Archive for the ‘Birding’ Category

I’m crossing off two days at once here because Day 6 was spent on the road and as I’m going through all of our zillions of photogs, it appears that nobody shot any on Day 6 (GASP!!).  But hold on to your undies, kids, cuz Day 7 is totally gonna make up for it.

Well, it will after we get the map out of the way…(Oh stop!  You know you love the map!  Geez!)

Map

Day 6 took us from Point D (D is for Dildo…c’mon…you remember this…) to Point E which is a spot called Holyrood.  We chose this place to camp for two days for a bunch of reasons, the first of which was that it offered us a chance to visit with our wayward friend, Wanda.

Wanda came to our campground (Blue Fin) under the lure of a campfire weenie roast.  Who could resist that?  Not Wanda, obviously.  Sadly, it was rainy and freezing, so we had to ix-nay the eenie-ways.  We huddled up inside the trailer while our friend regaled us with hilarious tales of her recent assimilation into Newfie society.  I guess you’d call her a Nouveau Newf, but she is still a work in progress.  So far, she’s managed to twang her long I’s but she has yet to master that odd H business.  

Wanda, girl, if the massage thing doesn’t work out, please consider stand-up as an option.  This ole world needs more laughter.  XO

The next morning, Shari, Bob, and I set out to explore.  We had a 1:30 reservation with Gatherall’s for a Puffin (!!!) and Whale Tour.  In the meantime, though, we had poking about to do.

One of the things we encountered was a small herd of Newfie Mutant Mallard Ducks.  They were unlike any mallards I’ve ever seen before.  Aside from their physical modifications, they were all sound asleep right beside (almost on) the road!  In fact, we had roared right past them before I managed to yell, “Stopppp!!” (Which is code for “I saw something interesting and I’m gonna leap out now and shoot several thousand photogs of it.”)  And, how the heck do you fall asleep standing on one foot right beside the road anyway?  You’d think the cars whooshing by would topple them, wouldn’t you?  It’s just weird, I tell ya.

Later on, after a lovely lunch of I-can’t-remember-what, we headed on over to Gatherall’s for our wee boat ride.  If you happened to be along on last year’s adventure to Maine, you’ll recall that I go a little off my stick when it comes to puffins. I can honestly admit that there has been no improvement in that area.  I can try to be cool about it, but it just bubbles up and explodes.  There’s a lot of grinning involved…and worse.

Happily, there weren’t very many people in our group. Happilier, almost immediately one of the crew spotted a humpback whale.  It was hilarious trying to get a shot off while clinging to the railing for dear life, not to mention that by the time you see the blow, it’s waaaaay too late.  The best I could do was this lovely blowhole shot (I know! I’m amazing!):

JDSC_0356ARShari had a bit more luck:

SDSC_0830RSo did Bob:

BDSCN1483RUnfortunately, this beautiful creature was just cruising and not eating or playing, so no action shots. Still…a humpback! How cool is that?!

On our trip to Maine last year, I was beyond excited about the twenty or so puffins we’d seen.  On this tour there were thousands of them!!  I was in puffin heaven!  Still and all, the lil rascals make it nigh on impossible to get a decent shot – for footballs with stubby wings, they sure can move!

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I hate to disappoint, but there’ll be no incredibly awesome map today.  Only because we were still in the same place: Gros Morne.

Our Trip Research Technician had sussed out a number of interesting spots for us to scope out.  Team Turnip seemed to be enjoying letting him do all of the work (travelling with a control freak does have its perks…sometimes).

We began our day by falling into the car clutching our coffee mugs and meandering up the coast to the site of a shipwreck.  The S. S. Ethie, a wooden steamship, ran aground in 1919 in a terrible storm.  (If you’re interested in the details, click HERE for an excerpt from the ship’s log.  It’s a short, interesting read.  Seriously, click it.  Would I steer ya wrong?  Geez…I hope the Captain of the S. S. Ethie didn’t say that…)  Nearly a hundred years later, all that’s left are a wood thing (technical term) and the metal bits of the ship, and they’ve just been left as they landed – rare for something of interest to tourists.  No gift shops, no ticket booth, no velvet rope – just the bits of the wreck lying in the surf.  Cool, eh?

