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Archive for September, 2008


We wanted to see the seals on Prince Edward Island, but got an extra treat at our cabin: huge, friendly blue jays. Blue jays are the official bird of this Canadian province, but that usually means nothing. But they’re everywhere here.

Glenn Saunders, our host at Forest and Stream Cottages in Murray Harbor, PE, told us that last year he had the jays eating out of his hand. This year, he said at first, he hadn’t put the time into it.

Our cottage is next to the B&B, which has big windows and lots of bird feeders. I put some peanuts out for the red squirrels and chipmunks and the blue jays quickly buzzed in and picked them up.

I figured they were so bold, they probably would let me sit at the picnic table while they took nuts off it. They complained a lot about the situation from the trees, but eventually they did it. They’d swoop in, sometimes with a thud. Eventually they got used to the situation and slowed down, shoving two peanuts in their mouths (one half down their throats).

The jays were so close, so loud, I could see them interact. One was a juvenile, which I never would have known by its husky size. But it would cry and flap its wings, begging its parents for food, then chase after them when they got a nut.

Glenn told us he got the jays to eat from his hand. Then he took the time to show me how he did it. First he’d put the peanut on a porch railing, then whistle them in. Then he’d hold out his hand and the jays would come to the porch roof, then furtively fly down and take a nut.

He guided me and much to my surprise and delight they ate from my hand, too. Four times. They did a lot of fretting between the tree and the roof, but eventually swooped in and took the nuts. I’ve always liked blue jays and their bossy personalities, but this made melove them even more.

Where Else to See Wildlife in Canada
Where to See Odd Birds

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I’ve heard about going with hunting guides on wildlife watching tours, but never done it. A guy I know who gives bear viewing (and not hunting) tours says the hunters mock the watchers. But the wildlife watching business isn’t nearly as developed as the hunting guide one. So where do you go if you want someone that really knows animals?

Staying in Fundy National Park I saw a brochure for nearby Adair’s Wilderness Lodge and their “wildlife tours.” Another couple in the park said everyone who went there loved it. I called and talked to Ida Adair, who said we might see deer or moose, but nothing’s guaranteed. Wildlife watchers know that’s part of the deal. The only ones who say you’re going to see an animal for sure either are lying or have some place staked out where habituated animals visit regular. The Adairs are neither. Also, they said taking our dog was fine. Larry Adair takes his shepherd with on trips, too.

We cruised around in Larry’s white van, pounding over dusty clay roads, looking in every field. A good part of the fun of the trip with Larry Adair is hearing his stories about his past adventures in the wild, with animals and with people. He may have been holding back any hunting stories that would’ve turned me off, but I think of him more as an enthusiastic outdoorsman. When I took a class for a hunting license for research, the instructor talked about the true sportsmen, who didn’t care whether they actually killed any animals, just about whether they had a good time with friends and helped others enjoy the wilderness. That’s Larry.

When I mentioned how some people in the states now get annoyed at seeing deer (which are still relatively rare in these parts), he responded “There’s nothing more exciting than seeing a wild animal.”

And we did get to see two moose cows. One, off in a field in the perfect sunset glow. The other was there when we looped back. Larry told me I could get in closer, just move when the moose’s head was down. Smart tip.

Larry mentioned that a big hunk of land near him might become part of Fundy National Park. When people asked him whether that would put him out of business, he said, no, he can make money teaching people how to hunt, with a gun or with a camera.

Ida, who made the pumpkin pie we had for dinner, also had neat stories about wildlife, like seeing the migration of nighthawks.

We also really appreciated the more laid back attitude in general in Canada about travelling with dogs. Originally for this fall trip David and I planned on going to Maine and maybe see some moose in the rut. But, we’re travelling with our old dog Jolly. He’s nearly 15 and we don’t know if this will be his last adventure.

But Maine wasn’t so accommodating. Baxter State Park doesn’t allow dogs. A moose tour out of Millinocket doesn’t either. David would’ve been content to stay behind but they didn’t even allow dogs in the cottage. So, we decided to head to New Brunswick, figuring it would be just like Maine, only more so.

We’re definitely tempted to come back to Adair’s in a bit. Larry says right after the 3-day moose hunt this week will be the rut. And then he’ll be able to call in a bull moose.

