Recent News
Loading...

Recent Posts

08 March, 2015

Gannet Colonies of Bonaventure Island National Park

Gannet Colony on Bonaventure Island NP Quebec
By Heather from The Travel Type:
I'm hiking on a gently sloped trail, and after fifteen minutes I know I'm getting close to the colony because I can hear the birds squawking. The constant hum of noise gets louder the closer I get to the end of the hiking trail. I've come to Bonaventure Island National Park in Canada's French province, Québec, to see the world's largest accessible northern gannet colony, and if the sound is any indication, it's going to be an impressive sight.



The Journey Begins



Rocher Percé
Rocher Percé
It's already bright at 9am, and I'm enjoying the morning sunshine on my face as the ferry leaves the village of Percé for Bonaventure Island. The 45 minute ride includes a guided tour in French, and I need to concentrate to understand the voice blaring out of the boat's speakers. As the ferry passes by Rocher Percé (pronounced ru-shay pare-say), I hear about how sailors used the giant rock with its distinctive hole as a marine landmark for centuries. I'm jostled, and hold onto my camera tightly as other tourists crowd against me at the railing.

Gannets
Gannets
Leaving Rocher Percé behind, the boat circles around the back of Bonaventure Island before stopping at the dock to let the visitors off. Humans haven't lived on the island for over 40 years, but that doesn't mean it's uninhabited. Every year from May to October, nearly 116,000 northern gannets flock to Bonaventure Island to raise their babies before flying south to escape the Canadian winter. Gannets aren't the only birds that come to Bonaventure Island to breed: puffins, guillemots, razorbills, and other sea birds join in, making Bonaventure Island National Park the largest migratory bird sanctuary in the Province of Québec.

Following the path from the dock, I head away from the shore, passing restored historic buildings before coming to the hiking trails. I take the aptly named "Trail to the Colonies" which leads up and over to the other side of the island. Several trails lead to the gannet colonies but this is the most direct route.


The Destination



Gannet Colony
Gannet Colony 
The trail leads out of the forest and I see an open plateau and the waves of the Gulf of St. Lawrence beyond. The plateau is open but not empty: the edge of the cliffs are so crowded with gannets it's difficult to see individual birds. Just a sea of skinny white heads and blue eyes. I look around, stunned at their sheer numbers. It's no wonder heard them before reaching the end of the trail.

I walk to the rope barrier that separates the colony from the viewing area. The gannets beside the rope don't seem to notice me at all. I look out over the colony: some birds are sitting on the ground, others are walking around, and some look like they're picking fights. Individual birds are constantly flying over the colony, it amazes me there aren't any mid-air collisions.

The noisy birds assault my ears, but my nose is under attack too. In the summer heat, I can almost see the stink from the colonies rising. It's a hard to decide which is worse off: my ears or my nose.

Gannet
Gannet
Despite the unexpected noise and stink, these birds are beautiful. It's difficult to take it in when there are so many, so I take a moment to focus on an individual. Gannets have a curved neck and narrow beak that makes them streamlined flyers and efficient water hunters. They fly gracefully, and look distinguished when they uncurl their necks to shake their heads as they sit on the plateau. Their coloring is striking: beady blue eyes against white feathers.

It's been over an hour, and the viewing area is getting crowded. Ferries go back and forth from Percé all day, I’m glad I took the first boat. Summertime is busy on Bonaventure Island National Park, and leaving early means getting up close to the colonies without pushing my way through a crowd.

After taking in the size, sight, and smell of the gannet colony, I walk along the viewing area to another trail. This one takes me back across the island to the dock where I sit on a picnic table and eat my lunch. While waiting for the next ferry back to Percé, I watch the people heading for the trails and milling around outside the heritage buildings.


The Return



Bonaventure Island NP
Looking back from the boat at Bonaventure Island
My boat arrives, and I hand over my ticket and walk down the ramp with the others waiting on the dock. The Bonaventure Island ferry heads back to Percé, and I glance back to see Bonaventure Island growing smaller in the distance. Something about the island attracts winged visitors year after year, and the birds attract boatloads of tourists.

Are humans really protecting the island as a bird sanctuary? Or are the birds graciously sharing their seasonal home with us?



