Canada Off Road: The Mingan Archipelago Day 5 – Rewind

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5:45 am – I can wait no longer. The journey down the narrow staircase must be taken…Now!

The gas stove has been turned on again to take the chill from the morning fog. It is a descent into dry steam. 

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. 

 

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Canada Off Road: The Mingan Archipelago – Ile aux Perroquets Day 4 – Island Life

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Well, there is no place to go…. it’s an island!

….and this morning I woke to dense fog. Thicker than yesterday. I rolled over and waited for the alarm at 6:00. I ventured down the treacherous stairway as nature called. Some kind soul had turned on the gas stove to take off the morning chill. It is homey here. In the end, I was ready for breakfast a half hour early. 

As I head for the Light keeper’s house, I can’t help but think of what it would be like to live here. Really live here. There have only been six keepers since 1888, the last leaving in 1978. In 1891, Charles Eustache Forgues stayed only one year due to his untimely death during a trip across the ice to bring a doctor for his pregnant wife.  But Hector Vigneault held out for 36 years arriving in 1912 and leaving in 1948. I’m trying to get the feel of the place in a little over three days. It’s an impossible task but fog and the cacophony of bird sounds help. 

The buttercups move rhythmically in the long grass on both sides of the path leading to breakfast. There are mowed paths all over the island to indicate where one is to walk and where not to. Toppling off the high side of the island would be deadly. In addition the Puffins who burrow into the cliffs make tunnels that could collapse under my weight. Not good news for Puffins or people. 

The schedule for today is set at breakfast and as it turns out is modified at lunch as we know we are too full to consider eating as early as 5:00 pm.

We lug gear and folding chairs to the beach and take up position watching the Puffins and Razorbills come and go. As a Puffin circles towards the shore, a cry goes up. Fish! He has fish! And the chubby little bird after back peddling with his wings, lands directly in front of the entrance to his burrow with a mouthful of capelin. The adult has two mandibles that are hinged so that they can be held parallel. Then a row of fish can be held in place by inward facing serrations on the edges of their beak. It’s all about having the tools to do the job!

The babies are born in July but no furry balls are sitting at the entrance to these homes today. Apparently they wait patiently (or not) just inside the tunnel and scurry back to the nest when food arrives. Occasionally an adult paces near the opening to the burrow as if worrying about the spouse that is at sea. 

Puffins have black and white bodies with orange legs and beaks that are red and black and yellow in summer. They are 29-35 cm long with a wingspan of from 53 to 61 cm. They mate for life or at least they end up each year back at the burrow they fledged from so it looks like they do. They winter on the cold northern seas paddling and diving to catch fish. In spring they return to shore, breed and usually lay one egg. After about six weeks the little black fur ball has matured enough that he is ready to head for sea where he may remain for several years before returning to land to start the cycle over again. 

All I can say for sure it that something must be in the burrows that I can see on the hill side as bird after bird with mouthful after mouthful of fish keep disappearing down the “rabbit” holes. 

We watch the birds but at the same time we are being watched by the day trippers who come to see and photograph and picnic. They disappear into the fog at one hour intervals. 

I’m burning up my cards with images. Some I delete on the spot but others need to be seen on my computer screen before I decide what is a keeper. Three days may not be enough time to get what I would like to have but the more I practice the better I seem to be doing. Makes sense. I’m enjoying the experience. It is peaceful here and an all day fog-facial can’t be bad!

I take a break from my D850 and try Chris’ Sony 9. It is totally silent, light and fast. Humm! Another temptation has presented itself! it appears that one can never have enough camera gear. 

Lobster, Crab and Strawberry Pie are winners on the dinner menu. It’s our last evening meal and clearly a special treat. 

The weather is “drippy” so I opt for packing after supper before heading to the beach again. It’s good to just sit here and watch. Taking pictures is not the only experience to be had. 

( ref: http://lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=1619)

Canada Off Road: The Mingan Archipelago – Ile Aux Perroquets Day 3 -Fog! Did I mention fog?

