Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Day 8 Cape Breton Highlands

Today we'd enter Cape Breton Highland's National Park, where we intend to spend the next couple of days exploring.

Cape Breton Highland's National Park
Covering 950 Sq kilometers the park is one of the largest protected wilderness areas in Nova Scotia. It is part of a system of national parks protecting significant landscape throughout Canada. This particular park is known for it's spectacular highlands and ocean scenery, steep cliffs and deep river canyons, which carve into forested plateau bordering the Atlantic Ocean.

Dare I say even more Cedar Waxwings on route and a stop at Mabou for lunch, were the normal landscape of spruce and birch forest changed for a while to open fallow fields, yielded a lovely pair of Bobolink, my first for Canada.

Just prior to entering the park a stop off at Cheticamp for a few supplies and a look around. Cheticamp is a fishing community on the Cabot Trail. The community has almost 4,000 residents, a large number of whom are Acadians and speak French natively, as well as English. Together with its smaller neighbour, Saint-Joseph-du-Moine, Chéticamp makes up the largest Francophone enclave on Cape Breton Island and it's well worth a stop.

Sunset Over The Gulf Of St. Lawrence
After registering at the park entrance we decided to stay at Corney Brook, a small unserviced campground we'd discovered with spectacular views looking west over the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This place was an absolute joy and Dee and I just sat out all evening with scope and binoculars overlooking the ocean in glorious sunshine and a cloudless stunningly blue sky. Gannets diving, Black Guillemot a plenty, Great Cormorant, Double-breasted Cormorant, Red-breasted Merganser and the odd Grey Seals bobbing up occasionally for a nose.

Merlin (Probably Taiga)
We were treated to a fantastic sunset and some great views of a pair of Merlin, which were quite likely nesting locally. There are three different popultions here which differ in overall colour and judging by the colouring of this particular bird it seems likely of the Taiga variety, a bird of the east. As night fell wave after wave of Gannet and Cormorant could be seen silouetted against the orange backdrop on route to their various roosts and as the night sky emerged a new moon and a setting Venus and Mercury, the latter not often seen.

One Of Many Gannet Diving For Fish!
With almost zero light pollution the sky was ablaze with stars and Saturn looked amazing through the scope. A dozen or so meteors and satellites skimmed through and although not entirely sure of timings one really bright one may well have been the ISS. Not since completing a Wadi tour of Oman many years ago and visiting Kenya several times can I remember such a stunningly dark sky. This has been one of the most memorable evenings I can remember and one Dee and I will cherish for all time!

BUBO Listing www.bubo.org