Once we’d shot our photogs of the wreck, we piled back in the car and headed a little further up (or possibly down) the coast to a place called Arches Provincial Park.  Not quite as impressive as the Utah Arches we visited last year but still pretty cool.

Next, we had planned to go and see the Cow’s Head Lighthouse, but for reasons that are as odd as they are classified, we decided against it (Okay, okay, one of us had to pee rather urgently so we went in search of a potty instead. Happy now?).

On the way to find the potty, we saw stuff like this:

Once business was taken care of, we tossed around some ideas and came up with this:  “5km hike in through a bug-infested bog for no apparent reason.”  Hey, who wouldn’t vote for that one?!  There actually was a reason at the time, but it sorta fell apart in the execution.  We went out to a place called Western Brook Pond, which offered what sounded on paper like a really cool boat tour.  The downside was that you had to hike 2.5 kms through the swamp to get to the boat.  The downer-than-that-side was that when we got there, we were alone.  I mean alone alone.  There was a building and there were boats, but no people.  We stooged around for a while until a couple of worker bees showed up and informed us that we were about two hours early for the boat tour. What?! You mean the internet is WRONG?! Inconceivable! (Little Princess Bride reference there…heh heh….oh,never mind…)  So, once again, one (or more) of us had to pee desperately so we decided to hike back to the parking lot where the potty was.  It wasn’t a total write-off, though.  We did see some interesting things along the path. Well, okay, some of it looked like this:

Western Brook Pond SDSC_0421R

But some of the other parts were nice.

AND!! You’ll be excited to hear that I saw some birds I’ve never seen before!

By then it was just coming up on lunchtime and we were already exhausted. We went back to the trailer, ate lunch and declared it to be Nap Time.

Great Horned Owlet - Nfld 2

 

 

….or its mother?

Great Horned Owl - Nfld

 

Yep, I think junior needs to work on his blistering glare a bit.  When I saw the little guy, I just wanted to grab him and squeeze him.  Mom definitely has the hang of it!

Just a few amazing moments from our Newfoundland trip.  Oh, c’mon, you knew there’d be birds in there somewhere!

Alas, we didn’t see any icebergs, but we saw these two beauties!

 

I have a personal goal that I shoot for all the time:  Be amazed by something every day. 

Some days it’s a swing and a miss, but when we’re on the road, it’s a no-brainer – there are amazing things around almost every corner.

Here are a few of the things that amazed me yesterday:

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What amazes me today is that I figured out how to make a slide show!!!  🙂

This bird business is getting out of hand. If you’d told me five years ago that I’d become a birdwatcher in the not-too-distant future, I’d have har-de-har-harred and advised you to seek professional help.

Be that as it may, I found myself prowling around in a cemetery the other day in search of an Eastern Screech Owl I’d heard rumour of. The problem with the location for the search was that, in addition to my little bird problem, I also have a real thing for cemeteries. It sounded like the perfect combo to me. Now who needs professional help, hmm? Hey, we all have our demons…

Well, the owl was nowhere to be found, although, I have to confess, my search was perhaps slightly less diligent than it might have been in a less fascinating environment.

Here’s what I did see (please excuse any photographic weirdness you might encounter – I just got PhotoShop Elements 11 and we’re becoming acquainted):

And, as if that weren’t thrilling enough (okay, thrilling to me, anyway), I found someone who is…er…that is to say was more enamoured with their trailer than Bob is with ours!  

DSC_0019R

Hey, do you think they’d do an Airstream tombstone for him when he kicks the bucket?

Nine more sleeps ’til we leave for Newfieland!

Ever since I first spied one of these:

Eastern Screech Owl, LaSalle ParkR

in a knothole in a tree, I’ve made it a habit when I’m hiking in the bush, to at least give such places a passing glance.  You’d be surprised how often it pays off.

Sleepy Chippy R 

The thing about hiking in the woods at home in Canada is that there’s really nothing out there that can hurt you unless, of course, you happen to live where there are bears or mountain lions. We don’t. We live where there are squirrels and rabbits, and while they can sometimes be terrifying, they will usually not attack.