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It’s 5:30 am when I grab my glasses and look out my second story window expecting to see the sea. It’s very grey out there. Very grey. I roll over and wait for my alarm. No need to go to the beach for an early shoot, presuming of course that I could find the beach without falling off a cliff. Yes, more sleep is the the right thing. 

It does cross my mind that perhaps the critters fly slower in fog so as not to hit things  and that would help with my exposure problems but sober second thought says – probably not. The idea also goes through my head that I should just give up on wildlife photography and go back to things that sit still, like buildings. 

As I lay in my cosy bed waiting for the light to come and the fog to go away, I am serenaded by the continual squawk of thousands of birds. The sound emanates from a low lying island to our east and their sound seems to be muted by the fog. This orchestral cacophony preformed by nature is my new wake up alarm. 

After a scrumptious breakfast of quiche, tomato salad and watermelon accompanied by gallons of strong black coffee, it’s time to get geared up and move back to the beach in search of more opportunities to shoot.

The Puffins and Razorbills are out in full force. I’m convinced the Puffins are on steroids. To my untutored eye they move erratically, leaving their nests without warning. At least they give me no clues that they are about to take off. It’s a game. I have to guess. I’m not a good guesser. With experience I begin to see that they tip their hand when they lean a bit forward. It is their pre push-off move. Landing is sometimes a tricky manoeuver on uneven ground. Little orange Puffin feet act like rudders and I observe a couple of collisions with the rocks and a slow belly slide to the ground below. In addition, it is hard to yell “Honey I’m home” when your mouth is full of fish!

I watch bird after bird head out over the Gulf of St Lawrence and I follow them with my long lens until they disappear into the mist. Then I wait. And when I am lucky I spy one circling back, full speed ahead, to somewhere on the cliff. But where is he going? I’m thinking it is not the direct route home. I get him in my site as he barrels down the beach directly at me. He is in focus, he is in focus, he is not in focus, he makes a sharp turn. I am toast! 

It has been a long foggy and seagull sounding morning with the symphony from the off limits bird island rising and falling in decibels as the fog comes and goes. 

The hours melt away.  And I feel that I may be getting just a little bit better at capturing these amazing little creatures. 

Our group of five climbs back to the lighthouse for lunch. It’s hearty and delicious and just the right amount. Fudge and cookies are dessert. Could it get better?

After a short break we collect our gear and head to the beach again. We are situated so that we can see the Parks Canada boat arrive depositing day visitors. All afternoon, birds, boats, and humans, dissolve in the fog. High on the cliff, even the light keeper’s house comes and goes.

Late in the afternoon, amazingly, out of the mist comes our last workshop member. Chuck is from Georgia and he has been hassling with airlines that misplaced his luggage on his trip here via Montreal. He has taken the interruption in plans pretty much in stride and chooses to skip supper to get in some more shooting time. 

The rest of us indulge again at 5:00. Who could not like fish and scallops with noodles and vegetables followed by something akin to Lava cake. Too much! What diet?

After supper, the Razorbills and Puffins seem very active on the high cliffs. I take my D5 and smaller 80-400 lens to give my arms a break. They, I, am tired. 

The sun is the best it has been all day. We are treated to a blazing orange ball at sunset with waves of birds passing through its reflection on the water. 

By 7:30 I am done. I download my images. Some seem better than on Day 1.  It’s the end of an amazing day.  I snuggle down under my cozy duvet and watch the last of the orange leave the sky. And as I nod off, I think that Sheldon from Big Bang would say: “ That’s a lot of Puffins!” 

 

Canada Off Road: The Mingan Archipelago -Ile aux Perroquets Day 2 – On Island

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From the town of Sept-Ile it’s 163 km to Longue Pt and the village of Mingan. I imagine if we just keep driving east along 138 we’ll end up in Happy Valley or some other Labradorian town. The rental Hyundai forges ahead as vistas of the Gulf and rocky shores unfold on our right and hectares of black spruce, pitted with lakes, appear to the north. The road is good; the traffic sparse but travelling fast. The sun dances on the water. Campers hug the rocks. At each estuary, fishermen stand hopeful. 

