fishin'

tern colony is the little island, so luckily they have no land predators like cats, raccoons, etc. Needless to mention how cute the little villages are in Newfoundland.

The next big personal birding moment was on the path at the spectacular Western Brook Pond in Gros Morne National Park when I spotted something dusky close to the ground in a bush---it was awkwardly hopping around, and I wasn't sure what it was until I saw the parent nearby---GRAY JAY! FINALLY! I've wanted to see one of these so badly, mainly because of their behaviour of being cheeky little buggers, and while they didn't do anything too crazy, shy is not the word I would use to describe them. They just hopped about doing their thing. They are much bigger than I imagined, and the juveniles look almost like crows because they are all black. Since we go to Algonquin Park in Ontario often enough, I thought we'd see one there for sure, but so far we haven't. So Tina was right, we got our gray jay, but it was a near miss, and we only saw these two!

#229: Gray Jay; Western Brook Pond (Gros Morne National Park), Newfoundland; July 2012

We also saw a few more boreal chickadees---OMAGOD SO FRIKKIN CUTE

We did often see some brownish ducks out in the water. I thought nothing of it, like I would at home, assuming they'd be either mallards or black ducks. Matt told me to take a picture to get a better look anyway so I did, an after reviewing it told him, yeah, it's just some brown ducks. I should have clued in that they were brown ducks in the ocean...that's different. So glad that I didn't immediately delete the picture because when I got home I realized that those brown ducks were eiders! Tina had told us we might see eiders up north, but I had envisioned male eiders--very distinct from the females, which are quite plain looking, aside from the slant to their bills. I'm cursing myself now for not having taken the time to get a better shot. I'm going to study this hopefully be able to call whether they are common or kings.
At the end of the trip we shifted around our schedule because I decided I really wanted to see Bonavista, where John Cabot supposedly first landed in Canada. In the end this turned out to be a great game-time decision. We saw some truly amazing scenery there and wildlife spottings too.

When 3000 km in a rental in such a short time frame started to get to Matt and me and we were right about to strangle each other, this little guy came to the rescue and allowed us to cool our heads because he was so awesome. Tina had said we'd have a good chance of seeing Spruce Grouse/Rock Ptarmigan if we hiked up to the top of Gros Morne, but we didn't end up going because of the schedule switch up and because the day we were going to do it was pretty foggy so there wouldn't be much point to it. So it was nice to see a ruffed grouse anyway :)
We never did spot an Arctic Tern, which are supposedly abundant in Newfoundland. But we certainly saw lots of common terns.
I think I counted a juvenile pigeon guillemot in Alaska but didn't have the treat of seeing adults then. I loved watching them swim around the turquoise waters of Cape Bonavista with their bright red feet underneath. I certainly don't think they help them to camouflage themselves but they must help in some other way--mating I suppose. Newfies call them "sea pigeons" because they are so abundant--But I only saw them in Bonavista. Very cute little buggers though.

*UPDATE - January 1, 2013*
Thanks to Rob for pointing out that these are actually Black Guillemots (see comment below). They look extremely similar, but the white wing patches are uninterrupted on the Black Guillemots and the range map is certainly different! That makes this one...
#131: Black Guillemot, Cape Bonavista, July 2012

On our way back to St. John's from Bonavista we made another last-minute decision to go through Elliston, the root cellar capital of the world (yes, really) and also home to the annual Bird Island Puffin Festival. It is the best place in North America for watching nesting puffins from land. There is a bit of land that juts out into the ocean and then a little island just past it where the puffins nest. We arrived late in the day but there were some guys there with some huge guns (no I don't mean weapons, or biceps) who seemed to have been there all day. It's kind of a dream for bird photographers because since you don't have to get on a boat to see them, you can get nice stable shots and use a tripod. Which is funny because I'm not actually going to post any shots from there. I mainly enjoyed our last evening in Newfoundland just being there--soaking up the views and the salty coastal breeze.

That's everything! Newfoundland was an amazing experience, for the birds, but also for everything else, which I really didn't even get into or share here (that would have made for crazy long posts---I guess that's for another blog, or facebook at least!). The wildlife, the scenery, the lifestyle, the people; it was all unreal.


dwaynejava said...

Jenna, great stuff. Beautifully photographed and scribed. ... Mixing a little birding into travel really makes it so much better :-)

Robert Maciver said...

McIver's Island?! Whoa I have to go there. Someday I would like to visit Newfoundland.

Those would be Black Guillemots; Pigeon's are west coast.

deepdowndawn said...

Thanks for pointing that out Rob! Awesome...another lifer! I'll go back and edit it. yippee!