Chapter 13.  New Brunswick 3

Day 83 – August 20 – Sackville and Moncton

(Bert) Another travel day with a few stops, our first break is at Sackville Wildlife Park. While Shari picks up travel brochures I hurry along the boardwalk, finding many of the same birds when we visited a few weeks ago. Most surprising, though, is a juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird which allows easy photographing. A cowbird usually doesn’t get special mention, but this is the one and only one any of us have seen on the entire trip since its start in May. Ron stopped at Johnson’s Mills and followed the Fundy Bay coast. His notable sighting is a hundred Black-bellied Plovers.

(Shari) I usually do not write on travel days because not much happens but I must tell you about today. First there is Tim Horton’s. For those non-Canadians that do not know about Tim Horton’s, it is a phenomenon. No matter what city, small town or time of day, Tim Horton’s has a lineup of people waiting to get served. You see, Tim Horton’s sells coffee and donuts. Today, while Bert fuels R-Tent-III, I wait my turn in line to buy our midmorning snack. I especially like the maple cream filled donuts. After body and rig refueled, we stop at Sackville for a last look at the marsh there. While Bert looks for birds, I visit the Visitor Center. Finally we stop at a Costco. It has been so long since I have had the luxury of a Costco, I spend 90 min. and so much money that I have to go out to the motor home to get more. Bert in turn tries to fix May, whose cigarette lighter charger has broken. He finds an adapter that fits the varying connections but now she won’t talk to us. That may be a blessing, since lately all she has been saying is “recalculating” repeatedly. We reach the campground at about 3 PM and then arrange for a guided tour tomorrow before our travel meeting and social.

Day 84 – August 21 – Hopewell Rocks and Mary’s Point

(Bert) Low tide was at 7:29, so we are at the Hopewell Rocks entrance gates when they open at 8 AM. Shari has arranged a guide for our group and we meet Paul at the interpretative exhibits. Paul finds our group a challenge because we have been to so many Atlantic Canada sites already and we know a lot about the uniqueness of the Bay of Fundy and its tides. I do learn new facts though. For example, more water flows in and out of the Bay of Fundy daily than all the rivers of the world combined. Also, the weight of a Semipalmated Sandpiper is about that of a quarter coin when it arrives at the mudflats and by the time it leaves the bay for its passage south it weighs two quarters.

We walk to the first cliff lookout and Paul starts to explain the expansive mud flats below and beyond us when a Peregrine Falcon flies past at eye level. That quickly follows with a juvenile Bald Eagle soaring only 15-20 ft. above our heads. Paul has lost our attention, supplanted by the raptors. Binoculars go up, my long lens aims at the eagle and I am so close that some shots only include the body and parts of the wings, with the tips extending beyond the picture frame. When the eagle disappears we are following Paul again to another viewpoint where we can see Lover’s Arch and in another 10 min. we are walking through the arch and stopping for a group photo. The top of the arch is well above our heads and at high tide the water level will nearly meet the top. The difference between low tide and high tide today is 44.9 ft. Tomorrow it will be 45.6, the highest of the year. Paul notices our group is much more interested in nature then most he leads. We find the composition of conglomerate rock more interesting than the imaginative shapes of the rocks with creative names like George Washington, E.T., Tyrannus Rex, etc. Paul gets someone else to lead his 10 AM tour and continues leading ours. We walk to the north end of the park, an area I missed last visit, where the cliffs reduce until they are at sea level and the mud shoreline meets marsh. Here is where the sandpipers will gather at high tide and we decide to return to this spot in a few hours, after we go back to camp for a special brunch we call “baggie omelets”.

(Shari) Paul, our guide, meets us at the Visitor Center of Hopewell Rocks. This Provincial Park, we are told, is the only one in New Brunswick that makes any money. Tourists come here in droves to watch the tide come and go. Here, the fascinating phenomenon is the vertical dimension of the water. Within 6 hr. the landscape changes from rocks and muddy gravel to 10 ft. of water. This morning we are at low tide and can walk beneath all the formations, marveling at waters force in etching shapes in the rock cliffs. Later we will go back at high tide to see the water high up, covering the beach and crawling up the rocks and hiding most of the formations. Ron and Carol intend to kayak where earlier they walked. We return to our rigs to have baggie omelets. Everyone helped with the chopping of onions, mushrooms, peppers, ham, bacon and cheese and all can make a made-to-order breakfast. Carol brings out biscuits and we eat those with the mini cinnamon rolls I bought as we wait for our eggs to cook. I hear no complaints as each taste their concoction. Soon, the birders take off to see high tide and I clean up, do a load of wash and take a nap. Two early mornings in a row have done me in.