I can’t help it…my head is running an ever ending track of “Oh Canada!” As the Elegant Worms said, “Canada is really, really big!” and this is really beautiful part. 

As we fly along, it is hard to tell what people do here. Fish, work on the road, work for Parks Canada. Those are my first guesses.

At the town of Mingan, Pat turns off the main road and we hone in on the church steeple that is supposed to be in the general vicinity of the wharf and the parking lot. Some Parks Canada folks and Chris Dodds await. Julie, his wife and partner is still on the island with the group that is preparing to leave. 

Our gear is loaded into the Parks Canada boat and the passengers including Pat and I, are bundled in waterproofs containing floatation devices before boarding the commercial craft that runs tourists back and forth to Ile aux Perroquets. We head off into a light fog bank and are greeted by a group of seals and a phalanx of puffins. Mansoor, the third passenger and member of our photo group identifies a Minke whale as it breaks the water off the bow. Our captain slows the boat. All necks are craned.

It’s a short run out to the island and as we approach the floating dock, a gaggle of last week’s guests are making their way along the pier to take our boat back to shore. An ATV waits on shore to carry the heavy gear up the incline to the lighthouse. Now that’s a welcome touch. No one seems to invent “light” camera gear!

The shroud of fog is lifting as our group follows the luggage to the lighthouse. We are on the most westerly island of four that make up the Perroquet group of the Mingan Archipelago. Back in 1888 it was determined, following two shipwrecks, that a lighthouse needed to be put in operation on this island. 

The 1888 Annual Report of the Department of Marine and Fisheries says that :

“A lighthouse…. was put in operation on the first of September. The light is revolving white and attains its greatest brilliancy every 30 seconds. It is elevated 87 feet above high water mark and should be visible 15 miles from all points of approach, excepting where intercepted by Mingan Island. The illuminating apparatus is catoptric. The building consists of a square wooden tower with dwelling attached, painted white, surmounted by an iron lantern painted red. It is 55 feet in height from the ground to the vane on the lantern. The building stands 83 feet from the northern cliff and 228 feet from the western cliff of the island. The cost of erection, including lantern and illuminating apparatus was $7,816.12.”

( http://lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=1619)

Now I must admit that I signed up for this workshop for more than the opportunity to shoot Puffins.  There is something alluring about the chance to sleep in a lighthouse. I mean, how cool is that!  So, I am excited when I am assigned quarters in what was the assistant light keeper’s house. This building was just a few steps past the Lighthouse keeper’s house and I get a room with twin beds. That is a boon to any photographer laden with optional equipment. A second bed clearly means a place to spread out and survey what you remembered and what you forgot to pack!

With the fog gone, the buildings on the island are easy to see. The main light keeper’s house and the one I am in ( above) were recently restored as a heritage project and on Apr 11, 2014, Ile aux Perroquets Light house was designated Quebec’s first heritage lighthouse. Overnight stays at the lighthouse were initiated in 2015. So I am lucky to be here, experiencing this part of my heritage. 

But it is not as it was. The Island now has solar panels, a desalination system and on island means of dealing with sewage and grey water. The Lighthouse keepers’ homes are operated as Bed and Breakfasts for several months per year and have been renovated in keeping with a period near the end of the time when Robert Kavanagh retired in 1976. He was the keeper on the island for 28 years.

After unpacking and spreading my stuff about, I head over to the main building passing the current light house, built in 1951. The light which was once attached to the keeper’s house is now a separate building. The current light provides a white flash every five seconds. It emanates from a visibly smaller lamp than those originally used along the coast. 

After a hearty lunch served by Marie-Jose and Louise, our group of five gear up and head to the beach to get in some practice making images of erratically moving birds that zigzag from sun to shade defying correct exposure and focus. In reality, I spend the afternoon adding to my internationally based “Blurry Bird” collection. 

The afternoon goes quickly with lots of activity on the cliffs. Primarily Puffins and Razorbills move back and forth non-stop between the sea and the cliffs. The Puffins burrow into the layer of peat moss that covers the cliffs. On their return from the sea they are able to hone in on their own front doors while their mouths are full of fish. 

