Sunday, 26 July 2020

Iceberg Alley, Newfoundland

Iceberg Alley, Newfoundland

Some of you may remember that, last year (2019), we spent a month in Newfoundland - our first visit to our easternmost province. It had been on our bucket list for many years, so it was awesome to finally dust off that ambition.

Since then, I have been meaning to post a blog about the amazing experience we had with our encounters with icebergs in, what is known as, Iceberg Alley. At last, I've gotten around to writing this. 

Before you watch the slide show, there are a couple of interesting things we found out about these ice giants - mainly from the guide on the Iceberg Tour Boat, out of Saint Anthony. 

Icebergs usually being their journey when huge chunks off ice break off from the glaciers near to Greenland. It usually takes 2 years for them to float into the vicinity of Newfoundland/Labrador, where they tend to become trapped in bays, or bights, and remain there for a couple of months until they melt away, usually in mid-late July. The month of June is an excellent time to view them, as they sometimes come quite close to the shoreline, and there are some amazing photos, on social media, of humongous icebergs forming a backdrop to a small village, with buildings dwarfed in front of them.

This video shows some Greenland gravel on the top of the flat surface:


On some of the photos, you'll see a straight blue line, in the iceberg. These lines indicate a previous waterline mark before an iceberg upends, as a result of becoming top heavy. We didn't see it, in person, but when an iceberg turns upside down, it is a phenomenal event to witness. 

In this slide show, the first two pictures in the slide show are taken from the roadside on our journey up the western side of the Island, on our way up north to Saint Anthony. 

This first glimpse of an iceberg was spectacular as it was shaped like a huge swan!

Most of the pics are from our boat tour. One iceberg, at Saint Carols, was so magnificent that, at the end of the tour, we decided to drive round to the cove and view it from the land. We remained there for a couple of hours, taking in the sheer beauty of this natural edifice while enjoying a picnic on the rocks. 

Towards the end, you'll see another photo of an iceberg taken from Dungeons Provincial Park, near Bonavista, and the last few are from an iceberg we went to see near Twillingate. The latter iceberg (with the boat next to it) actually split in two the following day. We missed it by just a few minutes. 

Anyway, here's the slide show.... just click the picture to start it. 

The guide and skipper on the tour boat had a great sense of humour, too. As we approached our first large iceberg, they started to play the theme music from the movie, 'Titanic'! The boat went in quite close, and the tour guide was able to chip off a large piece of ice, which he proceeded to break up into small pieces for each of the tourists to try. Although there was a slight taste of salt (because it had been in the sea), it was crystal clear, and refreshing. The glaciers from which the iceberg had come were formed before the Industrial Revolution, and so were free from most of the pollution formed since that era. 

He was telling us that many local folk gather the ice from the bergs and use it to make beer. They call it, 'Iceberg Beer', and it's a speciality in the area. 

Beer, or no beer, we will never forget our first encounter with these ice giants. 


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Monday, 20 July 2020

Happy 64th Birthday, Mark!

Happy Birthday to this wonderful human being who made his first appearance in Hamilton, Ontario. 

Mark is the easiest person to love, as anyone who meets him will attest. He has a wonderfully warm spirit, a beautiful heart, a great capacity for listening, and lives life to the fullest. 

I am so blessed to have known him over the last 28 years and I know that I’m the luckiest man alive to be with him 24/7. 

Darling, you have my heart, now and always. I will love you forever and a day!  xxx ooo 

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Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Recent Encounters with Local Wildlife - Part 1 (Our Feathered Friends)

Recent Encounters with Local Wildlife - Part 1 

(Our Feathered Friends)


During this challenging time of social/physical distancing, we're feeling really fortunate to be living where we do, in Northern Ontario. We live on the top floor of our apartment building, and are using the nine flights of stairs to take us straight to the parking lot, avoiding the elevator as much as possible.

Once in the car, we can travel just five minutes north of the town, and be in the surrounding wilderness and designated crown land, where we can drive or hike without meeting anyone, and we can still be following the protocols. 

Although all public parks and trails have been closed, we still have access to all the natural trails and so can get out in the fresh air without compromising ourselves or others. Instead of just being 2 metres away from others, we’re often 20 km distant – and that has sometimes stretched to 200 km!

Like most people, we miss meeting up with friends to share a meal, or do something together with them; and we REALLY miss our normal traveling and house/pet sitting adventures. However, we've been using this free time to explore our area in more detail, following trails that we have not yet traveled, and venturing out at all times of the day in the hope of seeing some of the abundant wildlife we have on our doorstep. 