I was a bit nervous about hiking in Florida and North Carolina because there are things out there in those woods that will kill and/or eat you. It’s recommended that you make a lot of noise when hiking in these areas so as not to startle lethal snakes and whatnot and give them a chance to get away. Hah! What about giving me a chance to get away, huh?! Isn’t making a lot of noise a bit like yelling, “Yo! Free meal, over here!?”

We decided to be extra wary, but maybe not too too noisy since we were hoping to find some interesting birds. Birds, as we all know, don’t like a lot of noise (I read that somewhere). In fact, if you announce your presence at all, they’ll just leave. Yeah, I know. Fargin’ snobs, eh?

So there we were, hiking through the woods on the Outer Banks. We were stomping lightly, I guess you’d say, and keeping a close eye on the ground for slithering and listening closely for fang-sharpening. If we were to be eaten by a snake, I was fairly sure it would come flying out from the underbrush. Still, I am in the habit of peering into knotholes, so, once in a while, I’d brave an upward glance.

Snake 1R

I have no idea what sort of snake this is or if we were having a near-death experience here, but I was praying it wouldn’t suddenly decide to unfurl itself and become hostile instead of sleepy.

Snake 2R

I’ve honestly never seen a snake do this before. Not that I see a load of snakes on a daily basis, and, generally when I do see one, I’m running like mad in the opposite direction and screaming my fool head off (and we don’t even have poisonous snakes in Canada). So technically, snakes could coil up in knotholes all the time and how would I know?

Still, we thought it was pretty cool.

If you’re a person who loves gorgeous sandy beaches as far as the eye can see, you need to add “Outer Banks of North Carolina” to your Bucket List.

Beach 1R

ShellsR

Cape Hatteras 1R

We are here in the off season (April is “off”; May is “on”) which means that we virtually have the place to ourselves. Yep, 80 degrees and a zillion miles of glorious unspoiled beach. Life sometimes sucks, but now isn’t one of those times.

Sunrise 2R

After a few days of poking around, we began to notice little signs posted in certain areas saying things like “This area of the beach is closed!” Beneath this was a stick drawing of a bird sporting what appeared to be a silly hat, together with an explanation (paraphrased by yours truly): “The Fluffy-Headed Shrimp-Suckers are currently nesting in this area.” Then, in smaller print, a few words describing why this should concern us, followed by (something like) “Love and Kisses, The Audubon Society.

Being the fledgling birders we are, we thought it was darned swell of those Audubon folks to do such a thing. There are those, however, who would disagree.

Flip 2 R

In any given situation, there will always be an arsehole or two who can’t just live ‘n’ let live. They probably don’t bother to vote but they’ll be first in line braying like a bunch of jackasses the second they imagine that their rights have been violated.

Let’s just back up here for a second. Back to the part where I mentioned “a zillion miles of glorious unspoiled beach.” Back, too, to the “off season” bit. Okay, so we have oodles of beach with nobody on it, and we have a comparatively miniscule portion of said beach cordoned off for a few weeks so that love might flourish for the Fluffy-headed Shrimp-suckers (or whatever they actually are).

Yep, I can certainly see cause for alarm there.

Imagine having to exist in a world where some stupid bird can just up and hog the beach! Gawd’s teeth!!  Especially when it’s just a few acres of beach that nobody’s using anyway. That’s certainly worth going to the expense of having a special protest sign printed up and nailing it to your hand stenciled board (pardon me while I wipe away a wee tear). That’ll show ’em, boy!

The thing is that unless this is really just a clever ploy by the government to ferret out the local morons, the Audubon Society could probably have saved themselves some sign money and aggravation by just keeping mum and letting those Shrimp-suckers do their thing on that empty beach. Nobody’d be any the wiser. Least of all the local moron bird-flippers who’ve lost their precious freedom (insert melodramatic eye roll here).

I meant to tell you this earlier but life got in the way.