(Bert) Our meal is filling and we move sluggishly when we return to Hopewell Rocks. The long hike to the marsh works off our drowsiness. The tide is in and the shorebirds are huddled shoulder to shoulder in the very small patch of exposed mud. Occasionally they take flight to shuffle positions as water creeps even higher. The percentage of Semipalmated Plovers mixed in with the Semipalmated Sandpipers is higher than our other experiences. I estimate altogether we are seeing more than 5000 birds, less than 10000. We meet Paul again and he says the major flock must have moved to another beach where there is more room. In fact, he was in radio communication with another person on Shepody Bay who said she saw more birds in flocks fly past her than ever before. We decide to head to Mary’s Point while the tide is still high. When we arrive there we see almost no sandpipers, so we wait to see what will happen as water recedes. A flock flies low across the water and when it lands we see it is almost entirely Semipalmated Plovers. I do a quick count and calculate we are watching about 400 plovers on the beach, probably more than I’ve ever seen at one time before. Later the Semipalmated Sandpipers come in also, spreading across the ever expanding mudflats. I’d pin this flock at 15,000. I find one lonely bird only a dozen feet from me, where the shore meets the grass, and photograph it extensively when I think it is a White-rumped Sandpiper. When Bill comes over I point it out to him, but now it looks like a Semipalmated. The two species in non-breeding plumage look remarkably alike. When I later study the photos, I revert back to my original identification.

Day 85 – August 22 – Mary’s Point

(Bert) We head east to Mary’s Point, arriving 3 hr. before high tide. At the coast the exposed flats are more coarse sand than mud, so we can walk out to where a few thousand sandpipers are actively feeding. A juvenile Northern Harrier sweeps over the flock, scaring them into uniformed flight.

Although chocolate tidal waters are hundreds of feet from the grass-edged perimeter of the flats, the distance is closing fast. Each oncoming ripple of water claims another inch of beach and by 12:30 the sandpipers and plovers are beginning to congregate in denser flocks. I stand perfectly still at one spot on the beach as the birds are pushed by rising water in my direction. The sandpipers are fast walkers and to escape the tide they scurry like army ants advancing through a jungle, moving in mass but a bit haphazardly. They reach a spot where a sand ridge is an inch or two above its surroundings and here they accumulate in density, but seem unwilling to take another step in my direction about thirty feet away. I back off and find a seat on a log shared by Bill, Ginny and Kay.

Light winds carry enough mist so I keep my camera covered while we wait for high tide to reach us. By 1:15 the proceeding waters have covered several stands of beach grass. I can see White-rumped Sandpipers among the thousands of Semipalmated. I find a Least Sandpiper in the flock, later a couple of Sanderlings–first on our trip–and another sandpiper I’m uncertain of but photograph for later study.

Beach space is being reduced rapidly and the birds are milling. At an unseen signal all sandpipers march to the left, later they all stride right or straight towards us like a regiment of soldiers in uniforms brown in back, white in front, and the changing direction causing a standardized motion of contrasting colors. Space is becoming a premium now and a hundred or so are standing in a pool of water, not to their liking. Thousands, though, are standing shoulder-to-shoulder, all facing the same direction into the wind. As long as possible they resist coming closer to the grassy perimeter, preferring instead to increase in density. Crowding causes upheavals and hundreds, sometimes thousands, will take flight and reshuffle the standing room. At those times I am able to take photos that almost completely fill the frame with wings, blurring the backdrop to snippets of mud or water. By 1:37 the flock is within 25 ft. of where we are sitting on the log. Suddenly a Peregrine Falcon swoops out of the sky and thousands of sandpipers erupt in flight. They scatter out over the bay, form tight swarms and disappear from sight.

