Thursday, June 9, 2016

Birds? Birds. Birds!

We moved on to Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve to view the Gannets and hopefully a few new-to-us birds, as well.

What a fantastic place with wide sweeping, mesmerizing views.  We saw our first Newfoundland whale spout while walking the trail.

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                         It's about .6 miles out to the bird viewing spot.

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And, yes, we were distracted the whole way.  All of those white
'spots' on the rock and in the air are birds!

Looking back to where we came from.  We're parked up there near the visitor center

                                               and the lighthouse.

                  Could look at the views forever.

This is the main viewing area.  Although the Gannets and other birds have definitely
branched out and are covering a much, much, MUCH larger area.
                                               A rock of Gannets

                    It is primarily Northern Gannets on this one rock island.

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They are a beautiful bird and if you ever have a chance to watch them hunt for it!

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For some reason, on this day they were not diving into the water but just hanging around.

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Sort of looks like he's getting ready to attack.  But he's really
just looking for a place to land. It isn't easy considering the crowd.

So cute.  When one comes back from being away they greet each other by rubbing bills.

                 It's appropriately called "Billing".

                                It lasts for a good 15 seconds or more.

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              Beautiful bird.   Beautiful water.  Beautiful place.  Beautiful day.

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The terrain down by St. Mary's Ecological Reserve was different than any other we'd seen on island.  When we sort through our shots we'll show you more but it reminded us a lot of Wyoming (minus the ocean, of course).

The first bird that we checked off of our Lifer list on this trip
was the Blacklegged Kittiwake.  They nest on small cliff ledges
like you see in the above photo.

   They also look a lot like a seagull so you've got to know what you are looking for.

We'd been on the lookout for them since we got on island.  Very
excited to have spotted a few (thousand). They are sweet looking birds.

           The colors on this day were just fantastic.

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                          Believe it or not, the photos do not do it justice.

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                                  Siblings.  One in each color and a combo to boot.

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          Sheep are permitted open grazing in the area.  So, watch your step!

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The second bird checked off of our Lifer list was the Common Murre.  A cute, penguin-looking bird that looks all dressed up in a tuxedo.

                    Like the Kittiwakes they "nest" on the small rock ledges. 

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                               Do you see them all on the ledges there?

Their eggs are a funky shape.  This is the top half of one.   We've learned why they are that shape and it will explain why we put "nest" in quotations.

Do you see the two light blue eggs in the above photo?  Do you see how there is not an actual 'nest'?  They just lay the egg on the rock shelf and that's it.  The pear shape does its best to keep the egg from falling off the cliff by making it roll in a circle when knocked.  However, as we witness in just our short time, countless Murre eggs are lost to crows, eagles and other predators which have an easier time grabbing them since they aren't on a nest and under a parent.

You may have noticed that some of the Common Murres have a
cool pair of white sunglasses.  Apparently, this is more common
in the birds that breed further north.  The visitor center statistic
said 1 in 5 have this cool feature.  They are called 'Bridled'.

                                  Common Murres soaring over the deep blue.

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  We were told to go to another section of cliffs for a chance at spotting another lifer.

IMG_5036z (7)                     We scanned through thousands of Common Murres to find ONE...

                                             Thick Billed Murre.
He was so far away that our point and shoots were really struggling.  This is the best shot we got.  The bill is obviously thicker than the common but also it has a white line down the bill which the commons do not.  There are other differences in body and head shape, etc. but you get the gist.  New Bird!

                                     Our first moth in Newfoundland.

                                   Our first Beetle in Newfoundland.

We almost squashed these adorable Horned Lark chicks.  Note to all... in areas where there are nesting American Pipits or Horned Larks, do not walk unaware.

              The nest is simply a small, shallow depression made in the grass.

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                                      Appreciating the color contrasts.

                                                    What the?!


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Can you see the four sheep on the slope and the person on top?

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                           The sheep.... right side of photo in green area.

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                        Person.... on top of cliff near center of photo.

And our final LIFER of this stop is a cute little black and white number
called a Razorbill.

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Yup.  To the average eye he looks a lot like the Murres and that's what our average eyes
initially thought.  But (s)he's a entity all his/her own and a snazzy one at that!

                                                  Beautiful Blue.

We made two walks out to the bird watching areas.  One in the morning and one in the afternoon.  The lighting was different each time.  We didn't find the Thick-billed Murre until the afternoon and the Razorbill only showed himself in the morning.  So, it was worth the double trip.  Meadow Voles were running in and out of their holes and the wind even quieted somewhat (although the temperatures did not significantly alter their course and remained quite freezing).

On our second trip out, Darlene went over to pick up some liter and discovered it was $5 Canadian Bill.  What-ever shall we buy?!