Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ 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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

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!

 

DSC_0013R

(Does this look real to you?!)

We’ve uncovered an amazingly well-executed hoax here in Newfoundland:  Despite all attempts to convince us otherwise, we’ve determined that there are, in fact, no moose whatsoever in this Province.

Ask any Newfie, though, and they’ll tell you something like, “Oh geez, by, ya gotta watch fer alla moose!  Dere all over da place, eh?  Smash yer car up right quick dey will!”  HAH!!

Read any tourism brochure and it’ll tell you that the moose population is up to well over 100,000 on the island now and that a massive culling is in progress.  HAH!!  (again)

There are road signs giving dire warnings about the moose on the roads and you’ll hear tales of how the local won’t even go out of their homes for fear of being trampled to death.  Say it with me now….HAH!!!

Folks, it’s all a fargin’ lie!  It’s an elaborate hoax cooked up by some sort of Newfie Tink Tank to suck the tourists in.  So well co-ordinated is this deception that when we enquired of an Official at one of those Tourist Information places, “So…where the heck are all these moose we keep hearing about?”  Her reply was (get this), “Oh geez, dere was a bunch of ’em just run by dat window right dere just a little while ago…”  HAH and DOUBLE HAH!!!!  What a load!

Just because some Newfie Tourism Committee sat around brainstorming ways to increase tourism traffic while sampling the Screech, doesn’t mean we’re gonna fall for it.  It probably went something like this:

“Oh geez, I gotta a good one, eh?”

“Oh yeah?  Whatcha tinkin’, by?”

“Well, y’know how doze west-coasters got dem Sasquatches and Ogopogos and whatnot, eh?”

“Yeah…”

“Well, why couldn’t we do sumpin’ like ‘at, only ours could be, oh, I dunno, like say a giant beaver er oh!  Har-har-har!  Here’s a goodun:  What if we say we’re overrun wit moose?!”

“But, Frankie, me by, we got no moose…”

“Well, dat’s da beauty, eh?  We just say we do ‘n’ we put up a buncha sign’s ‘n’ whatnot ‘n’ get alla bys ta say dey just seen one a minute ago…”

“Oh, har-har-har!  Lord tunderin’, Frankie!  Dat’s some genius tinkin’ dere!”

All (imaginary) dialogue aside, the evidence mounts.  We’ve now been in Newfoundland for six days and we’ve seen exactly zero moose.  To further damn the Moose Conspirators, we’ve met and spoken to exactly zero fellow travellers who have seen so much as a single moose!  Oh the locals are holding fast to their minute-ago sightings and brudder-in-laws whose crew-cab pickup was Bullwinkled to an early death.  Hell, there are even local radio reports warning that the moose detector lights at such and such a location are out again and gawd-helpya if yer headed dat way.  AND!!!  On a hike through the bush, we encountered what appeared to be a pile of moose poop…but there was a guy standing just off the path with a fargin’ shovel behind his back!

Pfft!  What a crock!!

Nice try, Newfoundland Tourism Board!  You might have the rest of the world bamboozled, but you ain’t foolin’ us!

 

If you can’t handle being out of touch with the world for a while, don’t put Newfoundland on your list of places to visit.  Cell service is sporadic at best.  WiFi?  Fuggedaboudit!  Is there a trade-off, though?  Oh, you bet your bippy there is!

Arches Provincial Park 1

Arches Provincial Park

When you pull your head up from you stone-dead cellphone, you are afforded a rare opportunity to step back into a time when life was simpler, work was harder, and people were as good as their world.  You also get to spend unhurried hours travelling through a harsh and spectacular landscape that is unmangled by the machinations of man.  You bask in the warmth of a people who are not only not mistrustful of strangers but who welcome them like long lost friends.

Heading to Work

The minute we drove off of the ferry and onto The Rock (there never was an apter nickname), our connection with the outside world died, but y’know, we didn’t miss it at all.  Newfoundland is a beam-me-up-Scotty experience.

Being the observant souls that we are, we began to accumulate assorted interesting observilizations (it’s a word if I say it is, okay?) about Newfoundland and Newfies:

1.  There’s something really weird going on with the trees in Newfoundland.  For some reason they seem prone to falling over.  I’m not sure if this is because of laziness or what but it’s damned odd if you ask me.  (I was sure I had a couple of pictures of this phenomenon but I’ve been looking for an hour now and I can’t find them.  Just pretend I showed you, k?)

2.  There are no raccoons, skunks, or snakes in Newfoundland.  Because of this, there are no formerly-furry-critter road pizzas here.  Because of this, there are no vultures either.

3.  One may become an Honorary Newfie upon completion of The Screeching In Ceremony.  During the said ceremony, the prospective Newfie must imbibe a substance which has been aptly named Screech (it tastes like a cross between kerosene and yak pee…don’t ask how I know this…), and then kiss a cod fish.  I imagine that Newfies secretly find it hilarious that tourists fall for this.

