Monday, November 10, 2014

Ptr. Walter Messervey, Royal Newfoundland Regiment 1916

June 24, 1916
Dear Mother,

Just a postal to let you know that we are leaving for France tonight at 9:30 PM.  I am still well hoping this will find you the same at home. This is some photos I had so I send them home. It was no use to take them with me. The other one is pay day at the Race Course, Ayr. I can’t tell you where I am amongst them because he took us and we did not know he was taking us. Give my love to all my bro. (brothers) and little sister. Also my love to yourself and Father.  Don’t  worry  mother, I will try to look out for myself. So, bye bye for this time, Mother.

From your loving son.
Pte. W. Messervey

On the back of two post cards, I found the above letter from Pte. Walter Messervey to his mother. He was 22 years old in 1916 and was fortunate, indeed, to have  survived the Great War.  After the war Walter returned to Sandy Point and lived out his life there until his death on December 7, 1967. 

Please remember the courage and sacrifice of these men of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment -"we must not forget".

As a aside, I do not know which of the two soldiers is Pte. Walter Messervey.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Trout River - Fishing Stores

Trout River is small town steeped in Newfoundland tradition. Snuggled in a sheltered cove on the west coast of the island, the town is a good jumping off point to explore exposed ancient tablelands, deep valleys and land lock fjords. Here you can take time to chat with the local fisherman,  have a Newfoundand scoff, find home knit mitts and socks and explore heritage properties . Gros Morne National Park is just around the corner !

Sharp Shinned Hawk

Sharp shinned hawks can be found over most of North America, including Mexico. In South America they are found from Venezuela to Northern Argentina. Most of the North American population migrates south in the winter. They are forest birds living in fir, spruce, and pine forests but they are also common in suburban spaces where they  tend to hunt at backyard feeders. In Newfoundland most birds migrate but a small population remains to prey on feeder birds.

While searching an abandoned soccer field for fleeting glimpses of a rare eastern meadow lark, I chanced upon this sharpie awaiting its opportunity to seize a hapless bird.
Sharp-shinned hawks can be found throughout much of North America, including Mexico. In South America, they are found from Venezuela to northern Argentina. Most of the North American populations migrate to the southern parts of their range in winter.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Meadow Lark ID Photos

The rarities keep coming this Autumn as passerines veer off course during migration. This wary meadow lark was photographed in an overgrown abandoned soccer field in urban St. John's. There are questions as to whether it is an Eastern Meadow Lark or a Western Meadow Lark.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Black Capped Chickadee

The black capped chickadee is a friendly and curious bird that is a joy to see as it fills the forest with a cherry "chick-a-dee-dee-dee which is oft repeated. It is the acrobat of birdland. When feeding in low trees and bushes, it hangs upside down and makes fancy maneuvers in dogged determination to find an insect or egg hidden in the crevices of bark and twigs. 

This bird:

  • can remember where it hid food for at least 28 days after putting it in its hiding place
  • drops its body temperature at night by 10 to 12°C below daytime body temperature, to conserve energy
  • depletes much of its energy by feeding nestlings from six to 14 times an hour
  • has a very established hierarchy, or “pecking order”

Its latin name is Parus atricapillus bartletti - named after a well known Arctic explorer and Newfoundlander, Captain R.A. Bartlett.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Wild Horses of Sable

Sable Island, 300 km south-east of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, is renowned for its wild horses and shipwrecks. The island has a fascinating geology and natural history that reflect the challenge of surviving wind, waves and isolation. On a summer's day in 2013 I had the privilege  of sharing this island with these gentle creatures if only for a little while.

That day, I watched this small family of horses standing  amid  the marram  grass attending a tired pony. I was touched by the serenity of the scene contrasting with the harsh reality of living in an unforgiving environment. These wild horses were quick to accept me into their world and I was able to discover and capture a gentleness in their noble character.

Although not strictly a Newfoundland theme - wind waves, island and a resemblance to the Newfoundland pony begs a certain recognition.