So, we decided to share some of the photos and video clips of wildlife that we have been lucky enough to capture during our recent local excursions. This blog will focus upon the various birds we have seen. Part 2 will share our shots of larger wildlife.

Between our Nikon Coolpix P900 camera, and our Samsung S9 Cellphone, we have been very happy with some of our results. Hope you enjoy them, too!


For the first time in years, we've sighted several kestrels, just north of Iron Bridge. 

Turkey vultures may not be the prettiest of birds, but they are fun to watch

A first, for us, we were delighted when we came across this chestnut-sided warbler...

...and his cousin, a black and white warbler

We've also been lucky to have spotted several other species that we hadn't noticed before. 

Northern Flicker


Rose Breasted Grosbeak

We managed to capture the sweet song of the Rose Crested Grosbeak. 

Snow Bunting

Tree Swallow

Then, there are species that are more familiar to us.

Robin (the ones I grew up with, in the U.K., were much smaller that their North Amercian cousins)

Common Gull

Red-Wing Blackbird


Song Sparrow
Broad Wing Hawk


I'm reminded of a funny story. Just one year after my arrival in Canada, a friend from the U.K. came over for a visit. We were on Toronto Island, not far from the airport, when we noticed a man taking a photo of some birds. We said to him, 'Excuse me, but we've noticed a lot of birds that look like blackbirds, but have red wings. What are they called?' He answered, 'They are red-wing blackbirds!'  We both laughed at ourselves, which masked our embarrassment! 

One of our favourite birds is the woodpecker. We have seen several Downy and Hairy varieties, but the one we always look out for is the Pileated Woodpecker, with its distinctive call and low-pitched tapping. 

Here's a video clip of him tapping for grubs. (The first part is a little shaky!)

...and in the following clip, you can barely see him, but you can hear his tapping - and his call...


Living in a town that is surrounded by over 4000 lakes within a 100 km radius, we are well situated to see a variety of water fowl.

Loon - the cry of which epitomizes the North for us

This duck was escorting her clan across the road and into the bush


Ring-Necked Duck

Spotted Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

We had seen a Bittern in Algonquin Park, but this one, which was standing on the side of the road, was our first sighting in this area

Various mergansers adorn our surrounding lakes

Sandhill Cranes are often to be seen during the summer months.

These cranes were intermingling with Canada geese in a local field

We managed to capture this one, as it was taking off...

...and these two took off on the read ahead!

We were fortunate to capture all these different birds over the last few weeks. 

Before finishing, I just have to share this video of some Sandhill Cranes taking off when we were visiting Manitoulin Island during our first year, in Elliot Lake. It will always leave me in awe - and appreciation of being in the right place, at the right time.  

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Saturday, 23 May 2020

Enjoying our Local Environment while Social Distancing

Enjoying our Local Environment while Social Distancing

We are fortunate, indeed, to be living in Northern Ontario - especially in the area surrounding Elliot Lake, with its 4000 lakes within a 100 km range. 

During the current pandemic, we have been following the protocols of social distancing, but are still able to relish all that our local environment has to offer. Nestled within thousands of hectares of unspoiled crown land, we have ample opportunities to explore - and there is a plethora of natural trails all begging for us to use them. 

Over the last few weeks, we have availed ourselves of these opportunities and we thought we'd like to share some of the local spots that we have been enjoying. 

Lovely - at any time of the year!

Looking south from Willisville, near Espanola

We are especially happy to see the signs of spring, later this year than in others, and all the more welcome because of its tardiness. 

The beautiful Trillium - Ontario's Provincial Flower
Different shades of green emerging out of the bareness of the winter branches

The following video clip shows, what is purported to be, one of the most photographed spot in the area, traveling south on the Boland Hill. (To enlarge the video, just click the broken square icon to the right of where it says, 'YouTube').

Yesterday, we came across this young man who was fly fishing in the Little White River. 

Click above to see a short video clip of this man's skill in action

We keep returning to this beaver's lodge in the hope of seeing its occupant. No luck, as of yet, but we'll continue to be patient!

The other day, we discovered these falls on the Serpent River, just 20 minutes south of the town. We've been here for nearly 7 years, and have only just come across them! Future picnic site, for sure! (Click the pic for a short video clip).

Not to forget an old favourite of ours to which we keep on returning - Bell's Falls, on the road north to Chapleau. 

We've had some interesting sunsets recently!

We'll never regret moving to this area. Elliot Lake is aptly called, 'The Jewel of the North'!

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