Chapter 8.  Newfoundland 2

Day 35 – July 3 – Ferolle Peninsula to Gros Morne National Park

(Bert) We retrace our route around the Ferolle Peninsula, now heading south to Rocky Harbor. Road conditions have worsened with miles of active construction and numerous dips where crews have replaced culverts and piled too little gravel into the gap. Each time I reach 40 mph I have to slow to 10 mph for another dip.

We stop at The Arches for lunch and to view the large rock formation, isolated from the rest of the beach. A remnant of an ancient sea, the immense rock has eroded arches and making it look like an odd elongated animal with legs. The arches are high enough to easily walk beneath on the gravel beach. At a 5 PM social we discuss plans for visiting Gros Morne National Park the next two days.

Day 36 – July 4 – Gros Morne National Park

(Bert) Only Pat C. and Kay join me this morning for hiking. Ron has taken up a greater challenge and left earlier to tackle the strenuous climb up Gros Morne (I hear later that it took from 6:30 to 10 to make the ascent, often hiking over scree, that he found the sought-after Rock Ptarmigans at the mountain top, and he made the descent by 3:30). Ray, Nancy and Doug are taking the boat trip to Western Brook Pond. Others are late starters and have different plans. The three of us start our hike at Berry Hill, a steep but short trail leading to a grand view of marshes, mountains and Rocky Harbor. The white flowers of Bunchberry, a dogwood, blanket the forest floor and spill over fallen tree trunks, creating effect landscapers envy. The tiny drooping pink paired trumpets of Twinflower spread in profusion. Far below us in the forest we hear forceful drumming and I suggest a Downy Woodpecker on a hollow tree limb. I turn on my iPod and play back woodpecker drumbeats and the Downy is a match. Another sound reaches us from below. “Three beers”, it says and Pat and I look at each other agreeing it is an Olive-sided Flycatcher too distant to hear the exclamatory “Quick” preface. So it goes all morning as Pat and I challenge each other in identifying nature’s sounds: Rough-legged Hawk, Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, Boreal Chickadee, Hermit Thrush, Tennessee Warbler and many others, all identified by sound.

One bird deserves special mention. Although most of our hike has been through bogs and wetlands, we enter a dense stand of spruce and tamarack. Standing quietly, listening for birds, Pat whispers to me about a bird directly in front of me and a foot higher up. I’m surprised when I’m eye to eye with a Spruce Grouse. A plump black ball of feathers with scattered white edges, the grouse blends perfectly with the dark shadows and bits of reflected sunlight in the spruce-tamarack grove. I take three steps backward so that I can focus my long lens on the close object. It takes me several attempts at repositioning to find a gap in the branches wide enough to see through the lens the stout bill and broad red mascara above the grouse’s eye. The bird clucks softly as my shutter clicks sharply. I switch to my other camera and the flash encourages the grouse to jump from the tamarack to the spruce, fortunately for me in much better lighting, although heavily blocked. After at least 5 min. of viewing, we move on with the Spruce Grouse still resting quietly in the tree. I wonder how many people walk by today without knowing they are being closely watched.

Although we hear and see many birds this morning, the real thrill for me is the profusion and variety of flowers. I take notes on the ones I recognize and use a field guide to identify others. By the time we complete the 6-mi. Baker’s Brook Trail I have 28 flower species on my list. In addition to the two mentioned above, the others that I photographed [and will eventually put on my website] are: Rough Cinquefoil, True Forget-me-not, Common Buttercup, Garden Lupine, Showy Lady’s Slipper, Sheep Laurel, Yellow Pond Lily, Canada Hawkweed, Bog Candle and Dragon’s Mouth.

Our long hike culminates in a mesmerizing waterfall, tantalizingly beautiful because of its variety of multiple cascades. Kay takes off on the return hike, anxious to get in some real exercise as opposed to the slow pace of nature exploration that I employed on the first half. We catch up with Bob and Pat going the opposite direction. They tell us about identifying a bird neither Pat C. nor I could identify earlier. I thought, perhaps, it was a frog. Pat C. took notes, but did not venture a guess. Bob and Pat persevered, saw the bird’s profile in flight and deduced it was a Wilson’s Snipe, probably calling from at or near a nest. The call was an oft repeated two-syllable Tee-Kaa, an new sound-to-bird association for Pat C. and me.

After a day of studying bird songs, aptly at our 5 PM social and hamburger cookout Pat C. and I lead a discussion on identifying birds by sound. I relate the tricks and techniques I’ve learned through the years and Pat tells about the recorded tapes and lesson books that helped her. Jim relates how much Pat studies bird songs the night before a birding trip, focusing on the one or a few of the key species she wants to find. As I’ve often said, I enjoy birding by ear as much as by eye.

(Shari) Bert goes off with two cute women and I sleep in. Later Marlene, Larry and I go out for breakfast, gift shopping and sightseeing. We could not ask for a better day and the view at Norris Point just begs for a picture. We meet Bill and Ginny also out sightseeing. They are on their way home to lunch after stopping at the fresh fish mart. We keep seeing them stop for pictures and tease that they will never get to eat their cod. After returning home, I make cookies and fruit salad for our 4th of July cookout. The hamburgers have been simmering in their broth since 9 this morning. Bert and Pat talk about bird songs while we set up the food and get the margaritas made. Just as the festivities are to start, the drizzle starts. Good thing we planned on using the pavilion where we remain nice and dry. Those that drink margaritas are having a very very good time and the jokes flow steadily and easily. Too soon we start the cleanup process and retire to our rigs.

Day 37 – July 5 – Gros Morne National Park

(Bert) The immense fiord forged through the Long Range Mountains by the last glacier left vertical cliffs rising 2000 ft. above Western Brook Pond which connects to the sea by a rushing river where almost depleted salmon are making a slow but steady comeback. The fiord is in sight throughout this morning’s walk across open bog, stunted forest and wooded limestone ridges.

Walking with Bill and Ginny, I act as a naturalist pointing out the wildflowers, many of which I saw yesterday. Interpretative signage display a few flowers I have not yet found and I am most interested in seeing a Bog Laurel, a miniature relative of the much more common Sheep Laurel. Meanwhile I find others we missed yesterday, photographed today, including Narrow Leaved Yellow Rattle, Sundew, Bog Laurel, Pearly Everlasting, Tall Meadow Rue, Marsh Bedstraw, Heal-all and Water Parsnip. Finally I find the Bog Laurel also, much smaller than I anticipated.

We’ve almost finished with the return hike when we stop at a short bridge over a narrow brook. I hear an animal sneeze, much like a horse. I suspect Moose and soon see big ears and eyes aimed just over the dense marsh shrubbery.