Dark Eyed Junco - A Bird Watcher's Delight

Now that the autumn days are relinquishing their colorful tapestries to the the colder colors of  November, all the songbirds except an occasional malingerer have left for warmer climes. The boreal forest still resonates with avian life - the dark eyed junco continues to entertain us in sheltering conifers and backyard feeders as they snatch up seeds that are knocked to the ground by other birds such as jays and sparrows

Dark-eyed juncos play important ecosystem roles by helping with seed dispersal and controlling insect populations. They also bring great joy to birdwatchers. In fact, dark-eyed juncos are often regarded as one of the most common feeder birds in Canada

Most juncos are a slate gray color, but females and juveniles show a brown coloration that I find most interesting. There appears to be an abundance of "brown" juncos at this time of the year. I have not noticed this before, but perhaps I'm just more observant of nature's design this year ! 

Did you know that the junco is the original "Snow Bird" that Anne Murray sang about in the 1970's ?

Newfoundland Pine Marten

The Newfoundland pine marten (Martes americana atrata) is a genetically distinct subspecies of the American marten (Martes americana) found only on the island of Newfoundland; it is sometimes referred to as the American marten (Newfoundland population) and is one of only 14 species of land mammals native to the island. 

Canada has banned marten trapping since 1934,. However, trappers are still allowed to set traps for other fur-bearing animals and many martens get caught or killed accidentally.  The Newfoundland Pine Marten was listed as threatened in 1986. There were about 800 animals left that year. Today there are only 300-600 remaining in the wild.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Canvasback Duck at Kenny's Pond

Canvasback ducks breed from Alaska through the Yukon and western edge of the Northwest Territories to the parklands and mixed prairie of central North America so it was quite a surprise to find this lost soul in our urban waters.

A large diving duck, the Canvasback is an accomplished athlete.  In the air, they are fast, clocking speeds of more than 100 km/hr, and in the water, they can dive to depths exceeding 30 feet, although they mostly feed in shallower water .

Interestingly, the canvasback’s latin name Aythya valisineria is derived from the Latin for wild celery, one of their favourite foods in the eastern portion of their range.

This duck has  been hanging out with the other diving ducks - scaups and tufted ducks - for the past few weeks and if food is available may stay for the winter.

A Canvasback duck was last reported in Newfoundland  41 years ago in 1973 !

White Eyed Vireo - A Newfounfland Rarity

This rare vagrant was recently fleetingly seen  by two passionate birders, and, of course, I wanted to see this life bird also. I had already spent several hours scouring the bush in the hopes of finding it and, the following day, I was back for a another round near the town of Blackhead.  Saturday brought with it many birders all eager to catch a glimpse. You would expect that the crowd of people mulling about would decrease the chance of success but not so. The experienced birders quickly placed eyes on the vireo and I was able to capture probably the first photo of a White-eyed Vireo in Newfoundland.

Although not endowed with a particularly colored plumage, this rarity was indeed beautiful with its olive greens and yellows not to mention the uniquely splendid white iris. White Eyed Vireos are reported as single birds about once a year in Newfoundland and are even more rarely photographed.

It's a small song bird that breeds in the southeastern United States from New Jersey west to northern Missouri south to Texas and Florida, and also in eastern Mexico  and northern Central America, Cuba and the Bahamas

Populations on the US Gulf Coast  and further south are resident, but most North American  birds migrate south in winter.  It is fascinating to theorize how this solo traveler found its way to our fair Island !

Red Fox - Codroy Valley

The Red Fox is the only native insular canid occurring in Newfoundland from the extinction of the wolf in the 1930s to the recent arrival of coyotes. They are excellent hunters, preying on birds, rabbits and other small mammals. Foxes, both red and the less common silver fox, are spotted frequently during treks into the Newfoundland back country. On a recent trip to the Codroy Valley, I learned of an active den in the area and I was able to study the behaviour and photograph the kits. 