Meanwhile the tide continues to creep toward us. Today is the highest tide of the year and it is obvious. We vacate our seats and stand just a few feet inside the marsh grass. The tide passes the line of signed posts marking the normal edge of permitted foot traffic during high tide sandpiper watches. Then it inundates clusters of flowering St. John’s-Wort and abuts the log were we had been sitting. Bill stands on a squared timber as the water ducks beneath and creeps into the marsh grass. Too our left, waves of water inundate the previously void muddy river banks and transform hundreds of acres of marshland into a lake unbroken by foliage crowns. At 2:08 high tide presumably reaches its maximum height of the year, yet we see waves of tidal waters roll toward shore and up the mud river into the lake.

Rain and mist has lapsed and a warmer breeze is starting to dry my raincoat. We decide to wait and see what will happen next. At 2:28 we begin to see huge flocks of sandpipers moving west far from shore. Unlike other times we’ve watched the flocks, some of these are flying at much higher altitude, almost out of sight. Wave after wave crosses from Mary’s Point and across Shepody Bay toward Cape Enrage. Almost all movement is westerly and I wonder if the flocks circle beyond eyesight in the Bay of Fundy and then return to our viewpoint or whether each flock is a new collection moving west. Clearly, we are seeing more than 100,000 birds. I would guess 200,000+, except I hesitate at so large a number. Beyond a doubt, it is the largest number of birds I have ever seen at one time.

By now the sandpipers have been in the air for over one hour, undoubtedly searching for a patch of beach to land. Yet, every square inch of sand, gravel and mudflats is covered with water. The inundation reminds me of The Flood and I feel like Noah watching the world converted to sea and air, devoid of land. To add insult to injury, the Peregrine Falcon is back, pursuing airborne flocks. I take 16 photos in 8 seconds, catching the Peregrine in flight. The photos show it is a juvenile and in its claws it carries a lifeless sandpiper. What a show this has been! I’m reluctant to leave, but Kay and I do so, leaving Bill and Ginny to wait for dry land to bring back the sandpiper flocks to this beach.

Day 86 – August 23 – Fundy National Park

(Bert) Attention last night and today is focused on Hurricane Bill. Would it hit where we are in New Brunswick? Can we get to our next campground? Should we evacuate farther inland?

By this morning Hurricane Bill’s path has been remarkably consistent with that predicted by Environment Canada and it continues to follow true to course, staying off the coast of Nova Scotia, dumping 52 mm (2 in.) of rain on Halifax with gusts of up to 82 kph (51 mph). Still a Category One hurricane, it is headed to Newfoundland where winds will reach 130 kph (81 mph). Spectacular waves crash off Peggy’s Cove and the news dwells on the danger posed to sightseers venturing too close to shore, rather than any storm-caused damage. Here on the Fundy coast of New Brunswick we only get 6 mm (0.2 in.) of rain and gusts up to 45 kph (28 mph). In our Hopewell campground the rain started at 6:20 AM and we have no rain or wind when we leave for our next campground at Fundy National Park.

(Shari) We have been wondering about “Bill” for the last couple of days. Just where and how hard will this first major hurricane of the season strike? It looks like it will land someplace in the Maritimes, probably Nova Scotia. Our campground owner brings me a computer printout of its path and I see we will be located in its outer path. Predictions are winds of 40 mph and rain up to 3 in. Upon awakening, the rain starts but then quits an hour later. When we leave at 10 AM, it is drizzly and calm and that is how it stays all day long. Thank goodness for us Hurricane Bill was a fizzle. Although it is not a fizzle for those in Nova Scotia where power outages abound and road closures are numerous. We in turn are warm and cozy and the others join us in R-Tent-III for movie night and enjoy “Memoirs of a Geisha”.