We drive to Broom Point to see the fishing exhibit where we are met by Louise. I don’t know which is better: the knowledge we gather about cod and lobster catching or the entertainment of listening to Louise talk. A lifelong Newfoundlander, she started commercial cod fishing with her husband when she was 15. She tells us how they trap cod, stories of nearly capsizing in a storm and leaving the fishing to her husband while she took care of her kids, and arguing with the speaker at a meeting announcing lobster catchers must use rubber bands and not wooden splints to keep caught lobsters from fighting (she argued that the splints cost them nothing and were environmentally safe, whereas the bands were expensive and damaging to the environment and fish if lost). The most entertaining, however, was her Newfoundlander version of the English language. Mostly, she loses “H’s” in some words and adds them to other words. I asked her what they used for bait in the lobster traps. She answers “erring”. “Diss” and “dare” have a TH sound when I pronounce the words. However, the edge of a table gains an H when she pronounces it “hedge”. And, the words come spilling out of Louise’s mouth so fast I finally decided to record some of her stories using the video option on my camera.

We end the day at Cow Head, a small community on the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, for a lobster dinner at the Anglican Church followed by music and a funny play at the local hotel. Part of the Gros Morne Theatre Festival, four talented young people – two men, two women – sing and recite history of Newfoundland from when it was a country through several votes to join the Canada Confederation, starting in 1869, and then its provincial status after 1949 with a close vote of 51% to 49%. One of the last songs was “How good is my life” by Jim Payne. Its theme line completes “on this beautiful island” and reflects the feelings of the Newfoundlanders I’ve met. Occasionally I get e-mails from Newfoundlanders, past and present, who have read our 2000 journals. Those transplanted to other parts of the world, usually in search of work, express their love of Newfoundland and yearn to be back. Those still in Newfoundland are glad to be here and proud of their island.

(Shari) Bert thanks you, Doug. Bert has wanted me to mend a pair of his pants for over a month. Doug needed a pair of his mended and there is no expense or task we Wagonmasters don’t do to please a guest. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone by getting the sewing machine out. Since I am caught up on all the work, today is a good day to do it. I not only mend the pants but also a towel and a pair of pajamas. After that is accomplished, I drive to the Visitor’s Center and peruse the gift shop and watch a movie on Labrador. Labrador looks like Alaska and I am excited to go there some time, beyond the 50 mi. of paved road. I ask the ranger if they have any more written information on it and they do not. She tells me there are only 35,000 people living in the whole of Labrador. Bert comes back early this afternoon so we can attend the Lobster Fest in Cow Head. He wants to see the Spelling Bee. When we get there, two clowns are on the stage doing a hokey but kind of funny skit. Then nothing happens. I ask the girl at the ticket booth and she tells me the kids did not show up and everything is two hours behind schedule. Gees! Doug and Kay are here and we walk to a museum, church garden and gift store before partaking in the church lobster dinner. A big boat fills the center of the activity room of the church and it is filled with salads on ice. We pay our $25 per person and are told we can eat all the salad we want. On the tables are baskets of tea rolls, ginger cookies, and homemade bread with butter. That too we can eat all we want. In addition we can scoop out rhubarb sauce, partridgeberry jam and bake-apple jam. Soon our lobster arrives and it is wonderful, of course. After dinner we head over to the motel for “Neddie.” I don’t know why it is called “Neddie” but it is a performance by two young women and two young men singing songs with the theme of Confederation of Newfoundland. The funniest part was the short skit in the middle of the program where the four actors portrayed Canada, Newfoundland, England, and a doctor. At the end of the show Larry is awarded a prize for the best audience participant. His best line came when one of the actors asked if anyone knew of a doctor in the house. He said he did not know any doctors but could hook them up with two lawyers. Well those of us on the caravan just howled. We knew he was talking about two of our own.

Day 38 – July 6 – Grand Falls-Windsor

(Bert) An uneventful day of 176 mi. travel into the interior of Newfoundland is under overcast skies and light rain. We meet at 5 PM, dressed warmly yet still cold, to discuss birding plans for tomorrow. The weather report on local news is tentative on frost warnings tonight, predicting a low of 4º C.

Day 39 – July 7 – Grand Falls-Windsor area

(Bert) Interior Newfoundland is new to us. Thus far our travels in this province have been along the coast or a few wing beats away if you are a gull. Although some of our group head to the coast again, this time to Leading Tickles, six of us drive inland toward Millertown Junction, Millertown and Buchans. From the broad, well-paved highway to Buchans we turn off on a gravel logging road where traffic is almost non-existent and houses reduced to two or three in the 13 mi. to Joe Glades Pond at Millertown Junction. The day brightens into clear skies and relatively warm weather, a delightful day to be out and about. A rolling countryside of spruce, tamarack and birch is interspersed with fast flowing creeks and still ponds surrounded by marsh grasses. Like Fireweed in Alaska and the Yukon, pink-flowered Sheep Laurel spreads across the clear-cut timer lands. A floral parade of Orange Hawkweed, often mixed with Yellow Hawkweed, brightens roadsides for miles. We stop frequently, mostly in search of Black-backed Woodpecker which has become the nemesis bird of our Maritimes trip, and find mostly White-throated and Lincoln’s sparrows. The Yellow-rumped Warblers are at the peak of bright yellow, black and white feathers. At one stop we overlook a clear-cut forest in regrowth. Bill draws my attention to two birds on the next ridge and I identify Gray Jays. Just as others are trying to zero in on the distant jays a much closer larger bird leaps into view and alights on a barren tree trunk. Excitedly I exclaim, “Hawk-Owl”. All binoculars are on the owl with the unusually long tail except Pat C. and as I point out the location to her the owl takes flight across the field, across the road and disappears in the trees on the other side. While Northern Hawk-Owl was on our prospect list for a very few Newfoundland sites, it was not for this area and I had given up hope of finding one in the Maritimes. This is a great find.

We’ve driven for 3 hr. on the gravel road when we reach a high point from which we have a broad view of the forested valley. Indecisive on whether we should continue on to Joe Glades Pond or return to the main highway, Bill offers a coin toss: heads to Buchans, beaver-side to the lake. The nickel turns beaver side up and we continue to the lake.

Good choice, because a half hour later we have the other great find for today: White-winged Crossbills. Earlier this morning we saw a pair high in roadside tree, a delight but a bit distant. Now I spot three more, all males, feeding in a nearby tamarack tree. I’ve got my camera on burst mode and shoot over a hundred shots of the crossbills picking apart the tiny bright red cones of the tamarack. I can see the long hooked upper mandible and the stout shortened lower mandible wrap around each cone. We watch them feed for five minutes, sometimes at lower branches not far above our heads.