Newfoundland's Red Fox comes in a range of colours- red, black, silver, yellowish, and a mixture of colours called a patch phase. This particular litter consisted of two silver foxes and a red phase fox.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A not so ugly duckling !
Great Horned Owl fledgling just about ready to try a hand at flying !
Bob with a fine catch of codfish on the opening day of the recreational cod fishery.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe hares are found throughout the boreal forests of North America. They are native to Labrador and were introduced to Newfoundland in 1860. Known as rabbits in Newfoundland, these large-footed animals  turn white in winter and a dark brown in summer. The large feet help the hare to stay on top of the snow in winter.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Canada Goose at Kent's Pond

Canada Geese are omnipresent all over North America but they still command us to pause and watch whenever they appear. This lone goose wanders amidst the tender spring shoots and hollow stems of last year's reeds at Kent's pond.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A New Goose in Town

The Greater White-fronted Goose is the most widespread goose in the northern hemisphere. It breeds across the tundra from Nunavut to Siberia, across Russia, and into Greenland.  In North America, however, it is common only west of the Mississippi River, where it is found in large flocks in wetlands and croplands. 

On a recent trip to the southern shore of the Avalon peninsula near Trepassey, I was fortunate to view and photograph this rare vagrant. It was wary of passer-bys but using my vehicle as a blind enabled me to photograph this beautiful bird.

Be sure to click on the image for a larger better view !

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Boreal Chickadee

Deer Lake Power House Circa 1920's

This vintage photo shows the Deer Lake Power House at about the time of its commission in 1925. At  that time Deer Lake had a population of several hundreds. There were seven large company houses  on Nicholsville Road. The Williams family lived at 126 Nicholville Rd. in one of the company houses that was leased by Bowater's for  $16.00 per month.

My grandfather, Aneurin Tudor Williams, arrived in Newfoundland from Wales in 1923 as principal engineer with Newfoundland Power and Paper. Father joined him in 1925 and the rest is family history !

Red Breasted Nuthatch

After the long winter which at times seems to be dragging on, I am looking forward to the return of the finches, warblers and a myriad of other birds. Fortunately we have a few hardy species that over-winter sustained in many instances by the kind folk who keep the feeders full. One of our winter warriors is the Red-Breasted Nuthatch - a standout from other species because of its unique habit of moving headfirst down tree trunks. This tiny bird never stays still and darts like a rocket streaking towards a food source from the cover of a neighboring spruce tree.

It breeds from Alaska to Newfoundland south to the northern states and locally in the southern Appalachian mountains.It winters from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Somewhere in Change Islands

If ever I were to have a place away from home , this would be it - Beauty , serenity and the ocean on my doorstep .

Abandoned Fishing Room - Change Islands

This is the last will and testament of Emma Porter of Change Islands in the Northern District of Change Islands in the Northern District of the Island of Newfoundland Widow and relic of the late George Porter of Change Islands aforesaid planter deceased. I give and devise to my son George Porter his heirs and assigns all my right title and interest in a certain fishing room and premises situate at Change Islands aforesaid consisting in a dwelling house, outhouses, stage, flakes, gardens and lands now in the joint occupancy of myself and my said son George Porter together with all the appurtenances thereunto belonging. - The Last Will and Testament of Emma Porter 1865

This abandoned and ruined fishing room and premises could well have belonged  to George Porter. This cultural icon is fast disappearing from the Newfoundland landscape but the people of Change Islands are now making  an effort to maintain and restore the remains of their fishing heritage.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Birds of Newfoundland - A Rare Book

In 1941 the Government of Newfoundland commissioned Harold S. Peters and Thomas D. Burleigh of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to prepare a book on Newfoundland birds. Its purpose was three-fold: to be a ready reference source on Newfoundland birds, to be of use in Newfoundland schools and to acquaint Newfoundlanders and others with the bird life of Newfoundland. Peters and Burleigh compiled information on 227 birds and their work was published in 1951 by the Newfoundland Government as The Birds of Newfoundland.