Day 87 – August 24 – Fundy National Park

(Bert) In head-to-foot raingear we join others, many less well equipped, at the coastal parking lot where we meet Angela and Isabelle, two young college students studying biology who will be our nature guides on a beach walk. Today is one of the lowest tides of the year and to the northeast we can see exposed mudflats that extend 1 km out from Alma. Here, though, the exposure is littered with rocks and a steeper decline so the distance to water’s edge is shorter. We pick our way carefully to the end and search for sea creatures not normally exposed except at very low tides. Ron discovers egg casings for three different snail species. That built by a Dog Whelk looks like lemon candy piled beneath seaweed resembling erect stalks of cooked green beans; another species creates a more dung-like pile of globular masses on a bed of densely packed barnacles. The many kids accompanying us are especially skillful at finding unusual animals and they take their finds to Angela and Isabelle. We examine Hermit Crabs fighting over shells for homes, Bill finds some edible dulse (seaweed), I photograph Bob photographing a minute object on the seafloor while a Common Loon swims behind him. Isabelle identifies a female Green Crab I am holding and then a Clam Worm with a voracious mouth, tentacles and hundreds of cilia bilaterally extending along its 4-in. body. We see a small starfish missing an arm, a Horse Mussel, Sea Urchin, periwinkles, whelks, the egg casing of a Moon Snail and an eel-like Butter Fish. My last find is a Rock Crab, the complete shell including all legs, but the innards missing. The crab pulled itself out of its old shell, leaving it intact, and quickly hardened a new shell replacement.

(Shari) I am excited about going on our beach walk this morning since I remember the stories and information given us nine years ago by our guide on Alma beach. Today the walk is on Canontown beach, one that only is uncovered at those very low tides of the season. I am not impressed by the rocks and the long walk to reach the edge of the tide. Nor the light rain that starts to drizzle down on us. But I am anxious to see starfish and hear all the interesting stories about barnacles and other sea life. I guess I got up on the wrong side of the bed, but on all counts I am disappointed. Ron and Bert on the other hand are enthralled by the ocean floor. I return to the car early and notice Bill, Ginny, and Doug do also. I am totally wet and muddy when I get back but am game to drive to Wolf Point. On our way there, we drive under a covered bridge and read information signs at a lookout about the mills in the area but do not bird due to the rain. By 3 the rain stops and our “pudgie pie” supper is a go. We gather around the fire and each take a cast iron maker, load it with bread, pizza ingredients and toast it over the fire and then eating our fill. For dessert, I try something new that I read in Ginny’s cookbook. I fill the bread slices with chocolate squares and marshmallows before toasting. Next time I will start with that, it was soooo good.

Day 88 – August 25 – Fundy National Park

(Bert) I don’t know why it is called Caribou Plain, because it is neither a plain nor are Caribou likely to be seen. We enter the trail on a boardwalk around a small, but active pond. Bull Frogs are numerous and I photograph many of these colorful green and yellow creatures with bulging eyes and large circular eardrums. Walking beside the ponds and through the forest I notice signs of autumn. Stalks of goldenrod remain, but other flowers have gone to seed. A few red bunchberries still hang like Christmas ornaments on plants with dogwood leaves showing decaying black spots and crisp edges. Red Squirrels dig holes beneath trees to hide nuts. The rains of past days have added vibrant green to the sphagnum moss carpeting the forest floor and the lettuce-like lichens adhering to tree trunks. The rain-fresh air is fragrant with scent of wet balsam needles.

Morning’s rain has bejeweled spider webs in patterned strings of silvered beads. The still pond reflects branches as well as the original, producing bilaterally symmetrical objects that confuse reality. Warblers attract our attention in their profusion and diversity and this morning’s hike gives us an impressive list of 12 species, including Parula, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Ovenbird and numerous Common Yellowthroats. Although others have found them on this trip, the list includes my first observed Black-throated Blue Warbler, a female, and my first Mourning Warbler. Ron and Carol, who birded separately, contribute Bay-breasted Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler and American Redstart.