Heather from The Travel Type
About the author & photographer:
Heather's passion for travel compelled her to change careers, and start writing to encourage anyone who feels stuck in their life to find their fulfillment with travel. Among Heather's loves are yoga, scuba diving, and exploring the world. Come on over and say hi to Heather at her blog The Travel Type or find her on Facebook or Google+ 



57 comments:

  1. I'd LOVE to see this in person. I've never seen so many birds in one place!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's absolutely stunning Jennifer! If you're road tripping through Quebec I highly recommend a visit to Bonaventure Island.

      Delete
  2. Wow I've never seen those birds before. They are quite interesting looking. Looks like they went crazy with eyeliner lol .Great photos.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The birds look beautiful, but they're a rough bunch for sure! They're a loud, pushy bunch. Glad you liked the photos!

      Delete
  3. This place is stunning and I had no idea it was off the coast of Quebec!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have to leave the TransCanada Highway to get there, and circle around the Gaspe peninsula. You'd never find it if you were just passing through. I highly recommend a summer road trip, the entire peninsula is beautiful!

      Delete
  4. Oh my gosh, what a paradise! Those birds are so beautiful. I winder if there's bird poop everywhere..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Um, the answer is YES! The rocks are absolutely covered in it. The rope barriers in front of the colonies protect the birds, but they also protect humans from stepping in tons of poop.

      Delete
  5. I've never seen so many birds in person. This I would love to see and visit.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Those are the most stunning photographs of Gannets I had ever seen! Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Cara. I'm trying to improve my photography and your comment is very encouraging!

      Delete
  7. Wow that is amazing! That is a lot of birds! I love that rock with the hole in the middle!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When the tide is low you can walk out on a narrow strip of sand to see the rock up close. It's super-dangerous though, so I admired it from afar. :)

      Delete
  8. Wow, seeing all of those birds in one spot must be quite the experience! That rock is simply beautiful as well. I love natural stone beauty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree Echo, I love seeing unique rock formations. And this one is so HUGE! I was really impressed.

      Delete
  9. Wow that is an amazing sight to see. I am loving the bird photos. Would love to see this many up close!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For sure it's pretty overwhelming to see so many! I'm really glad you liked my photos. :)

      Delete
  10. Your pictures turned out amazing!!! This would be amazing to see in person myself I have never been to Canada before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Jennifer! I'm trying to get better at photography so I really appreciate your comment. I hope you get a chance to visit Canada someday, there's so much to see.

      Delete
  11. Whoah what an awesome place. I don't guess I've ever had the pleasure of seeing a gannet before, they are so pretty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The gannets are beautiful when they're flying, they're kind of pushy and very loud when they're in the colony! I hope you'll get the chance to see them someday, you know where to go. ;)

      Delete
  12. Nice to read something about Quebec as we lived in Montreal over 25 years. Seeing the Gannets in their numbers is pretty amazing (and I think the smell is worse that the noise). I would actually suggest for anyone visiting the area to drive along the north coast of the Gaspe, a beautiful rocky coastline of cliffs and lighthouses. In the interior are the chic-choc mountains, a great place for hiking (Freya...). But our absolute highlight of the Gaspe is actually Forillon National Park which is a couple of hours up the coast from Perce. People forget Quebec, but there is a lot of wild natural beauty without all the crowds of NE US. Then of course along the other coast of Quebec is the Charlevoix and Tadoussac (one of the best places in the world to see whales) and the Saguenay Fjord...and more incredible hikes.

    Nice post!
    Frank (bbqboy)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Frank, you are SO RIGHT about the smell, it's fairly, um, "impressive". On my road trip I had the chance to visit Forillon, and see Cap-Bon-Ami at sunrise which was wonderful, and also passed through Saguenay where we tried via ferrata and took in the fjord and amazing coastline. Quebec is full of awesome stuff!

      Delete
  13. I love all kinds of Animals and I visit lots of zoos and wildlife parks, I definitely need to add this to my list of places to visit, it's good that the ferry runs frequently too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The island makes a great day-trip Sophie, and if you want to see more on the mainland there are some easy hiking trails to views of Rocher Perce and Bonaventure Island also. I hope you can see them soon!

      Delete
  14. I love Canada and would love to visit this island. What amazing pics! I could take pictures for days if I visited there. Thanks much for sharing this. Looks like I'm going to have to add this to my wish list!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carol Ann, it was tough to take a bad photo for sure! There's so much activity in the colony, so many different ways to capture it. You'll get some great photos when you visit. :)

      Delete
  15. This is absolutely amazing and your photos turned out amazing, Heather! That was an incredible trip. Thank you for sharing her with us, Freya! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Mike! I'm really glad you enjoyed the photos because I'm trying to improve my photography. Your comment is very encouraging.