We eat supper early. Another delicious meal! And then its off down to the beach again to catch the evening light and the puffins as they dart to and fro. What appeared at first to be chaotic is beginning to become pattern.  As the sun sets in a magnificent show of colour, I call it a day. 

I haul myself up the near vertical staircase that leads to my room. And then I return to the living room with my computer to download my images. That is no mean feat as I have some balance issues even on flat ground. 

 As I look at my images, I try not to get depressed. These birds are challenging to photograph and remind me of my frustration in photographing Kingfisher’s on the Amazon. I’m calling today, my warm up day.  Right?

Canada Off Road: The Mingan Archipelago-Ile aux Perroquets: Day 1 – Getting there

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Every year I try to explore Canada. Sometimes that means a big trip and a big expenditure so I can see and understand my country. Sometimes it means I become a tourist in my own town. This year I am off to Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve which is snuggled up against the North shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence. 

Now if it had not been for Adventure Canada, an exceptional Canadian tour company,  I would not have known that this place even existed. Back in 2015, I was travelling with them through the St Lawrence and there, looming through the fog was yet another National Park that I had not seen. It lay low and to the north of Anticosti Island. I knew I wanted to come back. 

( http://www.pc.gc.ca)

I should have taken the hint from the fog that day, but I was not deterred. It is after all, just part of life on or near the water. So when Chris Dodds ( www.NaturePhotographyBlog.com) advertised his photo journey to the Mingans’ to shoot the clown of the bird world, the Atlantic Puffin, I was in. 

Who knew I would journey for two days to spend three days largely in the fog. My second clue should have been the fact that I would be staying in a light house!

On Friday morning I flew out of Pearson after a nerve wracking wait for a seat. My Air Canada flight was overbooked and I was second to last to board. My mind had been running scenarios that would allow me to make the most of a weekend in Quebec City if I missed my connecting flight to Sept-Ile. I tried not to think about the dollars I would be out if I couldn’t get to my photography workshop. 

In the end, I did miss my connecting flight due to more delays on the runway in TO.  As I entered the terminal upon arrival in Quebec City, a kindly tourist who must have sensed my frustration/anxiety let me butt into the line and query the staff about later connecting flights. Clearly staff knew I was coming as they handed me a boarding pass and told me the new flight would leave in six hours. As the afternoon droned on, I learned that being captive for six hours at Jean Lesage International Airport requires a bigger book!

I pass the time arranging for late arrival at the Quality Inn in Sept-Ile and making many trips to the snack bar. By five o’clock I am almost on a first name basis with the chef. As photography is not a light hobby, I am hobbled as if I had a ball and chain. Making trips to the washroom is an arm wrenching adventure. I sit a lot, my computer and camera bags surrounding me. 

It is shortly after 11:00 pm when we begin our descent into Sept Ile. It’s been an hour and half flight from Quebec City but my 4am wake up this morning is beginning to show.  I don’t bear travel anxiety well either, so I am nodding off as we bump down the runway. 

My roommate for this adventure is a lady named “Pat” from California. She has been to Mingan before and kindly offered to share her rental car to get to and from Longue Pointe. I had alerted her about my delays and cancelled our get acquainted supper. She very kindly offered to pick me up at the airport but I declined. She had been in transit all day herself and didn’t need an airport run at this time of night. 

A $25 taxi ride with a French speaking driver gets me to the Quality Inn. These are the circumstances that always make me feel bad. I have not fulfilled my life long desire to learn conversational French. After all I live in a bilingual country and I should know both languages. I do muster a” Merci Beaucoup” as I exit the cab. That’s pretty poor. 

I phone Pat once I am in my room and arrange to meet in the lobby at 7:30 for breakfast.

I’m ready for lights out on Day 1.

Canada Off Road – Hoot: The Mouse and the Snowy

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Five days in Quebec and I have learned.

Learned about Owls.

Learned about me.

And I must admit that what I have learned isn’t all pretty. I realize that my excuse that I did not know about the dangers of “baiting”, before my Canadian Adventure, is pretty lame.

But, I didn’t know this happened.