Day 89 – August 26 – Grand Manan

(Shari) “I did not know we could do that”, I tell Bert on three separate occasions today. It first happened when I got up at 5 AM to be ready for a 6 AM departure. The I-did-not-know part is that I did it without being crabby. We quietly pull out of the campground, said tongue in check since our diesel engine is NOT quiet in any circumstance. The dump is at least a mile away and later I hear that the group heard us all the way to the dump and they would rather have had their tires thumped as a wakeup call. We are on our way by 6:15 and notice that Bill and Ginny have their lights on so they won’t be far behind. We are attempting to reach the 9:30 ferry to Grand Manan and have to travel 135 mi. first. We arrive by 9:10, 5 min. before they start loading. However, the ferry is filled just as they come to our vehicle. If we would not have stopped at McDonald’s for an Egg Macmuffin, we would have made it. Now we have to wait another two hours for the next ferry. Bert walks around the dock in the fog while I read about the upcoming island. Bill and Ginny arrive an hour after us and park right behind us. I could have slept another hour! The next I-did-not-know comes when we realize the ferry entrance is only 9 ft. wide and R-Tent-III’s width including mirrors is 9.5 ft. wide. I did not know we could adjust our mirrors inward, but Bert gets a large wrench turns a nut beneath the mirror casing and each swing freely inward. So it looks like we will be on the next ferry after all. The last I-did-not-know happens when we are told to back up around the two school buses and proceed to the ferry. We have NEVER backed up our motor home with a car attached. Bert slowly reverses straight back while I watch, thinking for sure we will jack knife our car and break the hitch. We back straight for 5 ft., just enough for Bert to get around the buses. Getting on the ferry is a laugh. We have no mirrors and must watch the attendant and trust his motions as we inch through the doors, leaving just inches on each side. Getting off is even harder and narrower but Bert is just so good that we do not even scrape an awning. We arrive at the park about 2, just in time for a late lunch and a nap. The rest of the group has taken the 1:30 ferry and arrive by 4 PM. Our last travel meeting is held around a campfire and I award prizes for the scavenger hunt. I think Carol, who was last, got the best prize. She got an original Apple logo beach towel that I kept from our computer store days. I wonder how much it would sell for on e-Bay? If any one finds out, don’t tell me.

(Bert) Doubly dark, by the 5:50 AM hour and by the dense forest, I creep along in R-Tent-III, uncertain of the close borders of the campground road until I reach the exit. Construction workers are gathering near their equipment as we slowly make our way through the narrow upheaval that remains for passage through the park highway. By 6:40 I can see without my headlights, though fog and light rain limit visibility. We reach the ferry dock before loading begins. Four lanes of vehicles are loaded and just a semi-trailer, two yellow buses and our rig remains when the attendant tells me we will not fit on the 9:30 ferry to Grand Manan and will need to wait for the 11:30. While waiting I check out the ferry terminal, finding an immature Bald Eagle, a Black Guillemot and an extended family fishing off the dock for mackerel. Boarding the 11:30 ferry is a challenge as the ramp is steep, forcing the tow hitch to drag, and the door is narrow so I have my rear view mirrors folded in.

Ginny, Bill and I remain on deck watching for seabirds but after only one sighting in a half-hour, a Greater Shearwater, Ginny retreats inside to where Shari is sitting. In the continuing dense fog, Bill and I get a quick look at two Greater Shearwaters at 12:28. After 75 min. of almost nothing except gray murkiness and windblown precipitation, the sky opens up and we can see to the distant horizon of Grand Manan, accompanied by a flurry of seabirds. I don’t try counting them or identifying more than I see through my camera lens, but constantly click images of all flying past. Later, uncovering the birds from my photos I find many Greater Shearwaters and Sooty Shearwaters, dozens of Black-legged Kittiwakes, a few Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls and to my surprise a Pomarine Jaeger.

Departing from the ferry is an even greater challenge as the exit door is so narrow that only an inch or two separates R-Tent-III from the steel edge. Without mirrors I am blind and have to rely on the crewman’s directions. While all walk-on passengers and all other vehicles wait I inch the RV forward through the doors and up the ramp. Relieved to be free of the ship, we’ve arrived on an island justly deserving its Grand Manan designation and I am anxious to see it more fully tomorrow.

Day 90 – August 27 – Grand Manan

(Bert) Forty-two degrees is all the thermometer reads at 6:15 when we head to The Whistle at the northern end of Grand Manan. At Long Eddy Point lighthouse we have a high lookout to scan the sea at a tidal rip that attracts seabirds and sea mammals. Closer to shore the sea is silvered to a jagged line, beyond which it is rippled and deeper blue. At this edge we see Common Dolphins, whales often though briefly, shearwaters and gulls. This is the first time we are able to stand on firm ground–rather than a bouncing ship–and study many Greater Shearwaters, a few Manx Shearwaters and a couple of Sooty Shearwaters. Northern Gannets fly farther from shore and gulls by the hundreds, including Black-legged Kittiwakes, are everywhere. I photograph a Harbor Seal, stretched full length as it swims. I go back to the car to add another jacket to my layers of clothes. The crisp morning air is chilling yet refreshing and we spend several hours watching the tranquil seascape stretching to New Brunswick mainland at the horizon. Had we been watching from the west end of the island we would see that we are even closer to the U.S. at Maine.