At Easter time, all the grocery stores in the south bust out huge displays right as you walk in the door.  If you’re thinkin’ chocolate bunnies, colourful eggs, or lilies, you’re thinkin’ wrong, amigo.  If you guessed sweet potatoes and marshmallows, you are now the proud owner of a cupie doll.  Sometimes the displays are embellished with packets of pecans or walnuts and sacks of brown sugar.  How’s that for a gag-worthy combo?  Wait, it gets worse.

While we were enjoying a beyond-scrumptious Easter dinner with our friends, Chuckles and Murphy and their family (everything you’ve ever heard about southern hospitality is true), I happened to mention this mysterious grocery configuration to our hosts.  As luck would have it, Chuckles (not the name his mama gave him),  is a good ole Suthun boy (who talks funny).  He gave us the skinny.

Apparently, these are the ingredients for sweet puh-taytuh pah (“yam casserole” for those of us who speak normal English).  It involves combining sweet potatoes, which are revoltingly sweet on their own, with brown sugar or maple syrup, sometimes raisins, probably jelly beans (I may be exaggerating slightly).  I can’t remember what the nuts are for, but you are next required to dump an entire bag of marshmallows, which I’m not entirely sure are actually food, on top, and chuck the whole mess into the oven for a bit.  Then (get this) you’re supposed to….ugh…I can’t even say it….you’re supposed to eat it!  ACK!  Patooey!  I’m going into diabetic shock just thinking about it.

(Speaking of taters, I have a question:  What the heck are “tater tots?”  Are they anything like corn children?  From Iowa maybe?)

Oh geez…now I’m gonna have to ungross myself with a nice bird photog (HAH!  Never saw that comin’, did ya!

Boat-tail Grackle R

We only ever get the common variety of Grackles at home so these Boat-tails are a real treat.

Okay, okay, one more (since you asked so nicely):

Snowy Egret RSnowy Egret (farting feathers?)  😛

We haven’t died.  Nothing quite so melodramatic.  In truth, we’ve been visiting with dear, dear friends and having WAY too much fun to think about blogging.  A thousand appropriate apologies, yadda yadda.  The other reason I haven’t been blogging is because my (STUPID!!) computer is malfunctioning badly.  Long story short, it crashes and burns without so much as a “by your leave,” and it doesn’t have enough RAM (Rumply Angstful Misgivings) to open my bigass 32 ziggaquad camera card.  (My computer-speak is impressive, no?)  It simply refuses to do it.  So, not only can I not sort out my photogs and choose ones that I think you might like, I can’t even look at any of them without my computer having a contusion…or a conniption, or whatever you call it.

In happy news, though, I think I’ve managed to outsmart it.  I won’t say how because if I type it out, my computer will read it and know what’s going on.  We can’t have that.  So shush, okay?

By way of an update, we’ve now left Florida behind and are holed up on the beach in North Carolina (Yeah, life sucks).  I’ll fill in the details shortly.  In the meantime, here’s a fluffy bird in case you were in need of one:

FLuffy R

We decided to head to the beach today.  The plan was to go to Clearwater where we’d been before.  It’s just such a gorgeous spot to walk in the surf, collect shells, or just loaf.  Unfortunately, it’s not as gorgeous when it’s over-crowded.  I have no idea why it would have been – Spring Break is over now as far as I know – but it surely was.  Happily, we found another beach nearby that the hoards of sun-worshipers hadn’t yet discovered.

Even though you can’t see me, I’m actually hiding in this picture:

Hiding R

And, here’s a picture of Bob, finally not thinking about work:

Bob Chillin' R

And, just for schitts and giggles, here are some turtley things – I think they’re actually showers:

Tortuga R

Tortuga 3 R

Since I promised that there would be absolute NO bird photogs in this post, here’s a nice picture of a guy fishing:

Fishing R

I have no idea what that grey thing is in the foreground.  I swear that wasn’t there when I shot this.

And, finally, here’s a shot of a tree:

Heron R

Note the interesting foliage.

So, that was pretty much our day.  We got back fairly early, so after a big taco blow-out for dinner (and the ensuing flatulence fest), we did some laundry at the campground facility, and now I’m off to bed.