Monday, 20 January 2014

Winter time = Down time

Winter time on the island of Newfoundland is a slow time for photography and birding alike;
But there is always hope that each winter will be a winter the ivory gulls come down from their northern habitats. Last winter was kind of one of those winters with multiple sightings from across the island but most were very short lived such as the one hour wonder at Quidi Vidi lake which of course neither me or brad seen.

This winter however there have been some things to photograph such as the Purple sandpipers and the regular birds like the sea birds at Cape Spear and as of last week the Peregrine falcon has arrived at Quidi Vidi lake for hopefully the remainder of winter. He or She has been feeding on starlings and pigeons at Quidi Vidi lake before so it seems to be quite comfortable with photographers. Along with the Peregrine a drake Wood duck has arrived at the lake too, adding a bit of colour to the dull days we have been having.

This past saturday Brad and i tried our luck at photographing the resident eagles at Quidi Vidi Lake, with no luck. We arrived at the lake shortly after daylight with 40+ pounds of fresh chicken scraps to entice the birds in close. We got in our quick camo blinds and waited....and waited with no luck. There were 3 juvi eagles on the ice at the time but we think the eagles saw us arrive. Meaning they wanted nothing to do with our hand-outs. The gulls and crows enjoyed it all the same. We will try this technique out again in the near future at a different location. Next time we will be ready before daylight to see if that may have been the problem.

Our idea of doing feeder set-up's for small birds went down the drain when we got a massive dumping of snow. since then ive seen not as much as a single junco at my feeders....

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Purple Sandpipers at Cape Spear

Over the weekend brad and i decided to check out the purple sandpipers that winter annually at Cape Spear. When we arrived the sun was just starting to rise so we waited on the icy rocks and tried to spot the flock being flushed from the large waves. After a few minutes we spotted them flying by, and slowly made our way down to the waters edge which was coated in ice created by the salt spray.

The waves are so unpredictable at the cape making it extremely dangerous to shoot there on even good summer days, so what we do to be safer is one of use goes close to the water to shoot while the other is making sure there are no large waves coming and also looking for other birds in the distance such as dovkies, Black gullimonts, Common Eider and long tail ducks all of which we did see!

Its risky but we are extremely cautious and are willing to do what we have to the get the shot. As you can see we got some memorable shots!

This winter hit hard dumping a lot of snow fast, resulting in the birds to move elsewhere for shelter hopefully soon we will have more to share, expect a post about some feeder set-ups we have been thinking of and maybe some eagle close ups?


Friday, 3 January 2014

Students On Ice 2012

Early in 2012 i applied for a trip i herd about that takes place in the canadian arctic and ends in greenland. The description  of the trip seemed like a trip of a lifetime. Going on a ship, seeing so many arctic animas and other things it seemed very surreal so i applied and hoped that maybe id be lucky enough to go! 

One of the massive glaciers that stretched into the Arctic Ocean (Greenland)

Sure enough many months later i got a phone call from an unknown number on my cell phone as i was out with some friends, turns out it was clare glasco a lady whom works with SOI and organizes the whole trip. The rest is history.  
A few months later i was all packed up and on my flight to ottawa to meet the team. After a short couple days in ottawa we flew to Iqualit and stayed at the "Haunted" college while we waited for the dense pac ice to blow off shore so we could get to our ship. After 5 days the Canadian Coastguard came and loaded all 124 of us onto barges and we bobbed our way through the ice to their ship where we then sailed out forbisher bay with our ship following behind. Finally in the hours of the night we loaded into zodiacs and were able to get aboard our ship. 

The Deg Groseilliers Coast Guard that helped us to our ship the Acidemic Yoffe    

These Barges were used to get us from land to the Coast Guard ship

Our ship was massive and extremely luxourious, complete with presentation rooms, IMac computers, a library and a dining hall that had 3 course meals ranging from duck to fresh cod caught that day off the ship. All in all it was amazing.  

One thing i did notice is that the birds had already finished breeding and had moved out of the arctic. the only species that were "common" were ravens, gulliemonts, common eider, lapland longspurs and Northern Fulmar. I was very surprised by this and somewhat disappointed as i had imagined something out of a BBC movie of an arctic landscape teeming with breeding shorebirds. 

A Northern Fulmar flying along side our ship was a very common sight

A large river just outside of Iqualit 

The arctic truly is an amazing place with MASSIVE landscapes and extremely friendly and welcoming people. I learned so much on the trip and did so much that it is hard to explain everything without going on and on and on. In the workshops i attended both on and off the ship ranged from glaciers, Inuit culture, sculpting, looking for gems, to even meeting people like the youngest person to reach the summit of everest or the leader of the first all women team to both the south and north pole. 

     Some of the team members board a zodiac as we depart from a land excursion in Greenland

"This was my first time to the arctic but it wont be my last. Currently i have been looking into helping people put bands and geolocaters on birds in the arctic this summer and i have been putting a lot of thought into the idea of going to Antarctica in 2015!"


 Geoff Green the founder of Students on Ice speaks to the group in the town of Apex

 Lady Franklin Island in the Davis Straight, This image does not do justice to the sheer mass of this rock outcrop. It was bigger then any land form ive seen before or after. 

Pink flowers surround the crosses in a cemetery in the town of Apex 

The "Arctic swim" as they called it was much more enjoyable for me then the crazy people that actually ventured in the harshly cold water! This was north of Iqualit.