The Atlantic. A wide-open expanse of water tempted me with gentle breezes, calm waters, and a hint of adventure. While we did not get to sail on this beautiful day, we did ride a zodiac out to see birds flying around an island. A bird sanctuary to be exact.
The drive to get to the zodiac tour was along a route called the Irish Loop. There were some O’this and O’that’s but we did not see any O’Mys. The interesting thing about seeing Irish, Scottish, and French in the area along with the fact that you are in Canada, Eh, is that the accents are truly muddled! You might hear a rolling Scottish/Irish “R” along with a “dis is a great place over dere,” a very northern Canadian accent, along with the correct pronunciation of the French words. It is very strange but very delightful.
We arrived at our destination near the Irish Loop Coffee House where we met up with Ecotours. We had to wait until everyone was ready before jumping into our orange suits. They keep you very warm over the cold ocean waters and even though we had a warm sunny day, we were glad to be in the suits.
The day was very calm with very low swells gently rolling in front of us. We were approaching the mass of birds when they all started flapping and trying to fly away from us. We learned that the birds were called murres and they were funny little birds. There were hundreds of them just sitting on the water. As we approached them they began flapping their wings really fast but they skim the top of the water. What a racket they made! They look a bit uncoordinated but then they dive down underwater, reaching depths of up to 200 feet. We could see some of them rising to the surface as the water in this area is amazingly clear. They were hilarious to watch and reminded us a bit of penguins. They spend most of their time at sea only coming into the rockiest of areas to breed.
As we zipped around the island we saw even more birds. We learned that the reserve contains North America’s largest Atlantic puffin colony and more than 260,000 pairs of the province’s official bird nest here during the late spring and summer. We were excited to see the puffins! They are also home to the second largest Leach’s storm-petrel colony in the world more than 620,000 pairs come here to nest. Unfortunately for us, we were passed peak season for some birds and others had not arrived yet. But it was hard to imagine.
The birds we did see were murres, puffins, and really big seagulls called the black-backed seagull. After looking at this picture above, we saw our first puffin and we did not even know it. Look closely, you can see his head in the water.
On the side of the island facing land, we slowed down as this is where all the birds come to nest. At first, you are not sure what you are seeing, but then the birds become more distinct and you realize that there are a lot of them.
Next, we see a grassy area. This is where the puffins are nesting.
When they are nesting en masse, this area is very full!
This puffin above landed near us. Such a funny-looking bird!
I highly recommend that if you are in the area to take this tour. Being able to get up close to a bird sanctuary is a truly remarkable experience. And remember how I said the water was so clear? We saw several jellyfish just drifting by us and they are interesting creatures as well.