That’s it in a nutshell.

 

I have roamed the whole world taking images of birds in their natural habitat and never have I ever been faced with the issue of baiting. So, last week, I was a little slow on the pickup when I witnessed the drama unfolding in front of my eyes.

A small brown mouse with a long tail sailed through the air and landed with a confused thud on the frozen ground of the corn field. He recovered quickly and scooted across the crusted snow. My fellow photographers lined up on the diagonal and waited. Then from the corner of my eye I spotted a liftoff from the top of a tall hydro pole a quarter mile away. The round head and stubbly body of a Snowy Owl was headed my way at breakneck speed adjusting her flight path as she drew near. Then I got it.

I mean, I got it, that this was high noon, doomsday, the jig was up. A mouse would die so I could get a photograph.

The next moment the bird was high overhead with a little mouse clutched firmly in her talons. Then down, down, down she flew until she settled in the cornfield and dropped him at her feet. She watched her catch and sentimental me thought she looked sad. Then she nestled in the snow and had lunch.

When I arrived home from my winter holiday, I started to research the debate over baiting birds, particularly Owls. There is certainly a plethora of opinions and some fact and some fiction out there. Whatever I read, it was obvious that this was a heated topic with strong opinions held on all sides.

My sympathies are not with those who feel a birder’s right to observe, trumps the photographer’s right to make images. I do understand how these two parties would see the situation differently but for me this is the same as the dialogue that occurs between cross country skiers, snow shoe enthusiasts and snowmobilers. Who should own the trail?

Most of the articles that I reviewed seemed to come down heavily on the side of not baiting owls because of a combination of proven fact and plain observation most of which claimed the practice to be detrimental to the birds.

There is some evidence to support that store bought mice purchased as “lunch” may carry parasites and salmonella that could be harmful to the owls. Of greater concern is the fact that birds can be habituated to people who provide “free lunches” and lose their ability to hunt. Some stay too long in an area with no natural food because they are being fed.  Flying north is essential to their life cycle so they must know how to hunt.

Birders and photographers frequent areas that are known to be habitat for owls. Often their observations are made from busy roads and this too puts Owls at risk of becoming traffic fatalities as they swoop to pick up bait. Their version of a Tim Horton’s drive by window is not safe! Some resources such as Scott Weidensaul , Co-director of Project Snowman has studied northern Saw-whet owls for twenty years and he claims that the owls do not need the food (bait) so why increase risks of habituation and traffic fatalities.

When I went to Quebec last week, I was excited at the prospect of seeing and photographing, primarily, Snowy Owls. Our guide did take us to a field away from traffic where the Snowy Owls were baited. I believe that the guide had taken precautions to insure that the mice he was feeding the Owls were healthy. Now that I understand more of the process, I would have to say that the Owls were, or were becoming habituated albeit in a relatively safe place removed from traffic hazards. In addition I had no reason to believe that the birders who had stopped on the adjacent roads were unable to enjoy the birds.

The only ones not enjoying the frigid mornings would have to be the mice. Not many articles on baiting speak to that. I admit that the morning before I left on this trip I unceremoniously threw two mice out my back door into a snow bank. They had been prowling my pantry and I was not amused. So I guess, the thought of mice as sentient beings was not high on my list when I trudged across the corn field and set up my camera gear.

Most of my Owl Week was not about capturing images of baited birds. It was about observing the amazing actions and reactions of magnificent Snowy Owls. It included seeing them perched on fence posts and on branches that miraculously supported their weight high up in willow trees. It was about driving country roads and starring endlessly through frosted windows trying to find them on their turf. It was watching them cruise in on their prey. It was about walking through knee deep snow in search of Saw-Whets and huddling on a country road as Short-eared Owls circled in the distance. It was about cold noses and frigid fingers. It was about trying to understand.

So , now that I am home I have thousands of images to cull. Some are from baited birds, some are not. Snowies, Saw-whets and Short-eared owls are in my collection.

Although baiting is not legally wrong in Ontario, having witnessed the practice, I think I have learned from the experience that for me, it is ethically wrong. I won’t be doing much with my baited images as incredible as they seem to me. I will post one here and print it once, to hang on my wall.