      Delete
  16. I'd love to see Canada! That scenery looks beautiful-- and I love all the gannets!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd recommend a road trip through Canada, Beth. But be sure you have lots of time, because it's HUGE!

      Delete
  17. Bonaventure Island National Park is definitely not somewhere I would want to visit. I love looking at the pictures, which you captured beautifully even while being jostled by others, but the birds wouldn't be my thing. My mother is incredibly terrified of birds and I've learned, through the years, to avoid them as best as possible :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is definitely the wrong place to go if you're terrified of birds Alysia! You can enjoy the photos without the smell. Good choice, actually. ;)

      Delete
  18. This would be truly amazing to see. I have never of Bonaventure Island before but I would love to see it indeed. The birds are so beautiful and your pictures are just amazing. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Rebecca, I'm really glad you enjoyed the photos. The birds are beautiful, and so many of them together is truly an impressive sight. Maybe you can see it too someday...?

      Delete
  19. Wow! I've never heard of this, but it is definitely something that I would like to experience. Those gannets are beautiful birds!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bonaventure Island isn't so popular that it's over run, so it's a great place to visit! I hope someday you get to see the birds in person. :)

      Delete
  20. They're just lovely. I'd love to visit there and get some pictures too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a great place for photos! The close-ups on the birds are fascinating and the panoramic shots look like a pattern. It's fun to practice different techniques.

      Delete
  21. I have never seen anything like that before. It's actually very beautiful. I would love to experience this in person.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you can see the island and the birds someday! It's a wonderful experience, and it helps when it's a bright sunny day.

      Delete
  22. The birdie chicks are very cute and fluffy.
    I hope I can visit Canada somewhere in the Fall this year to see this awesome bird colony.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The chicks look so different from the adults, it's hard to believe they grow up to be so beautiful and elegant! The fall is a wonderful time to be in Quebec, the leaves are absolutely beautiful.

      Delete
  23. How awesome is this! We've traveled a great deal in Canada, but always on the western provinces. We'll have to make a point to visit Quebec soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Western provinces have some spectacular scenery, and beautiful mountains. There aren't mountains like that on the East coast, but that doesn't mean you can't find a fantastic view. :) Quebec is beautiful, and it's so much fun to travel around, basic French helps too.

      Delete
  24. I like to see birds like this from afar, but they always get me nervous when they are on the move…I've had a few close calls with bird poo before, and it's not fun. OMGoodness…I can only imagine the smell. The scenery of the water and rock formations are nice, though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If seeing birds up close isn't your thing, stick to the photos Yona! And you're right about the smell, it's definitely awful. If you like scenery and rocks, stick to the boat tour and don't get off at the island.

      Delete
  25. This is so close to me but I have never been! I would love to take a trip sometimes soon to see the Rocher Percé in person!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, isn't that the way? When something is far away you make a point of visiting but something is close you don't. It's worth a trip, even if it's just a short one.

      Delete
  26. These lovely chicks are adorable.
    I know that I cannot touch them even if I get there, but at least I want to see them from a close distance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The chicks were so cute, and the adults were lovely! You can get quite close, as long as the birds are near the rope. They don't care about humans at all!

      Delete
  27. I love that place, it looks so majestic! I would love to visit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bonaventure Island is a really special place, Katarina. I hope you can visit someday!

      Delete
  28. Wow, such beauty for a place I have to admit I didn't know about until today. I am a bit of a birdie myself, so seeing these pictures made my heart melt a bit and it looks like the weather was okay for your trip. Filing this one away like the gannets do with their food!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos Jane! And that just made a funny picture in my head, of you filing this away like a gannet eats a fish. Ha ha! I hope you get to visit one day, it really is a wonderful place.

    ReplyDelete
  30. The birds are adorable! What a wonderful adventure!

    ReplyDelete

I love to hear from you, so feel free to leave your comments.
All comments are moderated ... spam comments will be deleted.
Bloggers can use any of the available IDs or alternatively open ID or name/url to leave a link to their blog or latest post.
Looking forward to hear from you!
Freya - Holiday Nomad