bird-AND-rock (and whales & wildflowers, too!)

It’s been a busy three weeks, as I recently finished leading two back-to-back bird & nature tours. The second tour, chartered by Massachusetts Audubon and organized by Wildland Tours, was a ten-day excursion that worked its way across the island from St. John’s to Gros Morne National Park and hit a lot of hot spots along the way. We lucked out on weather, with only one wet morning and enjoying sunshine on west coast while the rest of the island languished in the rain.

If the fourteen participants from MASS Audubon enjoyed the tour half as much as I did, it was a staggering success. We saw/hear more than 80 species of birds; basked in the spectacle of some of the world’s most amazing seabird colonies; had up close and personal experiences with several Sperm Whales (a life mammal for all hands!); soaked in the amazing scenery of cliffs, forests, fjords and the Long Range Mountains; and relished in lots of wonderful food. (Yes – it’s a tough, grueling job but someone has to do it!)

I’d like to thank our always upbeat and quick-thinking driver Jim Isaacs, MASS Audubon’s extremely knowledgeable travel guide Carol Decker and a wonderful group of participants for a great ten days! Below are some pictorial highlights of our adventure.

Despite seeing dozens of Humpback Whales off Cape Spear, we were surprised at a lack of whales during our boat trip at Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. However, we were far from disappointed since our extended tour of the seabird colonies took us to Green Island, where tens of thousands of birds were circling around the cliffs and over our heads. Truly awe-inspiring!

Despite seeing dozens of Humpback Whales off Cape Spear, we were surprised at a lack of whales during our boat trip at Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. However, we were far from disappointed since our extended tour of the seabird colonies took us to Green Island, where tens of thousands of birds were circling around the cliffs and over our heads. Truly awe-inspiring!

We "lucked out" with a beautiful, clear day at Cape St. Mary's where the Northern Gannets never let us down. We also had great looks at dozens of Thick-billed Murres at their southernmost breeding location in North America and several Great Cormorants, among lots of other great birds!

We “lucked out” with a beautiful, clear day at Cape St. Mary’s where the Northern Gannets never let us down. We also had great looks at dozens of Thick-billed Murres at their southernmost breeding location in North America and several Great Cormorants, among lots of other great birds!

Even when the birds were making themselves scarce, we found lots of amazing things to look at - including beautiful orchids like these Pink Ladyslippers ...

Even when the birds were making themselves scarce, we found lots of amazing things to look at – including beautiful orchids like these Pink Ladyslippers …

Another beautiful orchid found at location in both Terra Nova and Gros Morne National Parks was the Dragon's Mouth Orchid.

Another beautiful orchid found at location in both Terra Nova and Gros Morne National Parks was the Dragon’s Mouth Orchid.

Pine Grosbeaks were especially obliging at several locations during our tour, including this stunning male at Gros Morne National Park.

Pine Grosbeaks were especially obliging at several locations during our tour, including this stunning male at Gros Morne National Park.

One of the hands-down highlights for everyone was a zodiac adventure in Bonavista Bay on a beautiful, calm day.

One of the hands-down highlights for everyone was a zodiac adventure in Bonavista Bay on a beautiful, calm day. Sea of Whale Adventures gave us a real treat …

We had amazing experiences with five Sperm Whales during the trip ... a life whale for me, and an incredible beast to get to know.

We had amazing experiences with five Sperm Whales during the trip … a life whale for me, and an incredible beast to get to know.

Sperm Whales are unique in that their blowhole is located on the left side of their head, producing a distinctively angled spout.

Sperm Whales are unique in that their blowhole is located on the left side of their head, producing a distinctively angled spout.

Here's a close-up of the blowhole ... pretty neat!

Here’s a close-up of the blowhole … pretty neat!

Awesome!

Awesome!

Sperm Whales are the largest of the toothed whales. Males like the ones that hang out around Newfoundland can be more than 50 feet in length, with their huge heads making up for most of that bulk.

Sperm Whales are the largest of the toothed whales. Males like the ones that hang out around Newfoundland can be more than 50 feet in length, with their huge heads making up for most of that bulk.

SpermWhaleTail_June22_8863 SpermWhaleTail_June22_8720 SpermWhaleTail_June22_8718

Spectacular! What more can I say?!?!

Spectacular! What more can I say?!?!

Striped Coralroot is a very rare orchid in Newfoundland, with less than five known locations. This one was just coming in to bloom near Lomond, Gros Morne National Park on June 27. More than two dozen stems were found at this site, but this was the most advanced at the time.

Striped Coralroot is a very rare orchid in Newfoundland, with less than five known locations. This one was just coming in to bloom near Lomond, Gros Morne National Park on June 27. More than two dozen stems were found at this site, but this was the most advanced at the time.

A slightly more common orchid (though still far from widespread) was this Showy Ladyslipper - also just coming in to bloom.

A slightly more common orchid (though still far from widespread) was this Showy Ladyslipper – also just coming in to bloom.

The amazing scenery and geology pf Gros Morne National Park, like the Tablelands pictured here, is enough to justify its very own tour.

The amazing scenery and geology of Gros Morne National Park, like the Tablelands pictured here, is enough to justify its very own tour.

One of many little gems during the tour was this beautiful Trilobite fossil, tucked away in an obscure location. These extinct marine animals lived more than 250 million years ago!

One of many little gems during the tour was this beautiful Trilobite fossil, tucked away in an obscure location. These extinct marine animals lived more than 250 million years ago!

T'was a fantastic tour from start to finish!!

T’was a fantastic tour from start to finish!!

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