Having reached the lakeside cottages at Millertown Junction the road continues along an old railway bed. The narrow, bumpy road runs forever through the interior, so we turn around and now without stopping we quickly reach the main road again and head toward the mining town of Buchans. Reaching 50-mile long Red Indian Lake, we split up. Ginny wants to see the end of the highway; we want to find more birds near the lake. So Pat and Kay ride with me to Millertown where we meet a lady walking her dog. Like many other Newfoundlanders, she is anxious to talk to us and we learn about Mr. Miller who built the sawmill a hundred years ago, including church and company town, to extract timber from the surrounding lands. She tells us how to reach Indian Point and the Beothuck winter settlement there up to the early 1800s. At the site we see reconstructed lodges, formed like teepees and covered with birch bark. As early as 1594, crews on English ships found evidence of the Beothucks. It wasn’t until 1810 that Lt. David Buchan found a Beothuck settlement. The story ends tragically with the Beothucks killing two of his marines, the capture of a young Beothuck woman named Demasduit whose name was changed to Mary March and who died from tuberculosis, as did most of the other Beothucks. Shanawdithit, the last Beothuck died in 1829. Strangely by today’s standards, the scull and scalp of Shanawdithit was sent to the College of Physicians in London for study.

(Shari) Looks like it will be a beautiful day today. The birders are all gone and Larry, Marlene and I are left on our own. Jim too took the car to town. We decide we will leave at 10 and eat breakfast on the way to Leading Tickles, a town 60 mi. up the coast on the edge of Iceberg Alley. We drive and drive and drive and don’t find a restaurant open until Leading Tickles. By then it is noon so we eat lunch. Guess women in these small towns cook more than I do. They have no place to go out to eat. The towns are all quaint and idyllic in the sunshine. We snap pictures, trying to capture the unique character of each town, but I am afraid the pictures will just show lobster traps and wharfs and water. The towns are so much more than that. At the end of the road we stop for more pictures, but alas no icebergs. Marlene has it in her craw to see an iceberg even though it is 4 PM. In the best of circumstances we could not make it back for a 5 o’clock social. We take another road up yet another peninsula. May shows me that there are two caches on this road and we must stop to look for those too. Larry finds the one in the gravel pit behind a rock and I find the one next to a birch tree. Both caches have “First to find” certificates which to me is a bonus. I suppose I should log those two on the web. Marlene gets an iceberg but not a very fantastic one. We finally make it back just as social is breaking up.

Day 40 – July 8 – Twillingate

(Shari) “I did not know you did not know Stinging Nettle or I would have told you“, says Pat B. as I tell her I am itching from something on the path to the geocache. Well, I know now. I even take a picture of the plant so I don’t forget it. I have little blisters on my left arm, the top of my right hand and my right wrist. Pat tells me to put some itch ointment on it but it still stings. She says it may sting for a couple of days. I hope not. But we did find the cache next to the birch tree at the abandoned gas station. Our next stop on this leisurely morning’s drive is a cute little hut with fresh fish and lobster for sale. I buy some salt cod for our seafood stone soup on Saturday and 3 lb. of shrimp which I intend to stir fry for supper tonight. I debate whether to get some lobster but decide against the purchase when I think of how full my freezer already is.

When we arrive at our campsite, I am told of icebergs caught in the harbor. I drive to the playhouse to confirm our dinner reservations tomorrow and then sightsee at the light house and the harbor. I could stay longer watching the huge floating house-size pieces of frozen water but figure Bert must be wondering what is taking me so long. At travel meeting Bob shows pictures of the icebergs and we all rush to devour the good artichoke dip Pat B. made, quickly put our things away and take off to the harbor. The harbor is just packed with icebergs of varying shapes and sizes all glistening pure in the sunshine. Bert climbs the hill to get better pictures, Kay climbs the rocks to get a sample of the ice and Ginny and I snap pictures of the scene from all directions. Ray and Nancy have already climbed the rock as has Bill. Bert then gets three bags of pure ice for the rest of the group and himself. He wants to use it for martinis. I hope it does not taste like seaweed since it is intermingled with the ice floes. I snap a picture of a piece of ice that looks just like a sea otter. I am told that all the ice was once one piece that has broken into many. I believe it, since the bigger pieces are calving and shedding chunks as we watch. We have to stop at a liquor store to get gin for Bert’s martini before we go home. Another perfect day in Newfoundland!

(Bert) Our drive is short, our start is late, so I have time for an hour’s walk at our campsite along the Exploits River. And what a beautiful morning it is: warm temperature, blue skies, birds singing. The white and pink flowers of Dames Rocket grow profusely in dense snarls four feet high, Yellow Warblers intensely reflect morning light, Cedar Waxwings cling to the shadows, Yellow Pond Lilies form floating islands in the recesses of the river.

We are only a few miles into today’s drive when Shari wants to stop for a geocache. Pat B. accompanies her in the search and I am still inside R-Tent-III when I notice a Ring-billed Gull standing on one of the oversized outside mirrors. In brilliant spring plumage, it doesn’t know I am watching from behind the reflective windshield only a few feet away. I use my camera to take some head shots that reveal in exquisite detail its red orbital ring, red gap and even a bit of red in its nostril.

Back on the road, we head north toward the Atlantic Ocean. We are now on the northwest side of Newfoundland. The ragged edge of rock and sea is an incomplete jigsaw puzzle of bays, inlets, islands and peninsulas. Ever turn is another postcard view. We reach Twillingate and a campsite with a view of the sea, including one large iceberg 4-5 mi. toward the horizon. The real iceberg show is at the harbor in town and after a social around a campfire, we head to the harbor as the sun is low on the horizon, throwing soft light, leaving blue shadows on the icebergs floating on a deep blue sea. They say, before it reached the shallower bay, all the icebergs were once a single flat mass of ice 1700 ft. long, now burst into a dozen smaller ones that still are the size of cruise ships and ferry boats and pushed up into odd shapes. We take lots of photos of each other standing on the dark cliff rocks with a backdrop of distant blue behemoths. Sweater weather, warm sunbeams, light breeze, intoxicatingly fresh air, incredible scenery: it’s the time of evening that begs us to linger and thrill in the beauty of life.

Day 41 – July 9 – Twillingate

(Bert) Pat C. says she saw a woodpecker early this morning that flew too quickly to be sure, yet seemed to be a Black-backed. We go to the tree in our campground where she saw the bird and it certainly looks like one attacked by a Black-backed Woodpecker. Prowling around the woods does not get us another look. Instead we find Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Boreal Chickadees and the same calling Merlin we saw yesterday. A Snowshoe Hare has become so tame I walk up to within 6 ft. of it as it munches grass.

We drive to the Twillingate lighthouse and although the premise is to look for birds, we spend the entire morning looking at the coast and icebergs and only a bird if it happens to pass our view. Twillingate scenery is so enchanting we cannot get enough of it. I take photos that capture a fragment of a much grander view: the eye of Mona Lisa, or her hands, or her partial smile, but misses da Vinci’s painting.