Athough much of the information in this book regarding the present status of our avian friends is dated, the book is full of interesting facts and is a must have book for anyone interested in Newfoundland Birds. It is out of print and sells on the second hand market for approximately $75.00 if you can find a copy !

Blue Jay Watching

The Blue Jay’s feathers are not actually blue. The bright cobalt colour is the result of the unique inner structure of the feathers, which distort the reflection of light off the bird, making it look blue.

Believe It or  Not !

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Silent Witness Memorial - Gander

Arrow Air Flight 1285 was an international charter flight carrying U.S. troops from Cairo Egypt  to their home base in Fort Campbell, Kentucky  via Cologne , Germany and Gander, Newfoundland. On the morning of 12 December 1985, shortly after takeoff from Gander en route to Fort Campbell, the aircraft stalled, crashed, and burned about half a mile from the runway, killing all 256 passengers and crew on board. It is the deadliest aviation accident to occur on Canadian soil.

Remembering Arrow Air Flight 1285

Monday, April 01, 2013

American Red Squirrel on the Pippy Park Trail

The red squirrel is native to Labrador and the rest of North America but it was first introduced to Newfoundland in 1963 and it quickly spread across the province. Red squirrels are often heard before they are seen as they undertake skirmishes with their brothers. Who has not heard the familiar angry-sounding chatter that occurs when an intruder is spotted - one of the most common sounds in the forest!

Emerald Surf off Bear Cove

Twice a day the tide sweeps ashore
Erasing footprints, stones, shells and more.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Silver and Gold on the Eastern Edge

Silver and gold can sometimes be found on the ocean's floor. 
You just need to know where and when to go.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Storm Surge Wave at Cape Spear

A storm surge is an offshore rise of water associated with a low pressure weather system, typically, tropical cyclones and strong extratropical cyclones . Storm surges are caused primarily by high winds pushing on the ocean's surface. The wind causes the water to pile up higher than the ordinary sea level.

Cape Spear is the most easterly point in North America. Here, the ocean is always turbulent but on occasion the sea can look calm. But beware - rogue waves are common here. At least eight people have been washed out to sea while walking on the rocks.   The landscape here is breathtaking and if you abide by the warning signs and stay behind the fence, you will be able to return another day !

Friday, March 29, 2013

Green Bay Fishing Rooms

Old fishing rooms stand in the evening sun somewhere in Green Bay.

Black Capped Chickadee

Who has not heard the cheery, welcoming sound of the Black Capped Chickadee as he performs his acrobatic twists and turns while looking for insects on branches and twigs. He frequently hangs uoside down, determined to find all manner of insect and egg in barky crevices. Para atricapillus barletti  is its scientific name. This friendly bird is named for the renowned Arctic explorer and Newfoundlander - Captain Rupert A Bartlett.

Photographed on the lower Rennie`s Mill Trail in autumn.

Humpback Whale Study

The scientific name of the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) means long-winged New Englander. During the summer the waters off Newfoundland host huge numbers of humpbacks and some of the deep bays have humpbacks that remain during the winter to pursue herring and other marine creatures. The "long wings" of the humpback are its pectoral fins — the longest in the world — which can measure over 12 feet in length. Humpbacks are large baleen whales measuring up to 50 feet and were a favorite of whalers in the 19th and 29th century due to their slow swimming speed that made them an easy target. This whale was considered an endangered species by some countries in the 1970's and the the cessation of whaling has resulted in the recovery in numbers of this remarkable mammal. 
Here is a closeup view of the humpback's blowhole. The whales come to feed on caplin and krill in Witless Bay in summer. I was fortunate to be able to photograph this denizen of the deep from the comfort of a Zodiac.