I want to remind myself that everything I do has an impact and just because I am bigger and maybe smarter, doesn’t mean I should do something that is intentionally harmful to another species for the purpose of producing a photograph.

It’s the mouse that taught me this lesson, not the Owl.

 

References on Owl Baiting

The list of resources set out below provides information that may help you in taking a stand in the baiting discussion. It was first published on Michael Furtman’s website and includes opposing positions regarding the debate.

Additional Resources

Owl Feeding Controversy Ruffles Feathers — Minnesota Public Radio

If the owl photo is fake, the viewer is being conned – Jim Williams, “Wingnut” birding column, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Outdoors photographer blasts practice of luring owls with bait — Dennis Anderson, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Baiting Owls – The Birding Project, Christian Hagenlocher

Why You Shouldn’t Feed or Bait Owls – National Audubon Society

Owl Baiting For Fun and Profit — Bird Protection Quebec

Shortcuts That Shortchange Wildlife Photography — Outdoor Photographer magazine

Bird Baiting — CBC Radio

Great Gray Owls in Ottawa: Baiting and Abetting

The purists vs. the baiters: Fowl play in Ottawa’s birding country — Ottawa Sun newspaper

Of Mice and Owls – Keith Crowley, Lodgetrail Media

The Agony and The Ecstasy of Owl Photography: Owl Baiting.

Shouting matches, crude language invade world of bucolic harmony: Ottawa’s birding community – National Post

No Baiters Allowed — Raymond Barlow

Owl Baiting radio broadcast, CBC radio, March 1, 2017

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017, ESPN Twin Cities; baiting conversation with Dennis Anderson on The Great Outdoors.

Dat 4/5 Paris/Lourdes

Spent the morning yesterday visiting the Pantheon and the Sorbonne, one of the oldest universities in the world. The Pantheon was built in the 1700’s to rival St Peter’s in Rome but was never consecrated. When Victor Hugo died they needed a place to honour him and now he is crypt mates with Alexander Dumas! The structure of this place is astounding.

I took a late afternoon flight from Orly to Lourdes and met two more Camino walkers in our group.

After supper we witnessed the candle light mass at the Lourdes cathedral . It was attended by many with serious afflictions and who were wheelchair bound.

This morning four of us climbed to Lourdes Castle which towers over the city. Between downpours we learned the place has morphed from prison, to fortress to museum.

The rain continues but not to be deterred we just got back from walking the Stations of the cross and both inside and outside the church itself. Maybe something good rubbed off!

Day 3 -Paris!

Did I mention we are on the fourth floor of our hotel! Great going down, miniature elevator for two friendly people coming up. Sunny with cloudy periods. Nice.

Walked 16497 steps to see the Seine up close, circumnavigate Ile St Louis, visit the grounds of the Louvre all the way to the crazy Arc de Triomphe . Drivers in Beijing and Lima should have a completion!

On to the Eiffel Tower which appears to have ants when you look up and see the climbers. And then it was time for rain, lunch and a boat ride on the Seine back to Notre Dame. Needless to say…I’m resting again🙃

First Stop Paris

Day 1 and 2: Got to YYZ by 2:30 and hung around waiting until nearly 8. Nobody explained why we are waiting but we wait.

After 7 hours of flying and six time zone changes we arrive in Paris and jump through the required hoops for entry into France.

I meet one of our Camino group at the luggage carousel at CDG and we share a ride into Paris’ heart. The trip is a lengthy trip on aging infrastructure. Somehow I had forgotten that Paris is a really old city!

Our driver drops us at the Hotel Saint Jacques and I must say that at first I was underwhelmed. Nonetheless, in short order it becomes inviting and its quaint touches are endearing.

We dump our stuff in our room on the fourth floor and head into rhe streets. It’s a short downhill through meandering streets to the first close up view of the Seine. Across the river Notre Dame is stunning. Absolutely stunning and it continues to get more so as we take in its structure both inside and out. On the way home we stop for a late lunch and are now nestled in our beds for a before dinner nap.