Friday, July 12, 2019

St. Anthony's Nl June 18-21 2019 and Witless Bay Nl June 21-28 2019

This is the final blog of 3 describing our month in Newfoundland.  
St. Anthonys was long way off the beaten track but it was worth the extra effort made to get there. The big attraction was L'anse Aux Meadows but  we were driving down the street one day, when we saw a sign outside the Canadian legion that said it was scoff night.  I don't think we have ever been in a legion before but we figured it may be a great place to meet locals.  And we were right.  The scoff was jigs dinner and we got screeched in as honorary Newfoundlanders.  It was a good time and we met some fabulous people.

This Blackpoll Warbler was on the boardwalk at L'anse Aux Meadows.
Fox Sparrows are very red here.  
Dian was getting a different perspective at Burnt Cape Ecological reserve.
Burnt Cape Nl.
Visitors Centre at L'anse Aux Meadows.  There was still lots of snow in the sheltered areas.

L'anse Aux Meadows Village.

Listening to old Norse tales.
Tourists are invited to dress up in viking costumes but I was the only one that did.  It tells you something about my personality I guess.

Now for something completely different.  It would be over 50 years ago when I worked for the Hudson's Bay co. northern stores, that I purchased a parka that I just loved.  It was made up of 2 layers-duffel inside and a material called Grenfell cloth was used for the windproof outer shell.  The hood was trimmed with wolverine.  It was very warm.  I remember the Bay got them in, but because they were so expensive they didn't sell very well. They sold them off at a big discount and I purchased one.  I often wondered where the name Grenfell originated.   The above picture was taken by Dian in Wabowden, Manitoba around 1969, where I was manager of the store.  It was probably below zero and I was enjoying the snow and sun with a bottle of something.

Jump ahead 50 years and we meet up with the name Grenfell and the parka again in St. Anthony.  There is a museum and centre dedicated to this English doctor who is highly revered in Newfoundland Labrador.   Sir Wilfred Grenfell went to Newfoundland in 1892 to improve the plight of coastal inhabitants and fishermen. That mission began in earnest in 1892 when he recruited two nurses and two doctors for hospitals at Indian Harbour, Newfoundland and later opened cottage hospitals along the coast of Labrador. The mission expanded greatly from its initial mandate to one of developing schools, an orphanage, cooperatives, industrial work projects, and social work. Although founded to serve the local area, the mission developed to include the aboriginal peoples and settlers along the coasts of Labrador and the eastern side of the Great Northern Peninsula of northern Newfoundland. In 1908 on a trip to a remote village he got trapped on an ice pan after falling through the ice.  He had to kill his sled dogs and use the pelts to keep warm. He was eventually rescued and said animal fur wouldn't keep a statue warm.  A textile company in England on hearing this and developed a textile with 600 threads to the inch to honor him and that was the link to the parka I had purchased so many years ago.  I was telling the manager of the gift shop about my parka and she said she was familiar with it and that it was still available.  However it would now cost well over $1000.  I didn't order one.  One more twist to the story. One morning Dian was reading about Grenfell and she said "Do you know Grenfell was born in the same village as you?"  I didn't know that.

Our final destination was Witless Bay Nl.  We chose this location for its proximity to St. Johns and activities such as boat tours to see the local birds and whales.
The following shots was taken around 5AM off the deck of our unit.

Otters scampered on the rocks under the deck.

An Atlantic Puffin was one of thousands on a boat tour we took to Gull Island.

Black-tailed Godwit: Found in a variety of flooded grasslands, estuaries, and exposed mudflats across northern Europe and Asia. Breeds across central Eurasia and winters in sub-Saharan Africa, southeastern Asia, Indonesia, and Australia. Occurs casually on Pribilofs and along the Atlantic Coast from Quebec to Florida.
A birding guide we met, informed us about this bird in Renews Nl.  It is the rarest bird we encountered on the trip.
We spotted this Mink while looking for the Godwit.
It was a 3 hour drive to Cape St. Marys from Witless Bay but well worth it.  
Although the day was sunny, when we arrived at St. Marys the fog rolled in.  The Gannets behind Dian were not far away but barely visible.  
This is an example of an original foggy picture.  A lot of post processing had to be done to make it presentable.  The following pictures are after cropping and processing.

A Common Murre and Razorbill at St. Marys.  Notice the bright yellow gape when the bill is open.  This feature is not often observed.
Razorbill Auks

I spotted this fox while driving to St. Marys.  They are not too concerned with human presence.
We noticed another fox carrying a Common Murre.  We followed it to find it drop off the kill to this kit who was proceeding to "disassemble" it.
We took a day to visit St. Johns.