Walking along a coastal road, wooded on both sides, we scare up a few Ruffed Grouse and see small flocks of Red-breasted Nuthatches in the tall trees. We drive to another sea lookout, this one at the Swallow Tail lighthouse. Near the coast are several herring traps: weathered erect timbers supporting fine mesh netting and positioned in a spiral that allows fish to enter but leaves them circling in the enclosure rather than escaping. The weather is so intoxicatingly beautiful we move slowly, drinking in the scenery. A dull-plumaged yellowish warbler with side and flank stripping catches our attention and I hear all sorts of names postulated for the species. I suggest it is either a Palm Warbler or a Cape May Warbler and begin to take dozens of photos while the others flip through field guides. We conclude it is a first fall male Cape May. After mastering spring and winter warblers, studying first fall warblers is like learning them all over again.

Day 91 – August 28 – White Head Island

(Bert) I meet Ron while birding early near the campsite. We come upon a mixed flock of warblers and chickadees in a morning feeding frenzy. The quick moving birds include several Black-throated Green Warblers, two American Redstarts, a Black-and-white Warbler and our first Nashville Warbler of the trip since June 1.

(Shari) Sparkling waters, crystal blue skies, calm seas and just a beautiful day for an outing to White Head Island. Ginny gets seasick easily and was afraid to go today, but she should have because the sea is almost like glass. I guess it is the calm before the storm. Would you believe another hurricane is to hit this area tomorrow night? We will enjoy today as it is simply pristine.

(Bert) Shari is up and about when I return to R-Tent-III and soon we join others to the ferry that will take us to White Head Island. On board we meet Roger Burrows, the author of Birds of Atlantic Canada, who is leading an Elderhostel group today. He immediately proves helpful to us when he identifies a drab gray and white bird as a juvenile Black Guillemot. As we drive off the ferry Shari is quick to direct me to a geocache, but I stop in route when I see mudflats filled with Semipalmated and White-rumped Sandpipers.

(Shari) Following the birders as they chase and decipher feathers, Carol and I find two virtual caches. Virtual caches are ones that the finder must visit and answer some questions but does not log or leave/take anything. We find a monument to a ship wreck and a tombstone at the cemetery. The birders find things that fly while we get our caches and answer the name of the ship sunk, how many crewmen died, the name of Mr. Outhouse’s wife and the year he died. I walk ahead of the group as they puzzle over a bird and walk back. Then read some of my book as they still are puzzling.

(Bert) Shari and Carol find their cache and we drive down another of the few roads on the island. This time we park and walk a long distance to the lighthouse. By far the most unusual find of the day is a warbler first identified as Common Yellowthroat. We notice its larger size, prominent eye ring, grayish olive head and upperparts and yellow breast and I believe it is a Yellow-breasted Chat, but when we check a field guide I recognize I did not see the white whisker mark and white connection between eye and bill. It is out of sight and Ron tries a recording to coax it into view. A warbler flies close to us and hides in a bush. Its consistently secretive nature supports chat as does the habitat. Later when I consult Dunn & Garrett I’m even more convinced it is a Yellow-breasted Chat, a first fall female that mostly lacks the white facial markings. A late August record for Grand Manan is rare. Perhaps the hurricane pushed this one northward during migration.

A bit farther along the coastal path we find a perched Merlin, intently preening. A few minutes later it pursues a sandpiper and an aerial chase ensues. The sandpiper continues erratically to climb higher and higher, denying the Merlin the advantage of displaying its true force by dive bombing. The Merlin tires of the chase and the sandpiper lives another day.