While studying a tall offshore island we see Black Guillemots flying at the base of its sheer cliffs. We can see them fly halfway up the cliff and disappear into a hole in the solid rock. The island is too far away to make out details, yet the repeated visits suggest this is their communal nesting site. After a half hour of watching waves crash into the rocks below us, my eyes are diverted to the flowers and I find new species again. The best is Field Scabious: globular blossoms bunched so close together as to form an almost continuous red violet field a quarter acre in size. I photograph Starry False Solomon’s Seal in another stage of its life, the flowers now converted to immature pea-sized yellow-green berries with red stripes.

We head across town to the promontory from which we watched icebergs yesterday. The show is even grander today. One floats like a crashing jumbo jet with a prominent tall tail. Another sports a mammoth “Gig-em Aggies” fist and thumb pointing skyward. We hear cracking noises and head farther toward the point, taking a narrow 4-wheel drive road to a marsh and them climbing high on the red dolomite rocks to look down on the bay of icebergs. Another is shaped like a submarine with a tall control tower. We watch as the drifting Icelandic Submarine overtakes a grounded White Rock of Gibraltar. The ice cracks again, reverberating through the bay like a gunshot in a canyon. Two birds distract me and I spot an adult male Blackpoll Warbler. Without its presence I would have been puzzled at the female–or perhaps recently fledged juvenile–accompanying it. I am distracted yet again when I hear the calls of baby chicks and then see them scurrying across the rocks. An adult Spotted Sandpiper is nearby, issuing a harsh warning to the chicks to take cover. They rush to secure hiding under dense spruce, wind worn to ground cover height. The adult flies a hundred feet away and continues calling, perhaps to distract us. I go back to iceberg watching. The Icelandic Submarine has now passed behind the White Rock of Gibraltar and I can again see its control tower. I take a count of the whole bay in my view and reach a total of 45 icebergs from house to hotel size.

(Shari) The sun shines brightly again today and it is glorious. Funny how the weather can color your attitude. I did not think much of this town 9 yr. ago but now think it is one of the prettiest on the island, as locals call Newfoundland. Tonight we go to a dinner show put on by local talent. Three men and four women cook and serve the food and then put on a show. The meal starts with homemade beef vegetable soup. The second course is a choice of pan-fried cod, salmon or chicken all with vegetables, mashed potatoes and a homemade roll. Dessert is a rhubarb tart. This all reminds me of a church supper held in the activity center of a local church. After the dishes are cleared, the curtains are closed and the show begins. At first I think “Oh, no”, this is going to be terrible. The seven adults come out on stage and stand very erect with hands to their sides and begin to sing. They sing without emotion and a little off key. I can’t understand the words. I am hoping the program is not all song. And it is not. The best parts are the skits. From the local newscaster interviewing people, to the woman getting ready to make a dessert for the local “mummers”, to a take on Lily Tomlin’s “Edith Ann”; they are all funny. The best talent is a small woman (one time she comes on stage in a suitcase and depicts a ventriloquist’s dummy). Her fast backward talking rendition of Cinderella is hilarious. The show may have not been ready for Broadway but some of the acts would have made a hit on Johnny Carson. I know we enjoyed our evening.

Day 42 – July 10 – Gander – The Loop

(Shari) They talked me into it: leaving at 7 AM that is. Luckily the weather is again superb and the drive gorgeous. We are going off the road log and taking the longer route along the coast to Terra Nova. Bill and Ginny were to drive with us, but Bill has not hooked up his truck yet when it is time for us to leave. The scenery is great as we curve along the rocky shoreline, driving through some small towns, all kept alive through fishing. May shows a cache ahead and it turns out to be a Wetland Nature Trail. Bert happily looks for birds as I look for the cache. See how this geocaching gets you to places you normally would not stop? Yeah right! Anyway, we would not have known it was there until we had whizzed by. Because of the cache we had slowed down enough to stop. We have until 2 PM to reach the campsite and we enjoy the leisurely drive. As we turn a corner we see something in the distance that I call a lighthouse on an island. Bert thinks it is an iceberg. As we get closer, he stops right in the middle of the road (not much traffic on this route) and puts binoculars on it and sure enough it is a huge chunk of ice floating south. It looks like two of those Fisher Price people with square bodies and round heads that Missy used to play with. The sight is unique, so strange and hard to describe. All alone, the huge piece of ice makes its way south like a steamship without a purpose. Our lunch stop is a local municipal park where Bert looks in the trees for birds and I look in the trees for caches. I find one of the two that are supposed to be planted there. Oh well! We arrive at Terra Nova just before 2 and our reservations are valid. The rangers assign us our spots, Bert goes to the Visitor’s Center and I make plans for the next few days. It does not seem possible but our first caravan only has a week to go. After travel meeting, we walk to Ray and Nancy’s RV. It is Ray’s birthday today and we have to acknowledge somehow. He does not want a cake. We all have signed a card which we give to him after we sing “Happy Birthday” outside his rig.

(Bert) Avoiding the direct inland route, we add 65 mi. to our travel by taking “The Loop” and following the scenic Atlantic coastline of northeast Newfoundland. We follow May’s GPS instructions and I didn’t look at a map beforehand, so I pass Gander Bay without notice. I wanted to stop to see the Black-headed Gulls Jim and Pat C. saw there yesterday. Later I hear that Bob and Pat B. stopped at the bay and found the first Caspian Tern of the tour. Instead, we do not stop until May announces a waypoint containing a geocache. Fortunately for me, the location is Carmanville Wetland Nature Trail which turns out to be excellent birding. I could easily spend a few hours here, though I suffice with the half hour while Shari finds the geocache. My find is a nicely photographed redstart, another of those Swamp Sparrows with bright chestnut crowns and a quick glimpse of an Evening Grosbeak as it is being chased from its perch by a Purple Finch.

Surveying the open Atlantic waters near Musgrave Harbor I see isolated twin towers and ask Shari what she thinks they are. She guesses it is a lighthouse. I don’t see an island. I pull R-Tent-III to the side of the highway and pick up my binoculars. It’s a very tall and thin iceberg glistening in morning sunlight. May directs us to another geocache, this one at Logger’s Memorial Park in Gambo. Display signs tell us of the logging history of the area, the sawmill that stood nearby and the Middle Brook River used to transport the logs from inland forests to the seaport. I help Shari in the cache search, but we cannot find it, although I see a juvenile Yellow-rumped Warbler and Black-and-White Warblers in the same spruce trees that should be holding the cache. We cross the bridge and hike the Middle Brook River Trail in search of another geocache. This one Shari finds.

