Posts Tagged ‘Canada


The same … but not the same

No wonder Semi Palmated Plovers are rarely found in the UK. Here’s one I photographed in Canada, Apart from the palmations between some of the toes and the patterning at the base of the bill they are almost indistinguishable from our own Ringed Plovers.



The day of the Phalaropes

Off Grand Manan in Canada we once again made our way out to the fall off; a renowned area for whales known as the sugar bowl. I was behind our skipper looking over his shoulder at the view ahead. I noticed a grey slick on the sea. I strained my eyes. It varied, from a quarter to a half mile wide, but stretched from one horizon to the other. It wasn’t until we got closer I could see it was a gathering of Red necked Phalaropes. Just amazing.

Red necked Phalaropes


The ultimate photo-bomb

Wilson’s Petrel with Humpback Whale. Taken off Grand Manan in Canada earlier in the month.

Wilsons Petrel and Humpback Whale


Do we care about anything but ourselves?

Getting back from Canada was anything but straightforward. From mechanical failure of the aircraft to inappropriate behaviour of staff the airline did not do much to relieve customers from the 13 hour delay. Mental note to self ‘Do not fly Air Canada again’.

It’s quite strange how people centre in on themselves when faced with a little adversity. Jumping queues, arguing points and centring the world on their own little bubble, basically just getting damn right ‘arsy’. What I saw and heard led me to ask, ‘Do we care about anything but ourselves?’

On the end of the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec is the small pretty town of Perce. Behind it lies the high ground of Mont St Anne; tall, forested and imposing. This is the habitat of such birds as Fox Sparrows, Boreal Chickadee, Bicknell’s Thrush and other delights. I was also hoping for a few American Warblers. They had been sparse, few and far between, so far on the trip and I was looking forward to seeing a good selection. Look through any American bird book and you’ll see why. They are the pinnacle of avian evolution; the colours are breath taking. We had been talking to a park ranger the day before and he had mentioned numbers were down this year and there had been progressively fewer each year of the last twenty he had held the post. He, like others, put this down to deforestation on their wintering grounds, pesticides affecting their food source and changing weather patterns. Not encouraging.

We set off on the trail to the summit of Mont St Anne. It was steep but manageable. After around 30 minutes of climbing we had seen several species. A couple of Bicknell’s Thrushes had shown really well and the trees were full of Chickadees. Just as the warblers began to show it started to rain. It fell quite gently at first and then gradually increased to a point where even the rain gear we had on was just not enough. The trail turned into a torrent of gullies and waterfalls drenching our feet. This was the spin off from Storm Isaac that wrecked the coast further south and it was still angry. We retired gracefully from the mountain in a thunderstorm of biblical intensity.

I guess while we all make use of air travel and use cars that contribute to global warming we will continue to encounter these extreme weather events. The demise of the warbler population is not unconnected.

We would need to take action, at best to prevent it from getting any worse. A whole change of lifestyle for us all would need to take place. We would need to be completely unselfish. We would need to care about things like the Cape May Warbler I photographed below. Can you see that happening?


The Haunt of the Castor

One evening, during our time in Quebec, we had been shown a small pool in the forest close to where we were staying. Although the pool was not too far from a major road I found it a quite magical place and wanted to return the next afternoon when there was more light.

The pool had been formed by Beavers damming a small stream. The lodge and dam were wonderful constructions of sticks and mud. A whole eco-system had evolved around the formation of the lake behind the dam. Dragonflies of weird and wonderful colours danced around the water’s edge. A Merlin above us clutched the larger dragonflies from the air and returned each time to his perch where he nipped off the wings before eating the body. Cedar Waxwings were fly catching; sallowing out from the top of the dead pines in upward sweeping arcs to catch insects then returning to their favoured perch. A young Bald Eagle sat on a floating log that sank a little dipping his tail into the water. The loud cackling call of a Belted Kingfisher rang out as he flew by an arm’s length away.

Amid all this the engineer himself arrived; moving through the water like a living submarine he formed a wake that rippled the reflection of the lakeside trees. I followed him as quietly as I could until he disappeared into rushes where I couldn’t follow. Quite a magical place.


Smarter than average

As we spread on insect repellent we surveyed the forest in front of us; an endless canopy of green stretching and undulating into the distance pierced by rocky outcrops like grey icebergs in a sea of green. Canada is a wilderness and you don’t have to travel far to be alone.

This is not like a stroll in the local woods this is serious stuff; you need to be prepared, not only for the terrain, but also for the wildlife. The Wildlife here is truly wild. Large mammals occur in close proximity to humans in Canada and one of those mammals is the Black Bear and they have to be treated with respect. We saw five bears that evening; the last of the light giving the chance of a few shots.


White Spirits

Yesterday had started well. On a perfect day of breathless air and flat calm water our count within the first two hours was 1 Humpback Whale, 4 Fin Whale, 20 something Minke Whale, a whole host of Harbour Porpoise and a Blue Whale. It was difficult to think the day could get better … but it did.

The skipper of our Zodiac obviously knew the St Lawrence well; he knew where to find every single conceivable cetacean within a hundred miles and was seemingly intent upon showing them to us. It was late into the timetable when he started to head out into open water and across the wide reach of the river. Despite 20 exhilarating minutes at full throttle passing more whales and grey seals at high speed the far bank was still distant. I wondered what it was that had made him bring us out this far. I didn’t wonder for long. There heading towards us were several ghostly apparitions. Initially looking like the white horses of breaking waves they soon became a pod of belugas. A childhood dream had been realised.

These snow white whales are a true Arctic species but a resident population inhabits the area around Tadoussac on the St Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada and we were watching around 20 of them.

As they came closer they slipped under the oily surface. I looked down and several were under the boat their white form taking on a broken ghostly outline. Their curiosity aroused the Belugas stopped with us for what seemed an eternity, surfacing within inches of our spellbound faces. Eventually all too soon they moved on. Fading away into the brightness of the distance I watched them until I couldn’t see them anymore. We ended our three hour excursion elated.

Of course it was difficult to think the day could get even better … but it did. More Anon.

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Apr 2023


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