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Life in Newfoundland

A sound in the forest

Five years ago while I was on a beautiful hike on the East Coast Trail, I heard a suspicious sound coming from the forest.

I stopped dead in my tracks and tried to find the source. From deep within the bushes, a big brown snout appeared, it sniffed a branch and proceeded to nibble on it. It was a moose, of course.

Since I was upwind from the creature and very quiet, I was able to observe it feeding off the branches for several minutes without being noticed.

After a while I became confident I could get a nice photo of the beast, so I quietly unpacked and mounted the right lens on my camera. I had a 500mm with me, but long lenses are rarely useful in confined spaces so I gambled on getting lucky and put on a wide angle lens instead, before starting my stealthy approach.

Now, it’s nearly impossible to move silently in a forest so the moose soon noticed me: every time I stepped on a twig the animal paused and looked my way. Minutes passed between these sounds, and as our gazes locked I decided to speak out to the moose, allowing it to get used to my presence without having to guess where I was. Moose have poor eyesight so smells and sounds are what they use to locate you.

After a few minutes of getting to know each other the moose was no longer nervous, it accepted the new noises of me and my camera and continued to munch on the leaves undisturbed:

Moose nibbling on leaves – Deadmans Bay Path

More hikers were coming, I heard them approach and so did the moose. The hikers stopped when they saw my tripod and bags abandoned by the side of the trail, then they spotted me, then the moose. Thankfully they didn’t make too much noise and they soon moved on. The moose relaxed again and quietly walked off into the forest.

I returned to the trail to collect my things, tucked them away in a better location and followed the moose deeper into the forest. When I found it again it allowed me to get quite close, then quite unexpectedly and without hesitation the moose approached me to get a closer look:

Moose gets a closer look – Deadmans Bay Path

Yes, it was me again, the scrappy photographer. We stared at each other for a few minutes that felt like a whole hour, and I couldn’t help but notice this moose was far more impressive now it was standing right in front of me…

After our close encounter the moose walked off into the forest again and I steadied my nerves by walking in the opposite direction, retrieving my camera bag and finding a nice quiet place to sit down on the cliffs for a moment. Phew.

Spring ice on the Great Northern Peninsula

Thanks to a very beautiful and busy summer it’s taken me a while to tell you about all the places my mom and I visited on our spring trip to Newfoundland. You’ve already read about our stay in Port aux Basques and Port au Port, after that came our unscheduled but beautiful visit to Gros Morne National Park, and after that came the area I’m covering today: the Great Northern Peninsula.

As I wrote earlier, we spent most of our time on the GNP visiting little towns and harbours looking for icebergs and sea ice. My mom had never seen anything quite like it, all that ice, the big horizons, the plentiful wildlife, the blissful quiet, these were all things I had missed about Newfoundland, so we both absolutely loved our time there.

Here are some pictures from our stay ‘up North’:

Caribou – around Pistolet Bay

Snow, ice, fog – Quirpon

Pumley Cove Walking Trail – Goose Cove East

Iceberg – Goose Cove East

Little Brehat Trail – Great Brehat

Sea ice – Cape Norman

Viking explorers – L’Anse aux Meadows

Icebergs and history – L’Anse aux Meadows

Colourful spring – Grandois

Sunset – Cape Onion

After a week on the GNP we headed back south, driving from cold spring back into ‘warmer’ spring.

33% Eclipse over Newfoundland

On Monday August 21st (next week), there will be a Partial Solar Eclipse visible from Newfoundland. This eclipse has been widely covered in the news because a narrow strip of the United States will experience the event as a breathtaking Total Solar Eclipse.

If you’re anywhere outside of the narrow ‘Path of Totality’ on Monday, the eclipse will be a partial eclipse, still pretty cool but completely different from a total eclipse. The difference between a Partial and a Total Solar Eclipse is so vast it’s hard to explain it to someone who’s never seen one. Those who’ve seen both understand a Partial Solar Eclipse compares to a Total Solar Eclipse a bit like flying on an airplane compares to falling from an airplane. A BIG difference!

Here’s what you can expect to see from Newfoundland next week (clouds permitting), if for example you were to look up from Signal Hill in St. John’s at 4:29PM during the maximum obscuration of 31.7% at that location:

A bite from the sun – Partial Solar Eclipse from Newfoundland

Like I said, it’s pretty cool! If you start watching a full hour earlier you can actually see the moon slide in front of the sun, and that can make you feel pretty small… Use this cool website to find the right time to look up from your location; to convert Universal Time (UT) to Newfoundland time just subtract 2.5 hours.

Have fun and stay safe: use eye protection when observing the eclipse.

For those who want to see a Total Solar Eclipse, travel to the Path of Totality this weekend or wait a few more years for the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse over Newfoundland.