Day 43 – July 11 – Terra Nova National Park

(Bert) Terra Nova is reported to be the best place to find our nemesis Black-backed Woodpecker and the site most often mentioned is Blue Hill West Trail, so we are on the trail by 6:45 AM. Although level walking through a spruce forest, we encounter frequent puddles and walk through dew laden vegetation and soon have wet shoes. Periodic fires in past decades have created openings in the forest, leaving limbless trunks poking up from fields knee high in pink-flowered Sheep Laurel. Gray Jays and singing Black-and-white Warblers are common, as are Boreal Chickadees, including many fledglings that stay perched on thin limbs waiting for parents to feed them. An open beak reveals an orange gape. Our best find of the morning is Palm Warbler. Ray finds the first two and 20 min. later I find one close enough to photograph. It’s the first Palm Warbler I’ve seen in Newfoundland, on either trip.

We’ve trudged along the wet forest trail for four hours, probably covering 4-5 mi. Alas, we do not find Black-backed Woodpecker, only two Downy Woodpeckers. Ron birded at a different direction this morning and reports that he couldn’t find the Gray-cheeked Thrushes supposed to be along that trail. We return to camp for a break and split up in different directions for the afternoon. Pat C. and I check out another woodpecker site at a more recent forest fire. In 45 min. we do not find a single bird of any species and the temperature has risen to 85º in the shade. Returning again to camp, I pick up Shari and we head to the Visitor’s Center. I notice fascinating facts about icebergs at one exhibit. Icebergs travel 1800 nautical miles from Greenland to Newfoundland; the biggest has been 208 mi. long and 60 mi. wide; the tallest was 550 ft., half the height of the Eiffel Tower; and the water in the iceberg is at least 12,000 years old. While viewing icebergs at Twillingate a couple of days ago, I donned my knee high rubber boots, waded into the icy water and collected chunks of icebergs. At our 5 PM social, I think of the 12,000-year-old ice as it effervesces in my martini.

(Shari) I always wonder how the soup will turn out. I spend the morning chopping and simmering vegetables that everyone brought. Bert returns early from his outing and we take a short drive to the Visitor Center before I come back to add the varying types of seafood to the soup. I simmer another hour and Bert and Larry carry the pot to the shelter. Marlene has made corn bread and brownies. Ron supplies some watermelon and we eat a complete meal. By the way, the soup is good. Bill has written some songs and he and his ukulele entertain us after dinner. The words describe birders on the road, looking and looking for the allusive birds, travelling all over the place just to see another lifer. He has a talent for picking traits and then putting them to music. Thank you, Bill, for your willingness to share with us.

Day 44 – July 12 – Bonavista Peninsula

(Shari) Boy, some days just beg for pictures and today is one of them. I have to get out of bed at 5:30 AM to get a ride with Bert, Kay and Doug. We all manage and are in good spirits as we marvel at the sunshine again today. How long can this good weather last? Ron and Carol follow us to Cape Bonavista and everyone separates when we get out of the car. Carol and I go in search of a cache; Kay, Bert and Ron go looking for puffins and Doug checks on the opening time of the museum and craft shop. We find our cache, our puffins, our crafts and even get a free tour of the lighthouse as it was in the 1800s. The building is surprisingly comfortable, considering there is an 18 ft. diameter lighthouse in the middle of the living quarters. Each room has heat, the floors are wooden and there is plenty of light. By now it is noon and we are hungry. We stumble on a great restaurant called the Root Cellar. The building used to be the meeting hall of a group of men called “Oranges”. “Like the color ‘Orange’?” I ask the waitress. “Yes” she says. Apparently people were either Oranges or Greens depending on their religion. The Orange Protestants did not get along with the Green Catholics and visa versa so each had different meeting halls. Today everyone is getting along and the restaurant serves all. The menu is traditional Newfoundland. Bert gets the Jigg’s dinner, I get pea soup, Doug gets boiled cod and Kay has scallops and shrimp. The meals are served with pea pudding (tasting like pea soup so thick it can hold its scooped shape), carrots, and mashed potatoes. After a two hour dinner, we head across town to a nesting puffin site. We walk the bluff, which reminds me a bit like our walks in Ireland, before we reach Ron, Carol, Bill and Ginny already enjoying the puffins. One of the puffins has a nest on the bluff where we sit and she comes flying in, perching very close to our feet. We get terrific views and Bert snaps at least 400 pictures.

As we leave, I shout “Root cellar”. These are dug out holes in a mound of earth with wooden entrance doors. Years ago, people stored their vegetables there so they would last longer. I walk through the dark earthen entrance, over the rotting planked floor and notice three bins towards the back. I guess this is where the potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc. were placed. We next search out a place for “Northern Terns” but if we found them they are so far away only the camera lens will show us the identification, surely not a satisfactory look. A woman at the cape told Doug and me about a Beluga Whale that comes into the bay near Plate Cove. Guess where we go next? This crazy whale follows the boats as they come into dock. We talk with some people who have seen it and they tell us in about 30 min. it will be following the netters boat. We wait for 45 min. but no boat comes into the bay. We could wait all day, but decide to leave. Darn, I wanted to see that whale. After an ice cream stop, we finally get home at 7 PM, a full 12-1/2 hr. since we left this morning. I thoroughly enjoyed this day and wish all birding days were like this.

(Bert) Ron and Carol in their car, Shari, Doug and Kay with me in our car, leave camp at 6:30, an early start for a long drive through the Bonavista Peninsula. We are barely started when we see Bill’s car at the burn area Pat C. and I visited yesterday afternoon. We decide to stop too and see if the Black-backed Woodpecker can be found. We hike as far as the bridge and I call Bill on the radio. Bill is far ahead of us and he hasn’t found the woodpecker, so we double back to our cars and continue on our original plan to reach Cape Bonavista. A scenic seaside drive, curving around bays and past little villages, we see still a few more icebergs far in the distance floating on the Atlantic.

We reach the end of the road at the Cape Bonavista lighthouse and I immediately get out of the car, walk to the edge of the cliff and scan the rock island not more than a stone’s throw away. I don’t see puffins. I walk to the cliff overlooking the bay and there I see hundreds of puffins floating on the calm sea far below me. Ron calls me back to the lighthouse area and now hundreds more puffins are in flight, alighting from the far side of the small island and descending to the sea. I’m seeing lots of puffins, but not close enough for photos, other than digiscoping. Our attention is diverted to the lighthouse, built in 1841-43 and designed by Robert Stevenson, grandfather to Robert Louis Stevenson. We take a guided tour of the lighthouse: living quarters on the lowest level, bedrooms on the second story and the lighting mechanisms on the upper level, all surrounding a solid stone and mortar core. The lighthouse keeper was paid a handsome salary and his family’s quarters look quite comfortable. After the tour we notice the puffins have flown from the sea to the island crest and are now in closer view, better for photographs.