4.  All non-oceanic bodies of water, regardless of size, are called “ponds.”

DSC_0230

5.  Water in motion, again, regardless of size or ferocity, is called a “brook.”

6.  There are actual places in Newfoundland called Come By Chance, Dildo, Halfway Point, and Nicky’s Nose.

DSC_0031

7.  Non-Newfies are called Mainlanders no matter where they are from.

Now that we’re back in Internetland, I’ll make up for lost time (hopefully) and show you all the things we did.  In the meantime, here is a small sampling of the zillions of photogs we took:

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

When we arrived in Verona, Virginia, first stop on our way back home, we were completely charmed by the Shenandoah Valley Campground.  What’s not to love about this:

Waterfall 1R

And these:

Bunnies R

Some of these:

Bunnies 3R

And a bunch of these:

Bunnies 2R

Temperatures in Virginia topped out at 89 F so when we set up, we had every vent and window wide open.

As soon as the sun went down, our nightmare began.

Noseeums (nasty little biting bugs) by the score began pouring in through our screens.  There were thousands of them – they couldn’t resist our lights.  We didn’t wanna start blasting bug spray around so we figured we’d just shut off the lights and go to bed early.  We wanted an early start in the morning anyway.

As it was still pretty early and our neighbours were having a fire and being rambunctious, we shoved earplugs in and went to sleep.  Because we both had our ears plugged, neither of us heard it start to rain.

It was, in fact, a downpour of biblical proportions.  We slept on.  It wasn’t until I rolled over into a big squishy patch of bed that I discovered that water was pouring in through the vent in the ceiling over my side of the bed.  It was all being merrily absorbed by the sheets, blankets, mattress – all things just made for sucking up water.

Cripes!” said I, or words to that effect.  I bounded out of bed, darting madly to and fro, closing open things and feeling about for wet bits.  Because I am so unusually alert when I first awaken (I wish I could have said that with a straight face), I reported back to Bob that all was well – no water had gotten in.  At least none that wasn’t currently occupying my side of the bed.  I got back in the sack, gave Bob a wee shove, curled awkwardly around the soggy zone, and went back to sleep.

A while later, I awoke, as I often do, wondering why the hell Bob has to be so flaming noisy in the morning.  This seemed worse than usual, so instead of just pulling a pillow over my head as is my custom, I got up to see what was happening.

Remember when I said that no water had gotten in?  I was wrong.  To my credit, the one spot I really did check while I was (ahem) sleep-walking and closing things was dry.  The rest of the trailer, however, not so much.  Suffice it to say my deluge detection skills are not quite up to snuff.

As I shuffled out of the bedroom, there was ole Bob on his hands and knees under the table.  He was attempting to sop up a lake with a bath towel.  He was already on his third towel and he really didn’t seem his usual cheery morning self.  He had upended most of the upholstered cushions and when I grabbed one to move it out of the way, it seemed a lot heavier than I remembered it being.  It also peed on my foot which I thought was a bit rude.

We had to eat standing up the rest of the way home.

Sigh.

 

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’ve never been a big fan of “tourist trap” places.  I prefer to see what’s on the street behind the one with all the souvenir shops on it, y’know?

When we first arrived in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, we were assailed by big flashy signs wanting us to come to Kitty Hawk (!!!) and see the Wright Brothers monument and museum (!!!).  Pfft!  Even I, the non-history buff slash museum hater in the bunch, know that this is the spot where Orville Redenbacher and that guy that Mr. Ed used to talk to invented the self-flushing toilet.

Speaking of which, have you ever noticed that those stupid toilets always either flush before you’re ready, hose down the whole bloody stall, or just simply refuse to flush at all even when you glower sternly and say, “Please.  Just flush, damn you!?”  And just what is it that lets the toilet know when it’s time to flush?  Ever wondered about that?  Hmmm?

Where was I?  Oh wright – Kitty Hawk.  It turns out you can see the whole shebang, dorky monument and all, just by driving by, pointing, and saying, “Yep, there it is.  That’s the spot.”

The other person is our gang (hint: the one who isn’t me) actually is a history buff slash museum lover, so we had to negotiate a few historically significant (apparently) stop-overs.  Roanoke Island was one of these.

What’s so fascinating about Roanoke Island?  Why, I thought you’d never ask!  It’s the scene of a great historical mystery!  (Yawn…oops!)

The story goes that some pompous English oaf, bent on pillaging and world-domination, pitched up on the beach with a bunch of his home-dawgs with the intent of opening a 7-11 and establishing a colony.  After a short while, the colonists discovered that they hadn’t brought quite enough clean underwear and food, so they took a vote and decided to send Pompous English Buddy back home to get more while the rest of them set about murdering the Natives to tide themselves over.

Okay, now here comes the (insert Phantom of The Opera theme here) mysterious part:  When Pompous English Buddy finally remembered to come back, three years had elapsed, and lo and behold the Native-murdering colonists had vanished into thin air.

Really?  This is your big mystery?  I guess it never dawned on these bozos that bumping off the indigenous folk might actually piss them off a bit.  No?  Sigh….