March 29th – Labrador diary #2 – Time Warp

This sign separates two time zones. -DOL

Time is an issue here in southern Labrador. We’re staying in Blanc-Sablon just inside the Quebec border but our “work” takes us into Labrador. At the above sign, when I’m heading East I lose one and a half hours; when I come back by this sign I gain one and a half hours – how time flies. So let’s say it’s 8:00 AM when I’m standing right in front of it. When I walk 5 meters ahead it’s suddenly 9:30 AM. Where did that time go!?

Ice in the bay. A closer look would reveal a large number of seals – the prime reason for all the bear sightings. -DOL

Two bears in sea ice in Red Bay. -SSP

Our main task is to band Snow Buntings that are beginning to migrate through there on their way to the Canadian Arctic and Greenland. Our secondary task is to teach local interested “bird people” how to do it so that they can continue in the years to come. One of these people is Vernon Buckle whose family has lived in the area since the late 1790’s. Vernon is one of the pre-eminent birders in the province. We spent the morning and most of the afternoon with him at his house where he has established a couple of bait sites. There were not a lot of Snow Buntings about but we did manage to band 4 (all males). We also caught and banded 5 Common Redpolls. As well as the usual aluminum band, we are putting on a distinctive yellow plastic band to identify this as a bird that has been banded in southern Labrador. Hopefully these birds will be picked up in other communities as they continue their journey north.

Vernon Buckle with his first banded Snow Bunting. -DOL

In the late afternoon we made a sojourn to Red Bay which is about a 45 minute drive to the east. There has been a good bait site established there (it’s amazing how many regular citizens in Labrador are interested in Snow Buntings and put out feed for them). At this site we watched as a flock of 30 buntings whirled around the feed area. We decided we would come back tomorrow and try to catch and band some of them. While we were there, Mary (who has established the bait site) came running out of her house to report that there were 2 Polar Bears seen just about a kilometer away on the pack ice (see above picture). What a thrill to see them lolling about – one laid down to go to sleep using a block of ice as a pillow. In the open water closer to shore there were Black Guillemots (in basic plumage) and Thick-billed Murres.

The scenery between Red Bay and Forteau is very reminiscent of the area around Iqaluit (except for the trees). -DOL


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