Rocky Shore Near Bonavista

The coastline near Bonavista is marked with treacherous rocky shoals and sea stacks  that extend out into the deep surf. Here puffins look out from their peat burrows and eagles soar on windswept wings  becoming part of this wild and primal landscape.  Beneath my feet is  is a sheer cliff plunging down from the grassy meadow above. I feel at  peace in such a  beautiful place, I would love to have spent more time here.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Emelia Earhart Statue, Harbour Grace

On May 20, 1932 at 7:20 p.m., with a thermos bottle of Rose Archibald’s soup and a can of tomato juice, Amelia Earhart in her Lockheed Vega began her bid to be the first woman pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. She intended to fly to Paris to emulate Charles Lindbergh's solo flight but after flying 14 hours, 56 minutes contending with strong northerly winds, icy conditions and mechanical problems, Earhart was forced to land in a cow pasture at Londonderry, Northern Ireland. 

A statue in her honor is located in Harbour Grace on the site of the Spirit of Harbour Grace, which has no connection with the aircraft of that historical flight.

Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneyes are found on streams and wooded ponds throughout Newfoundland but in winter the birds flock to the coast where it is common to see them feeding off shore. While on the coast they feed on small molluscs which are obtained by diving in deep water or dabbling in the shallows. They are known locally as Pie Ducks because of the large amount of white in their plumage. Goldeneyes are very difficult to approach but with patience and concealment, using your vehicle as a blind, it is possible to lure them within camera range.

American Widgeon - Male


The male American Widgeon is a handsome duck that is frequently called "Baldpate" because of its creamy white crown. I was able to photograph this dabbler, at Nevilles Pond in the company of black ducks and mallards - the only duck that seemed to keep an eye on me !

Sunday, March 18, 2012

American Widgeon at Kent's Pond

 The American Widgeon is often found feeding with diving ducks such as the scaup, who are adept at rooting up vegetation from deep in the water. A bit of a bully,  this duck will snatch the greens from the diving ducks as they surface. The widgeon is more wary than most ducks, and flies into  the air without much notice at the first sign of imagined danger.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cormorant Drying Wings

Cormorant Drying Wings

I saw a little cormorant
Upon a rock, and grinned.
Her outstretched wings were soaking wet,
And drying in the wind.

I called to her, “You live
A very inefficient way.
Why, I reckon you’ll be standing
On that rock for half the day.”

The cormorant replied, saying,
“Stop a while and think.
I never need to take them off,
And wash them in the sink.

“I never have to spin them dry
Or hang them on the line,
So tell me which procedure
Is the simpler, yours or mine?”

- Stephen Whiteside

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Friday, April 02, 2010

Carrion Crow

A Crow, half-dead with thirst, came upon a Pitcher which had once been full of water; but when the Crow put its beak into the mouth of the Pitcher he found that only very little water was left in it, and that he could not reach far enough down to get at it. He tried, and he tried, but at last had to give up in despair. Then a thought came to him, he took a pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped it into the Pitcher. At last, he saw the water begin to rise, and after casting in a few more pebbles he was able to quench his thirst and save his life.

"Little by little does the trick." - Aesop

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Red Saltbox Near Tor's Cove

Cabot Tower

Cabot Tower was built in 1897 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's discovery of Newfoundland, and Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. It is located on top of Signal Hill overlooking the city of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi received the first trans-Atlantic wireless message at a position near the tower, the letter "S" in Morse Code sent from Poldhu, Cornwall, United Kingdom.

Cabot Tower is now the centre of Signal Hill National Historic Park, Canada's second largest historic park, with walking trails, and an interpretation centre. Hikers that venture on the hill will be rewarded with spectacular views of the city, the harbour, and the ocean. - Wikapedia

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Celtic Shadows

The old Protestant Graveyard in St. Johns yields a pleasant mix of gothic beauty and tranquility.

"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"
Edgar Allan Poe

Banana Boat

"As I stood on the wharf in Trinity harbour, the sun peeked out from behind the cloud cover and shone brilliantly on the yellow boat, the surrounding water sparkled with light".