Abundant wildlife make Newfoundland a unique experience
Editors Note: Dennis Jones is a professional photographer. He and Yolanda Marshall live in Edwards. More of Denniss photography can be seen at http://www.dreamcatcherimaging.com.Imagine sitting on a cliff 200 feet above the broiling surf, watching a colony of 11,000 Northern Gannets crowded on a massive sea stack only 50 feet away. It is an assault on the senses; visual, auditory and definitely olfactory. The birds swoop and glide, dive for food, feed their young, squabble and bond in unceasing chaos.For untold centuries these majestic sea birds have nested on this massive rock and the inaccessible cliff face we are standing above, safe from terrestrial predators.But its late in the season. We are getting only a taste of the tens of thousands of seabirds nesting annually along the rugged cliffs and rich waters of Cape St. Mary. This ecological preserve, on the southwest edge of the Avalon Peninsula, is the most accessible seabird colony in North America.In summer, Murres, Kittiwakes, Razorbills and Guillemots inhabit the cliffs in vast flocks. Pods of whales also feed in these fertile waters. Humpback, Fin and Minke Whales leap and frolic just off the cliffs.An hours drive east to Peters River is the worlds southern-most Caribou herd. At more than 3,000 strong it is an impressive sight in the bogs of the southern Avalon.Fifteen minutes farther in Trepassey I saw my first moose.Newfoundland has far to many moose. Accidents are common.I had been photographing the bogs at dusk. When I returned to our B&B, I parked 15 feet from the front door, taking my equipment inside. I went back out to the car, opening the front door to see a large cow moose walking between me and the car. Exciting to say the least!Naturally, I wanted to see more. When she was clear, I went out and was briefly chased back inside. She then stood under a street lamp 30 yards away. As I watched, the lights of a car came up the road. She took off. I heard a screech-bang and saw her run into the woods. Fortunately, Tom Corcoran, the driver, was shaken but OK, with little damage to his car.Another hours drive east, plus a 45 minute hike, takes you to Mistaken Point, the graveyard of numerous ships. More importantly, Mistaken Point is the burial ground of the 565 million year old Ediacara Biota, the earliest known, most complex, multi-celled creatures.The tennis court-sized sloping rock face is littered with some 6,000 fossils of many species. It is one of only a handful of sites in the world from this ancient era and by far the best preserved.They request that people remove their shoes to avoid damaging the fossils. What an experience, walking barefoot across these extremely ancient life forms.An hour north, up the east coast of the Avalon, lies lovely Witless Bay Ecological Preserve. The islands sheltering this quiet bay play host to tens of thousands more birds, including the oddly adorable Puffin. Whales again, frequent the bay. In early summer, icebergs float majestically offshore.Newfoundland is not just unique for its wildlife, its geology as well is fascinating. Prior to 11,000 years ago, it was covered by an ice sheet a mile and a half thick. The incessant movement scoured the land down to bedrock, leaving an island of poor, rocky soils. Google Earth provides a good vantage point for understanding this geology.This isnt to say Newfoundland is barren. By no means! There are dense forests, innumerable ponds, vast areas of bogs, spongy to walk on, densely covered with low vegetation, berries and small evergreens. The amazing Pitcher Plant is common. Little wonder it is Newfoundlands provincial flower.Newfoundland is a unique island. Being about the size of Pennsylvania, there is so much more to experience.We will return for its wildlife, its incredible scenery, its vast, unspoiled landscape, its fresh seafood, its photogenic fishing villages, and especially for its unique culture and wonderfully warm and friendly people.And somehow, despite the month spent here, we never managed to get screeched in. We have to return to become honorable Newfies by pushing back that shot of the vile rum called Screech, by exclaiming the Newfie blessing, Long may your big jib draw! and by kissing that cold, wet, clammy cod.Have a travel essay youd like to share with Vail Daily readers? E-mail High Life Editor Caramie Schnell at email@example.com.
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