The view gets even better when we go to Elliston. Before we get there, though, we stop at Orange Hall, built in 1907, now a restaurant that looks like a church but was actually a lodge building, reported as “the largest fraternal hall of wooden construction in North America”. Offering traditional fare, I order Jigg’s Dinner which consists of potato, turnip, carrot, cabbage, salt beef and peas pudding. Just outside Elliston is a broad beach where people are swimming, or at least getting their feet wet, and then the cliffs. We walk a short distance and stop at the edge of the cliffs, overlooking another close island covered with Atlantic Puffins. This is an even closer view where we can watch their daily lives unfold: flying out to sea, returning with fish, crash landing on the soft turf, walking into burrows where the young are hidden, resting in small groups, and then repeating the cycle again with another leap off the side of the cliff. We’ve now spent a couple of hours enthralled with puffin antics when one puffin flies in our direction and lands only a dozen feet in front of us. Now I get my really close-up photos and before I finish I’ve taken nearly 400 puffin photos today. After that performance it is time to leave. I’d guess we saw 800-1000 puffins today at Cape Bonavista and Elliston.

On the way back we stop a few more times, once for what the guide book says are nesting “Northern Terns” that are too distant to decide whether they meant Arctic or Common, and another time for a reported Beluga Whale that follows a fishing boat to sea and back. We wait an hour for the boat to return to the harbor at Plate Cove West, but it does not, nor does the Beluga. We can’t resist stopping for ice cream and then a second store for ice cream again because Shari wants dipped ice cream and not the prepackaged cones.

Back at camp I hear that Bill found Black-backed Woodpeckers this morning, as well as a Gray-cheeked Thrush. I get the location details on the trail at the burn we visited this morning and arrange to go there tomorrow at 5:30 AM.

Day 45 – July 13 – Cape St. Mary’s Seabird Sanctuary

(Bert) Ron is ready at 5:30 and together we ride to the burn, park at the highway and hike 20 min. to the area Bill described. The spruce forest burned 3 yr. ago, starting as a proscribed burn, but went out of control and burned a much larger area and more severely than planned. I’ve learned that Black-backed Woodpeckers vacate burn areas after about 4 yr., which could explain why we couldn’t find any on our hike at an older burn two days ago. We are still 100 yd. from where Bill laid a marker of branches near the two-track when I hear a single soft “sthk” note repeated 6-7 times per 10 sec. I walk farther, zeroing in on the sound and then hear the soft erratic tapping and excavating of a woodpecker. In the distance a Yellow-shafted Flicker calls, though not the same as the closer woodpecker. We see the tapping one fly closer and stop at the base of a burned spruce, out of sight on the opposite side. We wait patiently and finally the woodpecker works its way to our side and we can see its black back and head with a yellow crown, marking this as a male Black-backed Woodpecker. A second male appears and I start taking photos. Eventually I move in closer for better photos and the woodpeckers ignore me, so intent are they on excavating the charred tree trunks. Before we leave the area I’ve taken 147 photos of the woodpeckers. Later I transfer them to my computer and delete all of the ones that are out of focus or the bird is poorly positioned, leaving me with 52 photos. Then I view them full-screen on a larger monitor and expand them even further, eliminating more until I am left with the best 12 photos. One feature that surprises me, comparing to field guides, is the vivid pattern of white polka dots on the primaries.

Ron and I quickly hike back to the highway, meeting Pat C. heading in the opposite direction. We give her details on our sightings and I later hear she found a female Black-backed as well as a few Gray-cheeked Thrushes which we missed. I get back to R-Tent-III in time for out 8 AM departure.

Travel to our next campsite is highlighted by a Red-throated Loon I see in flight at a most appropriately named village, Come By Chance. Shari sees a shorter road on the map than our travel log and wants me to take it. Within 1 min. we wish we had stayed on the main highway, as this one is in very bad repair, construction crews are everywhere and we are the only travelers venturing this remote area.

When we arrive at the RV park across from Cape St. Mary’s Seabird Sanctuary, the owner tells us rain is in the forecast for tomorrow. We cancel the 5 PM meeting and tell others as they arrive to head to the sanctuary now. I take Ray, Pat C. and Ron with me and we soon are on the trail to the rookeries. Even from a mile away we can see the rock on which the birds are nesting. First we take the trail to the murre rookeries and it doesn’t take us long to find the few Thick-billed Murres from among the 10,000 Common Murres. Some of the Thick-billed Murres are close enough for good viewing and photos. Most obvious is the black backs and heads, more pitch black than the browner black of the Common Murres. When a Thick-billed turns its head in just the right position I can see the white line on the cutting edge of the upper mandible. And, I can see the way the white bellies extend up to the throat in a point. From the park naturalist I learned another identification mark: Thick-billed Murres eat krill and defecate pinkish excrement which paints the rock cliff walls, whereas Common Murres have a more varied diet, painting the rocks white. I shift my focus on the more distant rock walls with dozens of ledges, nooks and crannies filled with thousands of Common Murres, a few Thick-billed Murres and many Black-legged Kittiwakes. The scene looks like a 40-story skyscraper condominium with balconies filled with tenant seabirds, some packed so densely they barely have room to turn around.

We continue on the trail to Bird Rock: massive, round-topped and covered with thousands of nesting gannets. The sanctuary brochure estimates 11,000+ nesting pairs. I don’t doubt it. A good comparison to those we saw at Bonaventure Island in Quebec June 5 when the gannets had not yet laid eggs, now some are still sitting on eggs and others are sheltering shapeless blobs of downy feathers with black spear-shaped bills. Gannets fly above the rookery, some crashing near a nest site and performing the same loving sword play of recognition with their mate.

On the cliffs adjacent to Bird Rock are thousands of nesting Black-legged Kittiwakes, most sitting over quarter-grown chicks, too large to cover completely so that fluffs of white chick feathers bulge out from beneath the resting adults. Sorting through the murres Pat is the first to find a Razorbill. We locate two nesting pairs and can clearly see the bill-to-eye white line and the white ring around its massive bill. I notice that through binoculars and even in my photos when expanded on the computer I can barely find the birds’ eyes. This has been the case for all of the black and white alcids we have observed. Think about this: a black-backed bird dissolving in a dark sea when viewed from above, a white-bellied bird melting into the sunlit surface when viewed from below, an eye as black as its head invisible to prey and white facial lines that distract victims from these predatory fishers.

Standing on the edge of the cliffs, I survey the scene surrounding me: shelf after shelf of nesting murres, kittiwakes and Razorbills; sloping rocks and barren ground carpeted with gannets and sharp-smelling guano; a 1000-voice chorus of cries and shrieks; distant 350-ft. living cliffs of nesting murres; air quavering with swirling, gliding and diving gannets; and below all of this is an trembling sea surfaced with thousands of floating murres. Everything reverberates with life, throbs with new birth: the clamor of 70,000 seabirds, the drumbeat of pulsating life.

