Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Birds Birds Birds

If you ever get anywhere near the Maritimes – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, or Newfoundland – we strongly suggest trying to find a way to get to Englishtown on Cape Breton Island for a boat tour to see the birds. Englishtown is about 25 miles from the Sydney Ferry Terminal.

We cannot say enough about Donelda’s Puffin Boat Tours that leave from Englishtown – it was as advertised and more (though her sound system made hearing her talks difficult). We had heard this was a great tour and it was. It took about three hours.

We started to see Bald Eagles before taking to the high seas, mostly sitting on rocks, but only a couple in flight.

Once we reached the Bird Islands (Hertford first - then Ciboux) we began to see more and more birds. We came for the Puffins and had hopes of seeing them and Bald Eagles. We saw a lot more.

We have often seen Great Blue Herons in various parts of North America but we have always seen them alone – never a pair – never more than one to be seen.

We have wondered how they find mates to breed. We now know at least some of them fly to Bird Islands where they nest in colonies. We saw lots of them and we saw at least one colony nest.

At one point we counted 19 Bald Eagles in one area. Unfortunately they all seemed to be resting and didn't seem to be interested in us, or in flying. We could see the adults and the young.

There were many sea birds and Donelda was great at pointing them out and explaining which was which and what to look for to identify the differences. Below is a colony of Razorbills that nest on the rocks.

The Razorbills and Puffins were difficult to tell apart from a distance. They nest together in the same type of area.

We had seen Northern Gannets diving from several hundred feet up turning themselves into spears and diving down up to 70 feet to catch fish – similar to hawks but Gannets hit the water at amazing speed and keep going down.

There are many types of seagulls. Below are three Herring Gulls nesting on the rocky cliff with chicks.

We saw many Black-Backed Herring Gulls. This one is with several chicks.

We did get to see Puffins – lots of them. They live at sea and only leave the water to come to the islands to breed.

The Puffin's wings beat like those of a hummingbird. The wings beat at the rate of 300 to 400 times per minute, about 5 to 7 times per second. Puffins fly at about 55 mph, hard to photograph easily.

Puffins can dive up to 200 feet below the ocean surface to hunt fish and are very fast. They are rare so it was a real treat to see so many of them in this one area.

We also saw grey seals swimming around the islands. Because of their size and weight they don't come out of the water - they get overheated if they're on land.

More cormorants.

We saw a lot of birds, and there are many that nest here that we didn't see. Following are some links for more information on what we saw...

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Acadia Bridges

Brian and I have made several trips to Acadia National Park since we began RVing eleven years ago. It's always been one of our favorite places and is particularly special to Brian. He was stationed in Winter Harbor on Schoodic Point while in the Navy, don't ask how many years ago. Schoodic is part of Acadia NP but not in the main part of the park by Bar Harbor.

This year we decided to focus our time on hiking the Carriage Roads. Between 1913 and 1940 John D. Rockefeller Jr. financed and directed the construction of 57 miles of Carriage Roads for the use of hikers, bikers, horse riders, and horse-drawn carriages.  There are 17 bridges on the Carriage Roads and each one of them is unique. We had some really nice hikes and gave my new hip a pretty good workout. Following are some of the more interesting bridges we hiked to.

Cliffside Bridge was one of the last Carriage Road bridges to be completed in 1932. It doesn't cross a stream or a road but rather is a creative solution to a difficult engineering problem. Spanning roughly 250 feet with the appearance of an English castle, it hugs the steep cliffs of Penobscot Mountain. There are several viewing platforms on this bridge, as well as on some of the others, that are a good place to take a break and enjoy the view. 

Hemlock Bridge is named for the hemlock trees surrounding it and was one of the most expensive to build.

Hadlock Brook Bridge depends on spring runoff for water flow, not much flowing when we were there.

Waterfall Bridge was a favorite. The waterfall can be seen under the bridge arch and there was enough water flowing this time of year for some brave souls to get wet.

Amphitheater Bridge was one of our longest hikes. It's known as one of the 'crown-jewel' bridges of the carriage road system. Completed in 1931, it is also one of the longest bridges (245 feet). The stonework is pink granite and is amazing because of the precision work and patterns of raised pieces.

Cobblestone Bridge is the oldest of Rockefeller's carriage-road bridges, and it is the only bridge made completely with cobblestones. It's one of those things that make you wonder 'how did they do that?' Future bridges were made with cut pieces of granite so this bridge is really unique.

With three arches and four turret-style viewing platforms at the top, Duck Brook Bridge is the tallest and probably the most ornate carriage road bridge. Completed in 1929, it was also the most expensive bridge to construct.

Penobscot Bridge

Since bridges seemed to be a theme for this portion of the journey, we decided visit the Penobscot Bridge which is near Acadia National Park. We have gone over this bridge several times while traveling north on US 1 to Ellsworth, where we stay to visit Acadia. There's an observation room at the top of one of the bridge towers that looked like it was worth checking out. It offered some spectacular views.