Back in my room, I sit on the bed and contemplate the fact that there is no view. The fog has usurped the cliff edge. Even the wild flowers seem depressed. The buttercups are hanging their heads.
I’m packed and ready shortly after six. Mansoor manipulates my heavy bag down the stairs. (Bless him!) It will go to the mainland with Chris on the Parks Canada boat while the camera gear and computer equipment will travel with me later this morning. That way I get to photograph in the fog some more!
Breakfast is interrupted by a power outage but Marie-Josie and Louise carry on and the generator kicks in. Pancakes with Canadian maple syrup hit the spot. More great coffee washes it down.
The luggage will be transported in the ATV back to the dock later in the morning. We carry camera gear to our viewing spot. The Parks Canada boat emerges from the fog bank and ties up at the floating dock. There aren’t many day visitors on this early trip.
On my way down the hill, I stop at the statue of the Virgin Mary which was placed by keeper Kavanagh to complete his promise to her when he and his assistant were trapped in the ice when crossing to Longue Pointe. The statue was erected to protect those navigating the waters around Ile aux Perroquets.
There are an estimated 2000 puffins and 3000 Razorbills nesting here. But as I reach the beach it strikes me that most of them seem to be sleeping in.
The Razorbills are black and white birds, a little larger than the Puffins. They have a characteristic white line from their eyes to the end of their beak. The male and female have the same black and white plumage but the male is a bit larger. They live at sea and have a range that stretches from Europe to Maine. About 60-70% breed in Iceland.They spend most of their lives at sea only coming ashore to breed. They have one partner and usually lay one egg per year on an rocky ledge, amid boulders or in exposed crevices. Both parents care for the fledglings feeding them capelin, juvenile cod or herring at dawn and a few hours before dusk. After 17-23 days the male parent will accompany the chick to sea.
As time passes and the sun tries to break through, Puffins and Razorbills begin to zoom in and out bringing mouthfuls of fish to shore. We set up our chairs so that we can follow them in from the sea or watch as they careen down the beach towards us before making a second circle over the water or a right hand turn for a landing on the rocky front porch of their burrow or nesting crevice.
The sounds from Gull Island are quieter this morning as the cacophony is again dampened by the mist. There are lots of opportunities to practice in the hope of getting the quintessential shots of the Puffins and Razorbills but there is also time to just watch them.
Mansoor leaves on the first boat. He is hoping for an early connecting flight to San Francisco. I am packed up and waiting for our boat. Chuck, takes up residence in his lawn chair quite close to the demarcation line that separates the breeding area from the public area of the beach. He is rewarded by a Puffin who poses with his mouth full of capelin. He will stay on with the new group to make up the days he missed due to the problems getting his equipment here.
When the tour boat appears out of the fog, Chris helps me carry my gear out to the point of the floating dock. The newbies disembark and Pat and I don the red life jackets. Then we are the ones disappearing into a gray cloud. My glasses become covered by droplets. The droplets become rivers. The GPS gets us back to the mainland.
We retrace our road trip arriving at the airport in Sept-Ile around three. By 5:00 I am taxiing away from the terminal as rain streams across the plane’s window. By 7:00 I am on my Air Canada flight to Toronto. Apparently it is 27 degrees in Toronto but I am still wrapped in my down jacket from my early morning Puffin watching. It’s too turbulent for coffee so I eat pretzels and begin my reflections.
Ground Transportation at YYZ is slow and when my driver finally arrives, I find I am sharing with a Willy Nelson look alike who has been living in his clothes for some time. He is elderly and talkative and sounds like Gord Lightfoot. The driver stops encouraging him and he falls asleep – the passenger not the driver.
The traffic grinds to a halt around Ajax and if I hadn’t got the message already, I now know my journey to yet another amazing part of Canada is over.