A couple of years ago, we bought a small cabin with 35 acres of boreal forest on Grand Manan Island – our eventual, possible, retirement location. It’s one thing to plan retirement to a spot in the nice weather (and I’ve been here Spring, Summer, and Fall) but I had never been out in the Winter and thought it would be worthwhile checking it out.
Now, I wasn’t worried so much about the weather (it’s a pretty weather-tight little place). What I was concerned about was the bird life, without which there was a very real potential I would go stir crazy. So, to investigate this, we made a dash to the coast – through a significant snow fall around Montreal and very cold temperatures in northern New Brunswick. (If you can drive the limit, it’s a 16-hour drive from York to the ferry terminal in Black Harbour.)
The ferry crossing, which quite often can be considered a “pelagic” birding hour and a half, was unremarkable: 2 Black-legged Kittiwakes, an Iceland Gull, and about 75 Common Murres. On and directly around the island there were some interesting birds including 14 species of ducks (all 3 scoter species), Common Loons, a raft of close to 75 Horned Grebes, 250+ Brant, and then some early passerine migrants: American Robins, White-throated Sparrow, and an Eastern Meadowlark.
Ironically, the island received about 5” of snow on the day before we arrived and another 6” of snow the night before we left – more snow than they have had all year (according to the locals) and more snow than I’ve seen all this Winter.
The Island is situated at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, which is renowned for its high tides – as much as 29 feet. This significant movement of water stirs up a lot of nutrients making it a prime location for seabirds and mammals. You just never know what you might see. Plus the island, which is about 25 miles long, has a north-south orientation making it ideal for passerine migration. And, again, you just never know what you might see….
We took the 11:30 ferry yesterday and got back to York around 6:00 tonight – to 8 degree temperatures (it was -16 in Levis last night), no snow, and Red-winged Blackbirds on the wires about every 100 meters.