April 1st – Labrador Diary – Pilgrimage
I started banding Snow Buntings in 2010. The next year (or maybe it was two) I got notification from the banding office that one of “my” birds had been recovered in St. Lewis, Labrador. I dug out some maps and located it: a small town on the SE corner of the province jutting out into the Atlantic. Ever since I’ve wanted to travel to St. Lewis and to meet Eva Luther, the person that recovered my bird. I finally got my chance today. The drive from Forteau was wonderful – a two-lane highway with almost no traffic that wound around old rocky mountains or dropped steeply into ice-filled river valleys. I had two wonderful sightings along the way: on the way there a timber wolf loped across the road about 50 meters in front of the car; on the way back we were passed by a moose travelling in the other direction but only 5 meters away from us.
Arthur and Eva Luther seem to be typical of the veteran Labrador folks: smart and ingenious and capable of getting much of their sustenance from the land: they hunt, fish, grow root vegetables and herbs, put up preserves (until today I’d never had partridgeberry or bakeapple jam – delicious); and they have the patience and wherewithal to fix just about anything that needs fixing. Eva has been feeding the birds at their home for a long time and has records of their arrival, attendance and numbers going all the way back to 1999. She has graciously offered to send me a copy of her notes.
Going into a community it’s good to seek out local knowledge about the wildlife. Both were very definite that numbers of many things were dropping; e.g., “snowbirds”, caribou. They also bore witness to the influx of “new” species: cormorants, sandhill cranes, blackbirds and grackles, even a Great Egret in recent years. All too soon we had to call an end to our visit and head back. But it had been wonderful to see for myself the town of St. Lewis and to meet the Luthers.