Thousands of seabirds on one of the islands in Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, just a half hour south of St. John's, Newfoundland, return to land from May to August to breed and raise their young ones. Observation of these birds is done from the boat, as landing on the islands requires a scientific research or special access permit. But I didn't need to invade their territory to appreciate and enjoy their habitat. I booked a shuttle ride provided by O'Brien's Boat Toursand chatted all the way there and all the way back with Loyola. So fun to meet the locals and just enjoy hearing them talk.
On the boat tour, we are told that there are almost a quarter of a million birds flying around us and squawking and flapping their wings. Oh, if I could only see the smile on my face! Those cute little puffins were on my list of things to see, and I thought I might not get the chance during the two weeks were were on the rock.
Our tour guide gave us some interesting facts about these little birds. Did you know they mate for life and come back to nest year after year to look after their offspring? Then in the fall, they head out to sea, going their separate ways for the winter months. Only during mating season do they find each other again. It's what makes a happy marriage!
On the same rock where the Atlantic puffins were nesting there were also Razorbill auks. I loved the lines on their beaks, and the strip on the wings.
These common murres didn't seem to mind the tighter quarters on their piece of the rock. My first impression of them was they looked like black-eyed beans scattered in chunks of chocolate!
Northern Gannets breed in only a few colonies along the North Atlantic. This fellow was more of a tourist, exploring Fogo Island. I wanted to see one on this trip, and we got really close to this fella crossing the road just outside Joe Batt's Arm. Northern Gannets spend most of their life at sea and we saw a flock of them off the western Newfoundland engage in plunge-diving for fish early one evening. They were too far away to photograph, but so much fun to watch them dive into the ocean from more than 100 feet.
We had about an hour to kill waiting for the ferry to get off Fogo Island to head back to Farewell to be on our way west. With my biggest lens I was on my belly for a long time, creeping between parked cars and the grass waiting, trying to catch this little hopper and his mate. His colour was so bright red. I didn't know what kind of bird he was, and I never did buy that bird book. So when I got a chance, I looked it up and found that this is a Red Crossbill and it is on an Endangered Species list according to a report by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada which estimated that only 500 to 1,500 Newfoundland crossbills survive.
Our last day in St. John's we took a drive up to Torbay to see what we could see. We could watch the fishermen with their traps, setting them out for the day's catch of lobster. The cove was near one of the entrances to the East Coast Trail, so I took a little jaunt along the slanted rocks and scrubby trees on a gorgeous sunny day. Having hiked the West Coast Trail in 2008, I guess I will now have to go back to Newfoundland and hike the East Coast Trail. Who wants to come along?
Terrill Bodner, MPA is an Accredited Professional Photographer living in Prince George, BC, specializing in Real Estate, Contemporary, and Fine Art photography. Terrill is a member of Professional Photographers of Canada, accredited in Fine Art/Photo Decor, Animals, Wildlife, Nature, Ornithology/Bird, Botanical, Pictorial/Scenic, and Travel Illustration photography and holds the designation of Master of Photographic Arts from Professional Photographers of Canada. She shoots in studio and on location. Come on in and snoop around!