Sunday, July 8, 2012

Take 5 with Kathy - "Puffins, Murres, and whales! Oh my!..."

Village of Brigus
Just recently my husband and I visited the Avalon Peninsula region in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. We have longed to visit this beautiful and unique part of our country for many years, but only ever saw the inside of the airport on a return flight from Europe. So, this was the year and we spent seven wonderful, fun-filled days exploring everything we could pack into that time frame.

Killick Coast drive
Since we both love photography, drives that normally take some people 2-3 hours to complete took us 5-7 hours. The “Rock”, as many Canadians affectionately nickname this province, certainly lived up to its reputation. The scenery is spectacular with every bend in the road offering more stunningly rugged vistas, quaint fishing villages where time seems to have stopped, brightly coloured houses lining the narrow old streets of downtown St. John’s, panoramic views of the capital city from Signal Hill, iconic lighthouses perched high on rocky cliffs, historical landmarks such as the grassy airstrip where Amelia Earhart departed on her solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean and the pretty town of Heart’s Content where the first transatlantic cable messages were received, the barrens where caribou roam free (unfortunately we didn’t see any), and of course the notorious fog which we are well-accustomed to in our home province of Nova Scotia, although fog takes on a whole new meaning in Newfoundland…more about that in my next blog! We also enjoyed some rousing Irish/Newfoundland music, the friendly hospitality of the locals, and some fantastic local seafood (the snow crab was especially delicious).

Without a doubt though, the highlight for us was a boat tour to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve (we also had a lot of fun imagining the origin of some of the place names – if you’ve never been there, just look at the map and you’ll know what I mean). Being subject to motion/sea-sickness, it took a lot of faith in God to go on this adventure, but I wouldn’t trade it now for anything! We went with Gattherall’s, a company that uses a catamaran supposedly to minimize the above mentioned sensitivity. As we motored out of the harbour in Bay Bulls, we soon encountered ocean swells that compelled everyone except the captain to hang on for dear life as we roller-coasted our way to the open sea. I really thought I had made a huge mistake! But there was no turning back and I breathed a quick prayer that God would answer my dream of seeing a humpback whale to make this trip really worth it.

Gull Island, Witless Bay
Before long, we neared Gull Island, one of four islands in the reserve. It couldn’t be more appropriately named as thousands of gulls swooped overhead (a hat or hood is recommended) and soon a symphony of bird calls filled the air. With one arm hooked firmly around the railing and the other trying to hold my camera steady, hubby and I started shooting pictures with abandonment (thank goodness for digital cameras!). Of course, he got the closest shots with his telescopic lens, but other than trying to keep my balance or falling overboard, I was in pure heaven! Along with several species of gulls, we were treated to watching Atlantic Puffins, Common Murres, and Black-Legged Kittiwakes in their natural breeding/nesting site. As the captain slowed the engine, we casually drifted by this amazing spectacle drinking in all the sights, sounds, and smells.

Atlantic Puffins and burrows
We learned that the Atlantic Puffin is the official bird of Newfoundland and Labrador, has to beat its wings at 300-400 beats/minute to fly fast enough to stay in flight, mates for life and returns to the same nesting site each year, lives in colonies where they make burrows 1-2 metres deep, dives up to 200 feet to catch prey, and Witless Bay is the largest colony in the Western Atlantic. They were fun to watch as they would suddenly pop out of the water and skim across it trying to become airborne.

Common Murres
The Common Murre, as we were informed, looks something like a penguin, although much smaller. They also dive up to 200 feet in the water and nest on rocky crags where they live in very dense proximity. They lay a single egg in a depression in the rock. The cliffs were simply black with many thousands clinging to the edge – now that’s close company!

Humpback on boat tour
We had already seen our money’s worth, when a staffer spotted two whales in the distance as they spouted – “There she blows!!” As the captain steered our vessel for them, we learned it was probably a mother and calf so they didn’t come near. Soon my prayers were answered though as a male humpback started swimming beside and under our boat!! What a sight he was! Although he never “breached” (jumping out of the water), he began putting on quite a show surfacing often to spray high into the air, rolling over “waving” to us with his long fins, “spy hopping” to check us out, and simply impressing us with his size and power (evidenced by the significant rocking of the boat when he swam underneath). I just marveled at the absolute power of the One who created such a magnificent animal. A couple days later, we had an extra treat of watching another humpback as we stopped our car above Outer Cove. He came in very close to shore feeding on capelin.

Humpback at Outer Cove
I came across this verse a couple days ago and thought it was very appropriate:

“Roar, sea, and every creature in you; Sing, earth, and all who live on you! Clap your hands, you rivers; you hills, sing together with joy before the Lord, because He comes to rule the earth” Psalm 98:7-9a (GNT)

Until next Sunday,


Seasonal Sunday
Sunday's Best


  1. WOW!! What a fabulous trip that must have been! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  2. Looks like it must have been a fantastic vacation with more beauty than one can contain. Hopefully it wasn't hot there so you could enjoy it to the fullest. Beautiful pictures.

  3. It was a great trip, and it wasn't hot, quite cool for the first few days. Even on sunny days, you needed a sweater or jacket along coastal areas.

  4. What a wonderful trip you had to Newfoundland. That is one place I would love to visit as well. Thanks for sharing your photos and the details of your trip. Very interesting. Blessings, Pamela

  5. Your trip looks amazing with such beautiful images. When we were in Alaska, we such puffins on the rocks like this. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Stay tuned for more photos and experiences of our trip next Sunday! Glad you enjoyed my blog and yes, Pamela, you must try and visit Nfld.

  7. How neat to see puffins in real life! What a trip. Thanks so much for bringing your post to Seasonal Sundays.

    - The Tablescaper


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