Thursday, July 27, 2017

Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve

Visit to a Seabird Rookery 

Seabird Colony
I recently visited the Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve (CSMER) on the southern tip of the Avalon Peninsula in Newfoundland.  What a treat that was!  It is one of seven seabird ecological reserves in Newfoundland and is the most accessible.  After a 1.4 Km walk, you are standing on a point of land that juts out close to the large sea stack on which the birds nest.  

Steep Clifts Provide Multiple Nesting Sites
The path going out to the site is on a narrow strip of relatively flat land covered with sub-arctic tundra. The edges drop off abruptly to a free fall of about 100 metres.  The area of often foggy (as seen in my photos) but since the birds are as close as 10 metres, they still can be seen.

The CSMER is about 2 hours from St. John's.  Some of the roads have a lot of potholes so driving can be tedious.  When approaching the modern interpretive centre, one can hear the birds.  What a cacophony!  It was so foggy at first we could not see beyond the interpretive centre but there was no doubt we were in the right place.  And, we could certainly smell the birds, a fishy, guano-like smell.

Northern Gannet and Chick
The rookery is home to about 70,000 breeding birds; Northern Gannets, Common Murres, Thick-billed Murres, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Black Guillemots, Razorbills.  The sea stack is taken over by the gannets and the ample cliff edges provide nesting sites for the other species.  This ecological reserve is Newfoundland's major seabird colony and the most southern breeding site for some of the species.  

Common Murres with Chick
We could see many chicks resting on the ledges protected by the adults or waiting patiently for the adults to return with food from the rich ocean surrounding the area.  There was tremendous flight activity as birds came and went, making you wonder how they managed to avoid collisions.  

Black-legged Kittiwake with Chicks
The vegetation on the plateau leading out to the point had an interesting mix of moss, lichens, low-growing bushes, grasses, blue flags and a pink flower from the pea family. 

Common Murres 
The CSMEC was established in 1983.  The waters off the site are an important wintering site for thousands of sea ducks including Harlequin Ducks, Common Eiders, scoters and Long-tailed Ducks.  The government of Newfoundland should be commended to have the foresight to protect this important bird area and to preserve it for future generations of these bird species.  This is such a unique area that it should be on everyone's bucket list of things to see.  Go and appreciate nature at its best and you can experience it in a completely unobstrusive way. 

1 comment:

  1. That is well worth the trip, great on sunny days.