August 21 Update

Weather was fair above St. John’s this afternoon so I hope you had as good an eclipse as I had on Prince Edward Island. From my backyard, I was able to follow the entire show, and after it was done I made this collage:

Today’s Partial Solar Eclipse as seen from Prince Edward Island

Get ready for the 2017 Perseids!

It’s mid-August, and that means the Perseid meteor shower is here again. Over the next few days the Earth will move through a cloudy trail of space dust left in our solar system ages ago, and when we hit this space dust it’ll show up as ‘shooting stars’ in our night skies.

Every year I post tips on how to best enjoy the show from Newfoundland, in this year is no different.

The most important thing you can do to make your night outing a success is to get out of the city or get out of town, far away from bright lights. In addition to messing up your night vision, bright city lights make the entire sky above you glow, making it much harder to see meteors.

I always watch meteor showers from the comfort of a nice dark place on the coast, and so can you: there’s bound to be a suitable dark place nearby that you’re familiar with.

If I may make a suggestion, the East Coast Trail is a great place to be at night, so perhaps go on a night hike or a camping trip and watch the meteor shower from the trail!

Starry night on the East Coast Trail – Cape St. Francis

As to when to go out specifically: go tonight, go tomorrow night, or go this weekend. Weather-wise, tonight looks like the best night if you’re on the east coast, but tomorrow night could be good too.

Whenever you choose to go and wherever you are, it’s best to watch for meteors from about midnight to dawn, but you’ll see them before that time too. Generally speaking, the later the hour the better the show, but that only holds true if you can keep your eyes open and don’t fall asleep underneath the gently twinkling stars above.

Now that you know all this, let me tell you about one bright light you cannot possibly get away from, and that’s this weekend’s nearly full moon. Its pale glow will wash out the sky and hide many faint meteor strikes, but all the big and bright fireballs will still be visible and those are the best kind of meteor anyway. As a bonus, the moonlight will make it easier to see where you’re going.

Have fun and stay safe!

Gros Morne in spring snow

It may seem a bit strange sharing pictures of white landscapes in the middle of summer, but these snowy shots were taken only 2.5 months ago during my spring visit to Newfoundland! 🙂

After our great stay on the Port au Port Peninsula my mom and I had planned to go to La Scie next, but a freak ‘winter storm’ changed our plans: the forecast warned of snow, freezing rain, ice pellets and more. With La Scie worse off than other places, we decided to go to Gros Morne National Park instead:

Mom on the red chair – Tablelands, Gros Morne NP

When we got there, the Tablelands had about a foot of snow on the ground, and everything was white, foggy, and cold. My mom had never seen Newfoundland in snow so it was kind of a nice surprise, even though it was May 21st and this storm had derailed our plans of seeing icebergs in La Scie.

When choosing Gros Morne as our alternative destination, we did so with the beautiful hiking trails in mind. However, with all this snow we soon discovered the Green Gardens Trail was now the White Gardens Trail, and since we didn’t come prepared for winter hiking we had to skip it:

Green Gardens Trail snowed-in – Gros Morne NP

Thankfully, most of the snow had melted the following day and with a promise of blue skies ahead we booked a tour on Western Brook Pond. We had both done this tour before but never with snow on the mountains, and that made this first tour of the season extra special:

Ice and Water – Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne NP

While the snowy cliffs and waterfalls were amazing enough on their own, the mirror-like pond managed to add to their beauty:

Calm day on the pond – Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne NP

After this serene boat tour we drove to the other side of the park, revisiting the Tablelands to see if the trails were now more agreeable. The Green Gardens were still covered in snow but the Tablelands Trail was in good shape, so we hiked partway into the valley there:

Tablelands Trail, melting – Gros Morne NP

Since the light was now fading fast we decided to return to our cabin in Rocky Harbour, still an hour’s drive from where we were. On the way to the cabin we stopped at Bonne Bay twice because we saw humpback whales lunge-feeding and killer whales preying on a lone minke whale.

The killer whales were a big surprise to me as I was standing on the beach when they surfaced nearby. When it happened I was already excited and thrilled with the minke that was putting on a show, but it turns out the poor thing was just trying to evade these unannounced orcas. As the spectacle unfolded I just stood there and watched, pointing at the scene in disbelief. The minke whale got away in the end but the orcas gave chase, so who knows what happened after that…

When I later checked online for other orca sightings in the area I was pleased to see I hadn’t imagined the whole thing: a Bonne Bay tour boat operator had spotted them as well, one day later and not far from the beach where we saw them. 🙂

Capelin beaches on the East Coast Trail

We’re right in the middle of summer and the capelin are still rolling, a unique and awe-inspiring show of nature, if you know where to look (tip: check the Capelin Calendar). While capelin are known to return and roll on certain beaches every year, they don’t roll everywhere, as not every beach is suitable for spawning.

