Nature Notes

June 1, 2008

Newfoundland-Witless Bay

Filed under: Animals,Birds,Newfoundland — Tags: , — Harold Stiver @ 2:23 pm
Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

I looked down through the clear still water and the great eye of the Humpback Whale looked back at me. He and a companion had drifted slowly under our small silent Zodiac, huge animals curious to have a look at us for a moment.The slightest flick of a tail would swamp our little craft but they moved with deliberate care, rising slowly and breaking the surface with a blast of air. They stayed for a moment, satisfying their curiosity, and then moved on.

There were many groups of whales, both Humpbacks and Minke, in Witless Bay that morning, attracted by schools of small Capelin to feed on. Occasionally they would give tail flips and wave their white pectoral fins.

Gull and Green Islands in Witless Bay are home to huge numbers of breeding birds that also come here because of the supply of Capelin

Common Murre

Common Murre

Thousands of Common Murres crowd the ledges of the islands’ steep cliffs and set up a constant murmur that gives them their name. Huge rafts of them could be seen on the water, and on this mid-July day, many of their young chicks as well, giving high pitched squeaks.

Taking up ledge space lower down from the Murres is another member of the Auk family, and another study in black and white plumage, the Black Guillemot. Known by local fishermen as the Sea Pigeon, they have bright red feet, and when they cry, you can see that it matches their throat lining as well.They tend to be in smaller groups than the Murres, both in nesting and feeding on the sea.

Atlantic Puffin

Atlantic Puffin

Another member of the Auk family lives on the top of the cliffs, a colorful clown, the Atlantic Puffin.Their brightly colored bills are often seen lined with catches of Capelin. They prefer the hilltops because they need soft soil to dig out their nesting burrows.

Black-legged Kittiwakes also nest in the thousands each on its own precarious cliffs edge nest. As the young hatch and mature, these become even more crowded. The have one or two young per year.Other gulls are predators in these bird cities, the American Herring Gull and the huge Greater Black-backed Gulls, always on the lookout for an unguarded egg or chick.


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7 Comments »

  1. July 4/08..Having just returned from Newfoundland earlier this week & visited Witless Bay, St. Marys,Trinity, Bonavista & Elliston, your professional photos will be treasured as a fond memory of our delightful trip to the “rock”.Insofar as I am a “Birder”, but a lousy photographer, I thank you.
    Jack Toker – 910 123 Eglinton Ave. East, Toronto,M4P1J2.

    Comment by Jack L. Toker — July 4, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Jack.I loved visiting Newfoundland, in fact I’ve been adding up my airmiles in hopes of going there again, perhaps to the Gros Morne Park area.

    Comment by admin — July 4, 2008 @ 3:07 pm

  3. Thanks for the excellent photos of birds on “The Rock”..a place I love so much I’ve bought a house there …near Twillingate…and return there every year esp. during iceberg season …May/June.
    This June we witnessed both gannets and whales hunting the incoming herring.

    Comment by Gene — September 15, 2008 @ 2:03 pm

  4. Thanks Gene

    I can see why you love it. We will certainly be back. The land and the people reminded us very much of my wife’s birthplace, the Orkney Islands.

    ..Harold

    Comment by Harold — September 15, 2008 @ 4:40 pm

  5. What boat tour or operator did you use for your photographic run out into Witless Bay? Any other recommendations for capelin beaches?
    Thanks for the Newfoundland views from your crisp, clear photographs!

    Comment by Florence McGinn — May 2, 2010 @ 10:11 am

  6. Hi Florence;

    I’m afraid I don’t remember their names. In the center of Witless you can book on a large boat which was excellent for whales. As you go south up a hill, there is an operation that uses Zodiacs and it was best for Murres and Puffins.

    Have a good trip, Harold

    Comment by Harold — May 2, 2010 @ 10:06 pm

  7. Yesterday, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iphone and tested to see if it can survive a thirty foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My iPad is now broken and she has 83 views. I know this is completely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

    Comment by Treasure Hunters roadshow — May 23, 2011 @ 12:39 am

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