Monday, December 6, 2010

Irish Loop in the Fog

Where are you caribou? (hat by Spindrift)
Lori and I went for a drive south of St. John's around the Irish Loop yesterday.  It was very drizzly and foggy.  I need some caribou bones and antlers, but I've also got it in my head that I want to see some live caribou.  Woodland Caribou are found throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, although the numbers of animals in all the herds has been declining sharply lately.  We know historically that caribou herds shrink and contract on a 60-100 year cycle, but its still a little disconcerting to witness the crash in numbers.  Caribou in Newfoundland have had the added pressure of a parasitic roundworm, that came to the Island when Sir Wilfred Grenfell attempted to introduce European reindeer a century ago.

We found caribou lichen and fog
I've had good luck in the past seeing caribou around Trepassey and St. Shott's on the southern tip of the Avalon Peninsula, but we didn't see any this time.  At this time of year, they may be farther inland in the Avalon Wilderness Reserve.  It was also a very foggy day and with the dip in numbers in the herd, I guess the odds were against us.  If they were more than 100 feet from the road, they would have been invisible in the fog.  When we asked at a restaurant in Trepassey about caribou, we were told that they hadn't been seen in the area lately. 

Harbour seal hanging out in Trepassey
Still, we did see some birds, including lots of big fat Rock Ptarmigan (partridge) and a harbour seal basking on a rock in the harbour at Trepassey.  The seal made the trip worthwhile - I haven't seen a harbour seal in years.  It also makes me want to take a trip into the Avalon Wilderness Reserve. 

The biggest group of Rock Ptarmigan that we saw.
Rock Ptarmigan are also known as Partridge in Newfoundland
When a bit of snow comes these guys will be pretty much invisible.
I guess the heather doesn't know its December

The Cape Pine Lighthouse - built in 1851 and originally powered by 16 whale oil lamps.

After fruitlessly searching for caribou all morning, Lori was psyched about what the afternoon would bring!
My Favourite!
Harbour seal.  There's something odd about that dark spot on his back.  Maybe its a scar?

I can't believe those rocks are comfortable, but he seemed pretty content.
You can see why they're called harbour seals.  He was hanging out deep in the harbour, at the mouth of a river flowing through Trepassey.  We parked on the bridge to photograph him.

This is the view from the other side of the bridge in Trepassey where we saw the seal.  Its the old bridge.

Photo Credits:
1-9, 11, 12, 14: Tim Rast
10, 13: Lori White


  1. Hmmmmm, once again I feel sorry for Lori.

  2. Don't worry - I'll make it up to her with an offroading trip in the Avalon wilderness.

  3. Our whole dating history can be best described as 'bait and switch'. Just ask "Jack".

  4. I'm surprised you saw Rock Partridge! I did not know we had them and have never seen them myself, except on the Burin Peninsula

  5. Hmm... Now you've got me wondering. I thought they were Rock Ptarmigan when I took the photos, but I can't recall how I decided that. Maybe they're Willow Ptarmigan. Can you tell from the pictures?

  6. Well, the picture of the single partridge does resemble the rock ptarmigan in that there appears to be some grey. Really hard to tell though and I am far from an expert on the subject!


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