Thursday, 12 July 2012

Foggy Newfoundland

Saturday, July 7

Although last evening’s foggy conditions on the Sydney, Nova Scotia – Argentia, Newfoundland ferry were not conducive to seabird-watching, our compact cabins were convenient and comfortable. Ray’s wife Agnes was to pick us up at the ferry terminal but foggy conditions at the St. John’s airport prevented her plane from landing.  She flew from Toronto to Gander to Montreal to Toronto in the space of 12 hours.  Revised plans have her landing this evening on a plane from Halifax.

Our first views of the Newfoundland coast near Argentia

We’re up early this morning and on deck but see little. At 9am we hear an announcement that we will dock in a half hour, but foot passengers are last off so it is 10:30 by the time we board our shuttle to St. John’s.

Once more we meet local fine birder Anne Hughes who takes us to Cape Spear to view the reported shearwater flight. But this site close to St. John’s is completely fogged in, and we don’t even get out of our vehicles. Anne then guides us to the birdy yard of her friends Catherine and Paul, where we spot over 15 species in a short time, including our only good views of Evening and Pine Grosbeaks for this trip.
Pine Grosbeak
Sunday, July 8

Ray meets us in the morning with my long lost binoculars in hand (because Agnes’s flight was rerouted through Halifax, Rob picked up the binoculars I left in Truro and gave them to Agnes at the airport).  We then meet Anne at the Memorial University Botanical Garden for a pleasant walk in light rain. After a Tim Hortons stop we head south down the Avalon Peninsula coast, past the famed Bay Bulls and Witless Bay. In partial fog at Burnt Cove we manage to see Common Murres, Atlantic Puffins, several Great Shearwaters close to shore and a single Razorbill. At Ship Island the fog parts in time to allow us views of nesting Northern Fulmars.
Ship Island
Atlantic Puffin
It’s lunch time, and a small sign for mooseburgers catches our attention. They are slow in arriving but delicious, as is the poutine ordered by one of us. While taking our lunch we watch a fish-carrying Osprey being pursued by an opportunistic Bald Eagle.
Mike's first taste of poutine

At Ferryland we admire a wheeling, diving cloud of gannets, shearwaters and gulls feeding on a school of capelin.
Northern Gannets and Black-legged Kittiwakes

Back in St. John’s at Anne’s home we share a fine supper, including both steak and ice cream – hard to beat that! It has been a delightful day.

Monday, July 9

Ray’s wife Agnes accompanies us as we travel with Anne to Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve. Fog is the norm here, and we can see no birds as we walk about a kilometer to the Bird  Rock “viewing” site.
Walking to Bird Rock, Cape St. Mary's

However the never-ending racket from the Northern Gannets lets us know they are present, and gradually the fog dissipates and we’re able to see them. The folks at the visitors’ centre tell us that about 15,000 breeding pairs are present on the Cape, many with chicks.
Nesting Northern Gannets on Bird Rock
Northern Gannet

Also here are thousands of Black-legged Kittiwakes and a handful of Great Cormorants. As the fog slowly lifted, patient searching by Anne and Brian finally results in our seeing several Thick-billed Murres through our scopes, with a minimum danger of anyone slipping over the cliff edge.
Anne perched on the edge scanning the cliffs across from us
Kittiwakes and murres
Thick-billed Murres (centre) with Black-legged Kittiwakes and Common Murres
Cape St. Mary's
Thrilled with our clear views (a posting in the visitors centre says it’s been foggy for 23 straight days) we return to St. John’s and directly to the air terminal. Goodbyes are said and Brian, Phil and Mike depart for Calgary. Agnes and Ray stay on for a few days to enjoy the maritime flavour.



  1. Particularly enjoyed this post, as I was at Cape St. Mary's 4 years ago, took a very similar foggy photo of the Gannets on the sea stack, and so this brought back some good memories. Congratulations on meeting your 450 target and good luck on the rest of the year.

  2. Great pictures! The puffin is particularly cool.