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Life in Newfoundland

Hazy sky over Newfoundland

As clear days over Newfoundland go, today was one with a side note. Clouds were absent so the sky should have been vibrant blue, but smoke from forest fires burning far far away made it all the way to the east coast and gave the sky a bit of an odd colour.

In the map above you can see how a ‘cloud’ of smoke now covers most of North America, and today’s satellite image shows what that looks like from above:

Forest fire smoke over Newfoundland – July 14, 2021

To the left and right you’ll see white clouds, but in the top of the satellite image and all down the middle that greyish haze is all smoke, which we can expect to linger in the upper atmosphere for a while.

Tonight we can look forward to a strange sort of sunset light way before the sun actually sets, one of the only perks of a day like this.

It’s capelin time!

It’s capelin time in Newfoundland, have you seen them at your local beach yet? Yes or no, the Capelin Calendar is the place to check for and share all your capelin news.

If you’re new to capelin watching, look for these 2 telltale signs that let you know if capelin have arrived in a bay near you. The first sign: an increasing presence of seabirds on the water, like gulls, murres, and puffins:

Seabirds know what lurks below – Middle Cove

Easily spotted from a distance, flocks of gulls will often fly around in whirling circles above shoaling capelin, sometimes swooping down to steal freshly caught fish off puffins coming up from a dive.

If capelin are present in great numbers, you’ll see the second sign: whales moving into the bay, feeding on capelin for days or even weeks at a time:

Humpback whale – below the Middle Cove viewpoint

These early (and awesome) signs of capelin are best observed from a viewpoint high above the water. The circling birds can be seen from the beach too, sure, but the whales are more easily spotted from a higher vantage point.

For their part, the capelin don’t just come to Newfoundland to be eaten, they come here for a romantic getaway! You know, just them and a few million of their most intimate friends.

Love is in the water – Middle Cove beach

When the capelin are ready to get down to business, trade in your clifftop viewpoint for a front row seat at the beach, where you’ll see masses of wriggling fish rolling in wave after wave, mating right before your eyes like a live nature documentary; it’s a true Newfoundland love story! 🙂

East Coast Trail Hiking Suggestions

The May Long Weekend is here and in Newfoundland that means going outside and exploring the great outdoors. This year more than ever, the fresh air of the East Coast Trail is an attraction in its own right, so why not go for a hike?

Hills around St. John’s

If you’re looking for a challenge near St. John’s, hike up to the Bawdens Highland viewpoint on Sugarloaf Path to get a great view of Quidi Vidi and Cuckolds Head:

View from Bawdens Highland – Sugarloaf Path

Late afternoon to sunset is a good time to be there, with the sun lighting up the hills from the west. Whales have already been spotted in the area so keep a look out for them while you’re up there!

If the Sugarloaf Path trailhead seems a little busy to you, just turn around and head for another challenging climb near the city, from Fort Amherst up into the South Side Hills:

View from the South Side Hills – Deadmans Bay Path

Check the Deadmans Bay Path map to find a fork in the trail just after the initial climb. Turn left to follow the East Coast Trail towards Freshwater Bay, or turn right to explore a side trail with great views of Signal Hill and downtown St. John’s.

Easy but scenic

If you were hoping for something easier but close to St. John’s and still super scenic, drive north and walk out to Stiles Cove from the Satellite Road access trail halfway down Stiles Cove Path:

Sunrise at Stiles Cove – Stiles Cove Path

With several waterfalls and viewpoints around the cove, this is an easily-reached location you’ll keep coming back to for years to come. For the very best light and less people on the trail, come early in the morning.

For other easy hikes near St. John’s, check out my Easy hikes on the East Coast Trail page (this Stiles Cove hike is #6 on the list).

More socially distant

Those that like to leave the crowds behind altogether should venture further away from the the city. The further south you go, the quieter and less-travelled trails get.

For a nice varied hike with lots of lush forest and clifftop viewpoints, consider hiking Flamber Head Path:

Cliffs and fog – Flamber Head Path

You can start this hike from Bauline East, La Manche, or Brigus South, and you can easily make an overnight stay of it. If you’re hiking group is small enough you’ll find several suitable places to camp along the way, including a basic campsite with tent platforms near the scenic cliffs pictured above.

More information

Obviously there are many more trails to choose from, these are just a few suggestions from all the great hikes available on the East Coast Trail.

For more trail information, trail photos, and some basic trail maps, check out my Hiking the East Coast Trail page.

Happy hiking and stay safe! 🙂

Tracking the 2021 ice season #4

May is here, so let’s have a look at the latest iceberg analysis chart to see when and where we can expect to see some icebergs:

Iceberg Analysis Chart – May 1st, 2021

This isn’t a bad chart, but it’s not particularly promising either, is it? After a lacklustre sea ice season it’s not surprising to see low iceberg numbers too. Sea ice protects icebergs from wave erosion, so when there’s little to no sea ice, fewer icebergs survive the journey south.

In Newfoundland, only the Great Northern Peninsula has decent iceberg numbers on the chart right now, and from what I understand most of those icebergs are either quite small or so far out to sea that nobody’s seen or reported them yet.

Let’s compare today’s chart with the May 1st chart from 2019, which was a very good year for iceberg watchers:

Iceberg Analysis Chart – May 1st, 2019

That’s a completely different picture, isn’t it?

Icebergs were so plentiful in 2019 I found a small iceberg while hiking the East Coast Trail in July, which was fun because they’ve usually melted by then so close to St. John’s.

By comparison, 2021 is starting to look a lot more like 2011, which had a poor iceberg season if we were to judge it by numbers alone:

Iceberg Analysis Chart – May 1st, 2011

Because of the poor iceberg outlook for the Avalon Peninsula that year, I took a trip to Twillingate and Fogo Island to see the sea ice and icebergs there. You see, even during a poor iceberg season you can still treat yourself to a great big iceberg adventure! 🙂

Tracking the 2021 ice season #3

Let’s have another look at the 2021 ice season. In the first 2 checkups, #1 & #2, we had a look at the sea ice situation around Newfoundland and concluded that 2021 was not a good year for it.

Now that the time for sea ice is as good as over, let’s look at the next big attraction coming our way: icebergs.

Iceberg Analysis Chart – April 14, 2021

This is today’s official iceberg chart and among other things it shows that the iceberg numbers around the Great Northern Peninsula are steadily increasing.

If you check these charts frequently you’ll see the numbers change day by day, giving you a sense of how the icebergs are moving and where they are going. You’ll find these iceberg analysis charts here.

What the charts don’t show you is the weather. So far, April has been exceptionally foggy, so foggy in fact that any early icebergs out there have mostly gone unnoticed, and therefore unreported.

The weather forecast for the rest of April looks much better though, so look forward to the first iceberg sightings of 2021 coming in on my Icebergs in Newfoundland page in the coming weeks, or maybe even in the next few days. 🙂

Tracking the 2021 ice season #2

It’s been a full month since our first look at the 2021 ice season: time for a second look.

In the satellite view above this story you can see the amount of sea ice has increased slightly and the ice has spread out thanks to offshore wind, but for a month worth of drifting the ice hasn’t made it much further south:

Mid-March Ice Chart 2021

While it’s still possible that wind will blow one of these patches towards the Newfoundland shore, I wouldn’t hold my breath for it. Better to just enjoy the coast as it is right now. 🙂

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