Most of our time was spent on Signal Hill.  Here one gets a great view of the harbour.  A tour bus arrived and the occupants scattered.  Someone came up to me and started pointing out all the landmarks.  It was the tour guide from the bus and she must have thought I was one of the bus passengers.  I appreciated all the effort she was taking to make sure I got my moneys worth.

The reddish crown on this bird was really making us doubt its identification of a Swamp Sparrow.  Ours on the west coast are so much drabber.

This is the boat we explored the islands with.  It had a naturalist on board which made the trip very personal.  Some of the other tour boats were much larger and more expensive and we wouldn't have gotten the intimate attention.

There were tens of thousands of birds just off the coast.  These are mostly Common Murres.

And finally another shot of Gannets. We saw 81 species of birds on this trip.  To put this into perspective, someone I know went to the Okanagan for 2 days and saw 74 species.  We had 6 Airbnbs and tried to keep the price between $90 and $120 a night.  We never had a bad experience with any of them.  We couldn't have asked for better weather.  It seemed whenever we were travelling it was raining or foggy and we would wake up the next day to gorgeous weather.  

End of this blog.  Scroll down for previous blogs or hit "Older posts".

Monday, July 8, 2019

Twillingate and Rocky Harbour Gros Morne Nl June 11-18 2019

The 3rd and 4th stops on our tour of Newfoundland were Twillingate and Rocky Harbour.  Twillingate is popular with tourists and as such, has musical dinner theatre.  The staff feed you and provide the entertainment.  It was lot of fun.  I wish we would have taken the ferry to Joe Batts Arm as we found out too late that it was an eclectic haven for artists but we still found plenty to do in our 4 day stay.  

This is view from our AirB&B at Twillingate.

Because of winds this was one of the few times we could take advantage of the deck.  This was a converted fisherman's house that the hostess said was at least 150 years old.

The floors looked to be original and the height to the beams is around 3 meters.  There were 2 bedrooms upstairs.  This little house served us well for 4 nights.

Black and White Warblers are common here.  This one was on trail to a Beothuk centre.  Beothuks are a race of indigenous people that are now extinct.

I liked this shot of a Junco taking off.
We got excited when a Northern Gannet flew by our deck.  When we went further south we saw 100's of them but that will be in another blog.

A Northern Goshawk had a nest close to a trail we were on and put up quite a fuss.  We were warned about it by another hiker we met who said it kept dive bombing him although he called it an Osprey.  They can be quite aggressive.  I think it was Attila the Hun who had a painting of one of these birds on his helmet.
Next stop was Rocky Harbour.  This location was chosen for its proximity to Gros Morne National Park.
Our accommodation here was at a very nice boutique motel.  We were in the red roofed unit on the lower left.

This mountain is at the centre of Gros Morne.  It was closed to hiking because it was Rock Ptarmigan nesting season.  They have found that by restricting hiking in this period the nesting success increased substantially. 

A White-throated Sparrow.

A backlit Savanah Sparrow.
A Pine Grosbeak met us at the trailhead of a hike in Gros Morne.

We noticed this Merlin sitting on a piece of driftwood.  It wasn't until I put the shot into the computer that I saw the Spotted Sandpiper it had captured.  The garbage on the perch was just a hint of the junk we found on every beach we explored.
Newfoundland has a problem with Moose.  In some areas they are culled.  Four moose were introduced to the Island of Newfoundland near the town of Howley in 1904. The (estimated) 150,000 descendants of these hungry herbivores have left an indelible mark on this province’s identity, culture and landscape.  Buffalo were also introduced in 1964 on an island, but in their attempt to get at ocean spray salt licks and better grazing they kept falling off cliffs.  There are none left.  No kidding.
The Pitcher Plant is the provincial flower of Newfoundland.

Finally.  A picture of a Short-billed Dowitcher I am certain of.  That's because there are no Long-billed Dowitchers here.  Taken on the beach in Rocky Harbour.

A family of Mallards was resting on the beach.  I was wondering how to get a picture of them without their heads tucked in.

As if on cue, they looked up in a perfect pose-the front ones stayed low while the back one stood erect, forming a dollop of ducklings.
It appeared that Yellow-bellied Flycatchers were the most common flycatchers here as we saw quite a few.

Rusty Blackbirds nest in Gros Morne.  We think this one had a nest nearby as it appeared agitated.

One morning we hiked with a group into Gros Morne tablelands.  We learned from our park naturalist that the rocks  provide a rare example of the process of continental drift, where deep ocean crust and the rocks of the earth’s mantle lie exposed.

It wasn't really cold but it was windy.  Next stop was up to Newfoundland's northernmost point and St. Anthonys.  That will be in the next blog.

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