At another seaweed strewn beach we eat our packed lunches while watching Ruddy Turnstones and Black-bellied Plovers. The tide is so far out we are deprived of easy viewing, so try a few inland sites. Shari and Carol collect another geocache at a cemetery with many 19th century tombstones and we birders add Eastern Kingbird to the day list. In an estuary, walking through shallow water and onto mud flats I find a Ring-necked Pheasant, undoubtedly the strangest “shorebird” I’ve ever seen. Back at the ferry dock, just before loading, we meet the Elderhostel group again and they point out a pair of Whimbrels poking through the seaweed and a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron under the piers. Whimbrel is a good find and the night-heron is even rarer for the archipelago.

Tonight is our farewell dinner, although we still have one caravan day left tomorrow. Shari booked the Marathon Inn for tonight so that we could take advantage of their steak and lobster special. And special it is indeed! Excellent food, excellent service and a charming décor in a century old hotel overlooking the Bay of Fundy.

(Shari) The five hours we spend on this small island goes quickly and we return for the 2 PM ferry. Later we have our farewell dinner a day early since it is the only night of the week that the inn runs the lobster or steak special. Four steaks and six lobsters are served to our group of hungry people. The lobsters seem to be at least two pounds and those of us that ordered it start to crack and push and pick our way to the tasty meat. We make a mess. Those with steak finish first and have to watch us eat. After the last lobster is finished the dessert is served, quickly eaten and, if it were offered, all would stuff down another piece of the yummy chocolate cake with caramel sauce and ice cream. I may have lost 10 lbs. on this trip but today was not one of the losing days. We head home, satisfied, full and tired.

Day 92 – August 29 – Grand Manan

(Bert) The last day of the caravan, I am waiting at 7:30 and no one is ready for birding. Are they all burned out from birding? No, a minute later Ron is ready, having been delayed by a 30-min. phone call with his son in Qatar. And Kay is bounding out of her truck, ready for birding. The others will start later and drive their own vehicles, so the three of us head now to Castalia Marsh while the skies oscillate between heavy mist and light rain. We stop at a roadside viewpoint and Ron and I bring out our scopes. I take my umbrella as shelter while surveying the mudflats. Most impressive is the flock of 70+ Black-bellied Plovers in transitional plumage still showing remnant splotches of black on their bellies. We move to the main entrance road and stop suddenly to study a small bedraggled raptor we eventually agree is a wet Merlin. By the now the rains are heavy enough for me to leave the scope in Ron’s car and I’m glad I’m in full rain gear to continue birding on foot through the marsh and along the cobbled beach. We search for something new to our list, though it is already so full that an addition is difficult. As we are leaving Ron stops the car suddenly for a night-heron perched in a distant tree. My scope gets wet this time as we decipher field marks for an immature Black-crowned Night-Heron, not new to the list but only the third we’ve found.

We decide to visit Long Eddy Point again. In the rain, we see birds and mammals feeding at the rip tide. Mostly the same we’ve seen before, including Sooty and Greater Shearwaters, I notice many Shortbeaked Common Dolphins, perhaps 25 or more. We are about to get out of the rain when I see one last bird. Excitedly, I say “Jaeger” as we watch it rigorously pursue a gull. Back in the shelter of the car we open field guides and compare what we saw during 15 sec. of observation. Based on Ron and Kay’s note of the pointed tail feathers we decide it was a Parasitic Jaeger, the first of trip and the last addition to the list. By the time we return to camp the rains from Tropical Storm Danny are upon us.

Our last get-together is at 8 PM in the shelter of one of the small buildings at the provincial park. Trying to get out the downpour, several tent campers are already there, including a couple from Moncton with their young granddaughter. They join our group as Shari presents a photo slideshow projected on the wall. Her amusingly captioned photos of the trip are set to the music of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Then Kay shows her stunning photos. We celebrate with the bottle of champagne that everyone gave us for our anniversary and enjoy a chocolate cake Shari baked that is flavored with Kailua. Shari offers a toast to “the second best caravan group ever”, a great compliment if you’ve been on our caravans and know what that ranking means. The last entertainment of the evening is by Bill and his ukulele and features a new song he wrote just for this caravan. We linger with hugs all around and then face the torrential rains as we rush back to our RV’s. The flood continues through the night, eventually accumulated 5 in.

Epilogue  Table of Contents