On a birding trip to Newfoundland
8 July 2018: Today my friend Ramona Sahni and I are flying to Newfoundland to join a 7-day Partnership for International Birding tour guided by David Trently. The trip was my idea for a number of reasons.
- I really need to see a puffin. Lots of puffins. Years ago I saw a distant puffin profile from a whale watch boat in Maine but that’s not really seeing one.
- The largest breeding colony of puffins in the western Atlantic is at Witless Bay Ecological Reserve just outside St. John’s, Newfoundland.
- St. John’s and I share a name. I have to go there.
St. John’s is the capital and largest city in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). The province is highlighted in red below. Labrador, on the continent, borders Quebec. Newfoundland is the large triangular island beyond the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. Canadians pronounce it “new-fun-LAND” (rhymes with “understand”). It’s nickname is The Rock.
St. John’s itself is only five air-miles from the easternmost point in North America. Because of this location Newfoundland has its very own time zone 1.5 hours ahead of Pittsburgh. When it’s 7am in Pittsburgh it’s 8:30am in St. John’s.
Newfoundland is as big as Virginia — more than 42,000 sq mi — so we’ll only have time to explore the eastern side. The Google map below pinpoints the places we’ll visit including Witless Bay, Trepassey, St. Vincent’s Beach, Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve and Terra Nova National Park. Zoom the map to see more.
Like all northern places there are fewer bird species but thousands of individuals. Our Expected Birds checklist contains 83 species(*) but we’ll probably see more than a million birds because the seabird colonies are so densely populated.
260,000 pairs of Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) nest on the islands of Witless Bay. I’ve come to the right place. I can hardly wait!
(puffin photo and Canadian provinces map from Wikimedia Commons; click on the images to see the originals. Newfoundland map embedded from Google maps)
(*) The complete checklist, including rarities, is 180 species.
Day 1, July 8: Arrive at St. John’s, Newfoundland