Day 46 – July 14 – Cape St. Mary’s Seabird Sanctuary

(Bert) The foghorn blasts in my ears, though I cannot see the lighthouse 200 yd. ahead of me. I remember the pathway to the cliffs and Bill and Kay follow me in that direction. At our feet we see a Horned Lark and then one of several American Pipits. The pipits are the first of the trip and I am impressed how colorful these are. When I try to photograph one the photo dissolves into fog soup. At the edge of the 300-ft. cliff we cannot see the surf we hear below. Turning to the main trail toward the gannet colony, ghosts stand blocking our path. They move their heads, but stand erect and silent. We step forward and the ghosts take the shape of a dozen sheep heavy in wool. I raise my camera for a foggy photo and the herd charges in my direction. I put it down and they disburse. Why did they charge? I wonder if they thought I was offering food. We continue walking in the eerie fog, hearing the foghorn behind us and led by the acrid smell and raucous chorus of the gannet colony three-quarters of a mile ahead of us. A Savannah Sparrow materializes and perches. Fog magnifies its appearance, making it appear robin sized. I photograph a field of Blue Flag, sharply purple at my feet, softening to fuzzy gray in the distance, and liquefying into wet mist at the horizon. At the murre sites we cannot see the sheer cliffs, only fog. We continue to the kittiwake and Razorbill colony and the adjacent gannet rock. These we can see, as they are closer. Still, the photos are surreal. We leave the sanctuary with the feeling that we visited a strange and fascinating world, unlike the one of yesterday.

In the afternoon the fog lifts and I return with Shari. Murres are floating on the sea again. I zoom in for a shot and capture hundreds, maybe a thousand, in a close-up, then focus out to a wide view covered with black grains of murres against blue-green sea. How many am I seeing at one time? The fin of a Humpback Whale surfaces and from my high perspective on the cliff I can see its white flipper below the surface appearing turquoise through the clear water. More of the body appears and now I can see it from dorsal fin to bulbous blowhole and the knobby tubercles on its head. It humps and descends until all that is visible is the turquoise flipper and then that disappears too.

I cannot resist photographing everything today. An area view of the cliffs shows four prominent bulges covered with the white feathers of gannets. A status count this spring reports 13,400 adult pairs, 13,400 chicks assumed and uncounted non-breeding subadults. The colony has been growing by about 1000 per year. The brochure mentions 70,000 birds at Cape St. Mary’s, a statistic from a 1996 census. The number is now estimated to be 100,000. Bob is keen on getting digiscoped photos of bridled murres and I photograph him precariously perched with tripod outstretched at cliff’s edge. Then I photograph the straight down view from where we stand, a dizzying sight that makes the inner side of my knees tingle. I photograph the bridled murres too, a form of Common Murre with a crude white circle of feathers surrounding the eyes and trailing behind like arms of eyeglasses. A pair of bridled murres is preening each other. I can also see the black hatching on the flanks of Common Murres, especially if they raise their wings slightly. Razorbills perform antics, stretching necks skyward, aerobic exercising of wings, opening mouths to reveal egg-yolk-yellow gapes.

On the return walk we divert from the path and search for a Willow Ptarmigan that one of the naturalists saw last week. Pat B., Kay and I do not find one, but Bob is watching us from the path when he sees a hen-sized bird erupt from the ferns and fly past us while we looked in the opposite direction. On the exit road I search for the Short-eared Owl that Pat C. and Jim saw earlier. I find a pair of Northern Harriers instead. I drive slowly, trying to stay just a bit longer, not willing to leave such an enchanting sanctuary, but pull back into camp for Shari’s presentation of photos she has taken during the past 46 days.

Day 47 – July 15 – St. John’s

(Bert) Crossing a portion of the Avalon Peninsula, our scenery is tundra and foreshortened spruce, interspersed with small ponds and narrow creeks until we have a view of the sea again at North Harbor. Almost no one lives along Route 92 and I am watching my fuel gauge and wondering when we will come to a village. In the 100 mi. to St. John’s we see only two gas stations and we do not see either selling diesel (although later Bill and Ginny tell us one of them did have diesel). My low-fuel icon lights on the dashboard and stays lit for the remaining 27 mi. to St. John’s. When we finally see a gas station, it is on the opposite side of the Trans Canada Highway and we expend the next 10 mi. circling clover leafs, in and out of exits, until we finally find a station selling diesel. Inquiring of the station attendant, I learn that only a few stations sell diesel and the number is dropping. I fill 300 liters, giving me a bit over a half tank. I don’t fill the tank because at US$3.32 per gallon, I am hoping diesel will be cheaper in Nova Scotia.

Day 48 – July 16 – Witless Bay Ecological Reserve

(Shari) Two different high hopes. Bert has high hopes for seabirds. I have high hopes for whales. Wanting to get both hopes fulfilled, we book a Zodiac trip for the group. Upon arrival we don insulated orange wet suits. With today’s sunshine and warm temperatures, we are hot before we even zip up. Five brave souls volunteer to ride in the traditional Zodiac, one without seats and backrests. Carol, Ron, Bill, Doug and Jim ride on the inflated rubber sides of the boat and hold onto a rope for stability. The rest of us pile into a bigger craft with cushioned seats and backrests. We motor off to Gull Island in Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. Thousands of birds are nesting there and our Zodiac gets up close and personal to the birds. Puffins, seemingly millions of them, whiz overhead, land in the water next to us or on land in front of us, bringing food to their one chick in the burrow. Murres and gulls and ……. Finally the guide says it is time to see whales. I envision numerous whales fluking and spouting within feet of our boat. Unfortunately we only see two whales and then not as close as the pictures on the advertising brochure. The guide says we can stay and wait for whales (I think, YES!) or motor to Green Island to see more birds. Bert says yes to more birds so off we go, bouncing our way to Green Island. Bob, sitting next to me and hanging onto the bar in front of us with white knuckles, mutters something about not ever giving Bert a choice between birding and not birding. We see thousands more birds before heading back to shore.

(Bert) We look like firefighters in protective jumpsuits or fishermen ready to endure extreme seas. The insulated bright orange suits cover us from ankle to chin and I understand they double as life jackets. In the bright sun the suits are soon too warm and we are anxious to climb into the Zodiacs and take off for Witless Bay in search of seabirds and whales. We head first to Gull Island and soon are surrounded by thousands of Atlantic Puffins and Common Murres. Razorbills and murres line the rock shelves, puffins gather higher up and on the lumpy grass above the rocks; kittiwakes sit on nests. Hundreds more puffins float on the sea near our Zodiac and still hundreds more fill the air, flapping wildly and heading in random directions. We are in the midst of the largest Atlantic Puffin colony in North America where 260,000 pairs are said to nest.

