Day 13 |
Sep 15, 2011

Bonaventure Island, Quebec, Canada

By Luciano Bernacchi, Naturalist, Birder, Glacier Guide

Co-ordinates 48°30′N 64°10′W
Weather: Overcast, partially cloudy.
Air Temperature: 14ºC – 54 ºF
Pressure: 1006 hPa
Humidity: 58%
Wind: Calm

Bonjour!! The day dawned as we were approaching Bonaventure Island and Perce Rock. I joined my colleagues from the Expedition Team on the Bridge to look at the approach of this part of Canada, and I was happy to find many flying gannets. As I looked through my binoculars at the colony in the distance I could anticipate the huge numbers of birds we were going to see later in the day. I then joined guests on Deck 6 forward to enjoy the morning light on Perce Rock. It is an impressive rock arch that lies between Bonaventure Island and Perce town.

A zodiac was in the water to pick up our port agent, and soon the Silver Explorer repositioned to its anchor position just off the point of Bonaventure Island. We went ashore to get everything ready for disembarkation and to meet our local guides and Canadian Park authorities and rangers.

The plan was to walk the 2.5Km to the Northern Gannet colony, and have good looks at these wonderful birds. I started walking with our first guests up the trail and was exited to be in one of the main breeding site for this seabird species. I had really been looking forward to this day.

The first half of the trail is uphill and the temperature was quite hot, so soon parkas and other layers had to be peeled off. Each of us going at our own pace, we slowly but surely made it to the colony. I could hear the birds minutes before arriving, and upon reaching the end of the trail the vegetation cleared at the plateau and just behind the roped area the frenzy of birds began. The cacophony of calls and sounds was quite loud. During peak breeding season there are between 50.000 and 60.000 pairs of Northern Gannets.

Is was truly an amazing sight, watching the gannets come and go, rejoining their mates as they return from the sea, the bonding rituals of fencing beaks and mutual preening, the sky pointing, how they regurgitate and feed their chicks, and the fierce fights as one bird walks through a neighbour’s territory. All these and many more are the behaviours of the largest of the Sulidae bird family. Time rushed by and it was difficult to ask all of our guests to start the descent as we were all completely focused on the gannets. Personally for me it was without a doubt one of the highlights of this voyage!!

A boat had been arranged to transfer us to Perce town, and I stayed behind with a few of the slower walking guests. ATVs from the park rangers helped, and picked up a few of them so as to make it easier for them coming downhill. We had one of our Zodiacs waiting with our Expedition Leader, Conrad Combrink, and the last of us caught up with the boat and the bulk of our guests via Zodiac.

At about 1300 hs we were all gathered at Perce town, jumping into various minibuses for the 15-minute ride to our lunch venue. An old fish plant had been renovated into a cultural centre, art gallery and community hall, and on the upper level they had arranged lunch for us. I really liked they place and atmosphere, as did all of our guests. The meal was a vegetable stew, and then a full lobster with salad. I can safely describe lunch as a lobster fest! A local band played live music and we all had a great time. I did speak to many who described the lunch, music, art and the whole experience as one of their favourites excursions.

After lunch, a short walk led to an Historical Store, where the shopkeepers were dressed in an old fashioned way, and the big store was put up like a working store of the 1930s through the 50s with an assortment of goods, food, tools, clothing, and many more odd objects. I like all this old stuff and it is also an excellent way of learning about the lifestyle of old Quebec.

Driving the last zodiac to the Silver Explorer, I returned with other Expedition staff as it started raining, and once on board we were soon on course for our next Canadian destination. At the evening recap I had a chance to share some information about the Northern Gannets with our guests, and to talk briefly about why many seabirds choose to breed in large colonies.

Dinner in The Restaurant was, as usual, excellent and a great finale for a day full of activities in this part of the world.