With nearly 10,000 km of coastline the island of Newfoundland has far more beaches than any one individual can keep an eye on, so it’s hard to keep an up-to-date list of suitable beaches or known capelin spawning sites. Personally, I’ve only consistently observed beaches along the East Coast Trail.

In my East Coast Trail Guide, I keep track of the kinds of wildlife people can expect to see along any given stretch of trail, and that wildlife includes capelin. To be thorough in my advice and trail descriptions, I would like to run a list of beaches by you in order for you to (maybe) confirm them as additional capelin spawning sites.

From north to south, these ‘candidate’ beaches are:

Pouch Cove to Flatrock – Stiles Cove Path

  • Shoe Cove beach (along the trail): Suspected
  • Stiles Cove beach (along the trail): Confirmed ✔︎

Flatrock to Torbay – Father Troy’s Trail

  • Watts beach (in Torbay): Suspected
  • Little beach (in Torbay): Confirmed ✔︎
  • Big beach (in Torbay): Unknown

Middle Cove and Outer Cove

  • Middle Cove beach (in Middle Cove): Confirmed ✔︎
  • Outer Cove beach (in Outer Cove): Confirmed ✔︎

Bay Bulls to Witless Bay – Mickeleens Path

  • Stanleys River beach (in Bay Bulls): Unknown
  • Magotty Cove beach (in Bay Bulls): Unknown
  • Baboul Rocks beach (along the trail): Unknown
  • Otter Cove (along the trail): Unknown
  • Lower Pond beach (in Witless Bay): Confirmed ✔︎
  • Long beach (in Witless Bay): Unknown

Witless Bay to Mobile – Beaches Path

  • Gallows Cove beach (in Witless Bay): Suspected
  • Peters Cove beach (along the trail): Unknown
  • Mobile beach (in Mobile): Unknown

Mobile to Tors Cove – Tinkers Point Path

  • Lower beach (in Tors Cove): Suspected

Tors Cove to La Manche – La Manche Village Path

  • Tors Cove beach (at the wharf): Confirmed ✔︎
  • Burnt Cove beach (in Burnt Cove): Unknown
  • Capelin Cove beach (in St. Michaels): Suspected
  • Seals Cove beach (in Seals Cove): Unknown
  • Bauline East beach (in Bauline East): Unknown

Brigus South to Admirals Cove – Brigus Head Path

  • Timber Cove beach (along the trail): Suspected
  • Herring Cove beach (along the trail): Confirmed ✔︎
  • Tar Cove beach (along the trail): Suspected
  • Kents Cove beach (along the trail): Unknown
  • Admirals Cove beach (in Admirals Cove): Unknown

Cape Broyle to Calvert – Cape Broyle Head Path

  • Southern Pond beach (in Cape Broyle): Unknown
  • Southside beach (in Cape Broyle): Unknown
  • Freshwater Cove beach (along the trail): Suspected
  • Lance Cove beach (along the trail): Confirmed ✔︎
  • Church Cove beach (along the trail): Suspected
  • Broad Cove beach (along the trail): Unknown

Calvert to Ferryland – Caplin Bay Path

  • The Beach (‘main beach’ in Calvert): Suspected
  • Keoughs Cove beach (in Calvert): Suspected
  • Deep Cove beach (along the trail): Suspected
  • Lance Cove beach (along the trail): Suspected
  • Ferryland Harbour beach (in Ferryland): Unknown
  • Back Cove beach (in Ferryland): Confirmed ✔︎

Ferryland to Aquaforte – Sounding Hills Path

  • Freshwater Cove beach (along the trail): Unknown
  • Fairmouth Cove beach (along the trail): Suspected

Aquaforte to Port Kirwan – Spurwink Island Path

  • Chance Bay beach (along the trail): Unknown
  • Clear Cove beach (in Port Kirwan): Confirmed ✔︎
  • Backside Cove beach (in Port Kirwan): Confirmed ✔︎

Kingman’s Cove to Renews – Bear Cove Point Path

  • Kingman’s Cove beach (in Kingman’s Cove): Unknown
  • Trixs Cove beach (along the trail): Unknown
  • Bear Cove beach (along the trail): Unknown
  • Aggie Dinns Cove beach (along the trail): Unknown

Renews to Cappahayden – Island Meadow Path

  • Renews Harbour beach (near channel in Renews): Unknown
  • Bear Cove beach (along the trail): Unknown
  • Middle Cove beach (along the trail): Suspected
  • Burnt Cove beach (along the trail): Unknown

As you can see I’ve skipped over the trails that have no beaches or no beaches that appear to be suitable for capelin spawning, but that still leaves quite a list.

If you’ve ever seen capelin spawning on any of the beaches listed as suspected or unknown, or if you have relatives or friends living near these beaches who might know more about them, please comment below or share your story on the Capelin Calendar. The more we know about capelin the better!

Thank you 🙂

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