Where to See More Moose
See More Wildlilfe in Canada

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Yesterday David, Jolly and I got to see a huge colony of grey and harbor seals living on an island wildlife sanctuary on Prince Edward Island Canada. The Captain of Marine Adventures told us he’d been doing the tours for nine years and that the tour had been running since the early 1980s. He also mentioned that he recently had a 64-year-old woman passenger who said that her father used to take her out to see the seals when she was a little girl. It’s fun to think of how long people have enjoyed just going out to see the seal colony.

The captain told us that a few years ago the seals were counted and there were about 300, but he now thinks there are less, somewhere between 200 and 300. The seal pups were wiped out in recent winters because there was no ice to protect them when a storm hit.

I couldn’t count how many we saw sunning themselves on a sandbar with some cormorants and gulls. Or swimming out in the water to watch us. Some kept bobbing up behind the boat like they were following us. I asked the captain whether some people threw them fish–a tactic that more than one passenger on our cruise discussed. He said, no, it was illegal to feed them, but that maybe that’s what they were looking for from the boats. Fishermen would shoot them if they saw them behind their boats, he said.

Generally this wasn’t one of those narrative trips. We went out saw the seals and some mussel colonies, asked whatever questions we had. Fine. We really appreciated their letting Jolly come aboard. He just laid down and was fussed over by two sweet little girls. If Jolly wasn’t able to go, David would’ve stayed on shore to watch him. We learned from our whale watch in Campobello that when a dog barks at a seal colony, all the seals dive into the water. So, it would be understandable if the captain didn’t want Jolly. But instead of just banning dogs, he asked whether Jolly would bark.

Where to See More Seals

How to See More Wildlife in Canada

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The old argument for whale meat used to be that it was a cheap, familiar meat for old people who had grown up on it. Sustenance and self-sufficiency came up a lot. Now that Japan and Iceland have spurned international bans on whaling, they’re hard to market whale meat to new customers.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that in Reykjavik marketer Gunnar Bergmann Jonsson is trying to “hook” urban hipsters on whale meat by selling it in vacuum-sealed ready packs and offering recipe tips.

The Journal quotes Eva Maria Thorarinsdottir, marketing manager of Reykjavik’s Elding Whale Watching saying hunting has made minke whales much shier. So all the government of Iceland’s support of the nostalgic whaling industry is hurting people who are making a living on animal tourism. “Our business is much more profitable than theirs,” she says.

The Washington Post says the Japanese government and pro-whaling groups spend $5 million a year for promotions like to getting school kids to try whale meat. Meanwhile, though, demand is so low that prices have fallen 20% from 1999 to 2004 ($15 a pound to $12 a pound). And they still have extra that they have to freeze.

This looks like yet another program where a government is throwing money away to support a dying industry (whaling) rather than throwing money behind a growing industry (whale watching).

Find the Best Places to Go Whale-Watching Around the World
Where to See More Animals in Europe

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Spillway
Spillway,
originally uploaded by Lottery Monkey.

The New York Times had an interesting story Monday about a endangered and strange animal tourist attraction in western Pennyslvania. The animals themselves aren’t endangered. They’re just carp and mallards. For 75 years the carp have been gathering in such thick numbers that mallard ducks walk on their backs to get bread thrown by tourists.

Linesville bills itself as “Where the Duck Walk on the Fish.” The problem is that someone in the Pymatuning State Park has decided that the duck droppings have reached unacceptable proportions. So they are demanding that everyone switch to pellets. That would rule out the ducks. And the many duck-themed businesses around town. Which has locals fighting back.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has looked into the environmental impact of the situation before. The spectacle is supposed to bring in $55 million to the area. One study by Clarion University biology professor Andrew Turner found that the bread increased phosphorous in the reservoir by 50%. Too much phosphorous could produce too much algae. But the paper says that a local fish hatchery and sewage plant probably produce more phosphorous.

Look, the attraction is by no means natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth sparing. People enjoy getting a close up look at the carp and ducks. Somehow it’s always the people who just want to see nature who end up on the short end of the stick in these economic equations. It’s ridiculous to say that we should get rid of the fish-walking ducks because they’re unnatural when we’re talking about a manmade reservoir near a fish hatchery.

Where to See More Animals in the Northeast
Where to See More Odd Birds

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