Things I am Thinking About Right Now...

  • 1. Finally Updated; A busy ( and not-so-birdy fall ) fall
  • 2. A smew in Ontario ??? And I got to see it !
  • 3. Thinking about summer vacation...
  • 4. And Sping trips too !
  • 5. Quite a few Winter rarities around. May try to add a few more to the list
  • 6. Still no snow on the ground...
  • 7. Project FeederWatch is going strong. Two eports submitted...
  • 8. I think I have convinced my wife to visit Cape May next summer !
  • 9. The Elephant Pepper Development Trust ( Check out their site ! )
  • 10. Tying to decide how to spend my remaining gift certificates !

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Newfoundland Vacation - Part 1 - In search of whales

The family vacation to Newfoundland is over. Despite butal summer weather, even by Newfoundland standards, everybody enjoyed themselves. Now it is time to get back into routines, prepare for back to school shopping and blogsome trip reports. From a birding perspective, the trip brought 6 life birds including some nice pelagic species. In fact Newfoundland is a great place to indulge in the outdoors and get closer to nature. One of the activities that I would recommend is a whale-watching tour and there may be no better place than Bay Bulls, a small town about 40 minutes south of St. John's.

There is no shortage of options when you aive in Bay Bulls. If you want my recommendation, go with O'brien's Puffin and Whale Tours. Their on-land premesis has a great gift shop and restaurant. The crew is always friendly and accomodating. Plus the company my brother works for built their new boat (Note: I didn't find this out until after the fact...). The tour takes you out into Witless Bay Ecological Sanctuary and the focus is on puffins and whales ( of course ).

You will see puffins. Lots of puffins. Starting early with a few flocks flying across the water and climaxing as the boat coasts along Gull Island. All the islands in the Witless Bay Sanctuary are seabird nesting sites and Gull Island may be the grandest example. The puffins take most of the attention; their burrows dominate the crown of grassy vegetation that caps the island. However, there is much more: GREATER BLACK-BACKED GULLS, HERRING GULLS, BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE and COMMON MURRE nest on the cliffs. Some close inspection will reveal RAZORBILLS. And absurdly close inspection will net the odd THICK-BILLED MURRE. Another eason for recommending O'brien's: they know their stuff. I asked the guide if thick-billed murres bred on this island and within five minutes he had one picked out for me to look at.
 There are breeding thick-billed murres on the other islands in Witless Bay representing the furthest south this species breeds. NORTHERN FULMAR is another species that breeds in the area that landlubbers like me will seldom see. Again, the guide picked out one flying across the bow but I was a bit slow and distracted by...

Humpback Whales are relatively easy to find in Newfoundland. You can also see lots of Minke whales, too ( I think there may be one mixing in with the mother and calf Humpbacks ). If you are really lucky you could also pick up Fin, Orcas  and dolphins. The Humpbacks are true stars. These two froliced, jumped and put on a show for twenty solid minutes before we made it back. I would say this was a once-in-a-lifetime show but five years ago, I was out on a trip with the same operator and the same result ! Yet another reason to recommend O'brien's ! They also offer Screech-ins and tradition Newfoundland music which helps get one in the mood for nautical adventure. It was very special to see these magnificent whales with my kids. THE DAUGHTER will probably remember it for a long time. THE SON, who seems to have a taste for all things water-based, was extremely excited. You can hear him encouraging the whales to jump...a very special moment indeed...

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