After hugging the inland side of Gull Island we head to the deeper waters of Witless Bay in search of whales. While whale waiting, I study the alcids flying above us. I notice murres have pointed heads, pointed tails and legs that drag beyond tails, whereas puffins and razorbills have blunt heads and shorter tails without noticeably dragging legs. We encounter the much larger boat where Ray, Nancy, Larry and Marlene are passengers. They’ve been watching whales too. We see two Humpback Whales just as they fluke and dive deep into the bay. Captain Tyler tells us the sea is unusually warm (12º C) and the capelin are staying deep below us. Also, the warm sea is delaying the capelin from moving toward shore. Anyway, that is how Tyler explains why we see so few whales today. I hear later that the larger boat, which spent more time whale watching, found a Minke Whale as well.

With the lull in whale activity, I suggest we head to Green Island and that’s what Tyler does. Green Island is quite different from Gull Island. High, vertical cliffs are condominiums to thousands of murres covering every square inch of available ledges. The immense number of murres is absolutely overwhelming. We bounce along the windy leeward side of the island whitewashed with excrement and Tyler points out patches of pink-sided wash below some ledges. Here, between bounces of the Zodiac, I can make out the darker Thick-billed Murres among the much more numerous Common Murres. Too soon our time is up and we head back to the dock.

(Shari) We eat at a cute coffee shop before going on another bird chase for Arctic Terns. After a very long drive, we wander around before finding a place to park for a view of the island where the birds nest. I nap while the rest get out their scopes. After my nap, the group is still focused on the birds. How long does it take to look at a dozen birds? I get out of the car and ask my question. I am told there is a dispute about one of the birds. It may be something else all together. Ginny reminds Bill that Meg, their dog, has to eat. Hurrah for Meg. That gets him to put away his scope and our car can leave. Carol too is tired of discussing the finer points of terns so she joins us on our return trip. We both would have rather spent our time geocaching. Good thing the day and the scenery are pretty.

(Bert) After lunch we drive to another birding site where I have read that Arctic Terns nest. Arriving at the bay, my directions are confusing and we cannot get close to the island where the terns nest until we see they have constructed a new pullout that will serve as an excellent viewpoint. The first tern I look at is an Arctic Tern, resting on a small rock in shallow water. After having studied countless Common Terns on this trip, the features of the Arctic Tern are noticeably different: all red bill and a darker shade, very short legs, whiter wings and absence of black marks on the upper side of the wing. Common Terns are present too and in larger numbers, perhaps a dozen Commons and three Arctics.

Pat C. is the first to notice a tern with a white forehead. That initiates a 45-min. investigation and discussion on the identity of the tern. We align three spotting scopes on the tern and reposition them whenever the tern picks a different rock on which to rest. The white forehead, black crown and nape and ear-coverts suggest this is a first summer / first winter bird. The black bill fits several tern species, but the black legs are inconsistent with the adult Arctic and Common terns in the flock. However, our field guide books differ in their depiction of leg color for younger and non-breeding terns, leading to more doubt about the bird’s identity. We note other, more subtle, differences and then Bill and I each see the streaming tail. The streamers are so thin that they are invisible in binoculars and barely seen through the scopes, but when observed they are incredibly long, reaching far beyond the wing tips of the bird at rest. I start taking dozens of photos, both through my 400 mm lens and digiscoping. Our group is mixed on the identity of the tern, but before we leave the bay Bill, Pat C. and I all suspect it is a Roseate Tern. Back at camp, we discuss the bird again at a delayed 6 PM social and study more books we’ve brought out from our libraries. We forgot to study the bill length and thickness. The birding discussion gets so intense that Shari calls a moratorium on bird talk during our social. I’m anxious to download my photos and do so the minute the social breaks up. As I study them I notice the thin bill, and longer when compared to my photos of Arctic and Common terns. I make a spreadsheet of 15 field marks observed versus the three possible terns and they seem to match Roseate Tern. Remarkably, I even have a few photos showing all three tern species in the same shot. I’m quite sure it is a Roseate Tern, a life bird for me, but wait until the next days’ journals for more on this story.

Day 49 – July 17 – St. John’s

(Bert) We bird this morning at Long Pond, a short walk from our campsite. American Black Ducks float on a tiny pond we pass in route and I take photos since this is the first time I’ve been close enough for details. I’d like to find a Brown Creeper, the only species mentioned for this park that we haven’t yet seen. The morning is pleasantly warm and I find myself taking more photos of flowers than birds. Since we are in St. John’s it is especially apropos to photograph Common St. John’s-Wort. I also find Musk Mallow, Rugosa Rose, Birdsfoot Trefoil and Meadowsweet.

While hiking through the spruce woods we meet another birder. Anne lives in St. John’s and gives us lots of suggestions for birds, although she hasn’t found a Brown Creeper yet this year. She is especially interested when I mention the Roseate Tern we think we identified yesterday. She says a Roseate has not been seen in Newfoundland for three years. I give her my business card, she gives me her e-mail address and I promise to send her details on the tern.

In the afternoon I finish entering bird and mammal sightings into the computer and prepare handouts for the group. Today is the last day of Part 1 of our Maritimes caravan. Not counting the presumed Roseate Tern, our trip totals are 193 bird species and 25 mammal species. Pat C. asked me if that is a good number. My answer is that it is better than my 2000 trip, which covered the same territory and also started 30 May in Quebec City. As of July 17 I had 136 species in 2000 and this year I have 171 species, while the group is at 193 species.

Totals by province 30 May to 17 July, 2009 are:
142 – Quebec
90 – New Brunswick
87 – Prince Edward Island
34 – Nova Scotia
137 – Newfoundland
193 – all provinces

We will be sending more time in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in Part 2 of this trip, so those numbers will rise.

Shari gets a call from our Texas office and I get an e-mail from the same person. Local birder Anne passed our tern sighting on to local birder Paul, who wants to know about the tern. I e-mail Paul and Anne with my tern details and one of the photos and also copy Bruce, the regional editor for North American Birds magazine where unusual sightings are reported seasonally.

(Shari) While I do the wash, Bert goes birding. While I go grocery shopping, Bert goes birding. While I pay the campground bill, Bert goes birding. While I update the road logs, Bert goes birding. While I defrost the freezer, Bert takes a nap. Now you all can see how Bert can bird all the time. He has a maid at home. Anyway, the above sums up my day until evening when we meet outside for a group picture and then car pool to a restaurant for our farewell dinner. We just about have the café to ourselves. A good thing, because I think we are a bit noisy. Enjoying our soup or salad, stuffed cod or chicken and dessert, we reminisce about our lovely trip and look forward to Part 2. Bob relates some statistics he has: 59% of the days had some rain, 75% of the days had some sun. Now I find that as pretty good odds of sun for the Maritimes. I bet our other trip had more rain than sun. But then most of this group could make their own sun if necessary.

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