Monday, June 3, 2019

Conception Bay South to Holyrood - An Excursion Around The Bay

Today we didn't get too far. Some days are about kilometres and some days are about birding. Today we  were distracted by spectacular displays from the bird world, including an aerial battle, sex on the beach, and a family of eight out for their morning paddle. Then the heavens opened up, and as we sloshed our bedraggled selves into town, we received the unexpected kindness of strangers.

This morning was blown in on a strong, gusting wind that brought quite a bit of rain with it. We waited it out, and by around 9 am the skies cleared a bit and we set out. As we walked along the shore of the bay, almost the first thing we saw was a majestic looking Bald Eagle being mobbed by two Ring-billed Gulls and an American Crow. Bald Eagles are known to steal fish caught by gulls, and can also occasionally eat the gulls themselves. We paused to watch the mid-air chase, with the pursuers repeatedly dive-bombing the eagle until he eventually left the vicinity. I hadn't realized that gulls, which are designed for soaring, could be so agile!

As it left Conception Bay South, the trail took us along the shore, offering stunning views of the icebergs in the bay, which seemed to glow white and bright blue on the overcast morning.

The reds, greens, and yellows of the rocks on the beach really stood out due to the recent rain, and we stopped to admire them and listen the sound of the pebbles being tossed by the waves.

All morning we saw groups of Spotted Sandpipers flying along the shore, coming in for a landing, and then seemingly showing off for each other. Quite a few were evidently successful at attracting a mate and sealing the deal. Spotted Sandpipers are medium-sized shorebirds that are brown on top, have a white belly with brown spots, and can be recognized by their funny habit of constant bum-wagging. We spent quite a while watching their fascinating antics.

Eventually the trail took us around an oil refinery, which had a small pond beside it. We were tickled to see a mother Mallard with seven colourful, fuzzy ducklings in tow.

After the refinery the trail entered a corridor of coniferous trees. There was a lot of bird activity there, including flocks of noisy, busy, Dark-eyed Juncos, a Northern Flicker with brilliant yellow underwings, several brightly coloured American Goldfinches, small groups of Yellow-rumped Warblers, and many others. It took us quite a while to get through this stretch, and I re-learned a valuable lesson - if you walk down a rocky, uneven, trail with a heavy pack on while looking up through binoculars you are liable to do a rather painful face plant in the gravel :(


Around noon we rounded a corner in the trail and looked up to see a mother and her baby waving down to us from atop a sand dune. The mother called down that it looked like a storm, and about two minutes later the heavens opened up on us.

It was amazing to watch as the grasses and mosses turned bright green, and we could have sworn that we could see shrubs sprouting leaves as we walked past. The smell of conifers was strong and fresh, which also gave us a boost. However, as the rain descended we soon discovered that our rain gear isn't quite as waterproof as it used to be.

We soon came to the edge of Holyrood, full of hope for a hot coffee and a break from the wet. We were somewhat dismayed to discover that the bakery was gone, and the diner and other eateries were closed. Just as we were deciding to walk back through town to the Tim Hortons, we were met by two kind people who offered us a place to stay for the night. Getting dried off and warming up was too tempting an offer to refuse, so we decided to call it quits for today.

Distance: 17 km

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