During the last week of September I had the opportunity to travel South coast of Labrador or the "Straits", an area that I had last visited (by road) some thirty years or so ago. We flew out of Happy Valley -Goose Bay via Provincial Airlines to St. Anthony and then back to Blanc Sablon and travelled by road to Port Hope Simpson and returned two days later by the same route.
The first stopover of some 5 hours in St. Anthony gave us some time to "stretch our legs" and do a little stroll around before our flight to Blanc Sablon. Along the road away from the airport, we encountered our first bird species, a small flock of four or five Horned Larks, in full alternate plumage, flittering over the rocky outcrops and the barrens of low Blueberry and Partridgeberry plants, scrub spruce and Labrador Tea. The larks, open habitat birds, were likely on their way to southern climes for the winter. I heard and then observed a Black-backed Woodpecker as it went from one dead spruce tree to the next. We saw a single Fox Sparrow flirt across the road and twice we disturbed a flock of some 30 to 40 Crows, likely feeding on the remains of a harvested Moose.
Our road trip from Blanc Sablon to Port Hope Simpson was in the dark but on our return, the majority of the trip was in daylight and the colors were spectacular! The Birch and Mountain Ash mixed with Pin Cherry made a collage of red, golden's and yellows on the green landscape backdrop of Spruce trees along Shinney's River. Between Lodge Bay and Red Bay, the yellows of the Tamarack interspersed with the low spruce tuckamore was brilliant against the dark blue pond waters and the light blue hues of the sky. It wasn't until nearing Red Bay that we disturbed our first Black Duck from a pond near the edge of the road.
It was evening by the time we reached Red Bay and had a cursory view of the historic sight at dusk and then proceeded to L'Anse au Claire for the evening. Early the next morning we drove to Blanc Sablon in search of shorebirds and waterfowl and were not disappointed. In a cove adjacent to the road in Blanc Sablon we found some 32 Green-winged Teals feeding in the intertidal area at about half tide along with 2 Short-billed Dowitchers and a Greater Yellowlegs. While observing the teals, a local resident driving by asked if we were watching Black Ducks. When we responded that they we teals, he said, "If you want to see ducks, just follow me."
Near the center of town on the coast near the fish plant there were several small weedy ponds surrounded by houses. These small ponds contained a myriad of waterfowl and shorebird species. One small pond, where the locals fed the ducks contained over 100 wild Mallards. Another had a dozen Green-winged Teal and a Greater Yellowlegs. A third pond had a Greater Yellowlegs, five White-rumped Sandpipers, half a dozen Green-winged Teal and a dozen Northern Pintail.
What a wonderful experience driving through the straits where most of the scenic views resembled parks and the migrating shorebirds and waterfowl could be viewed right in the community. I had forgotten how beautiful the south coast of Labrador or "the Straits" were and the hospitality of the local people was outstanding!
Tony Chubbs is a Wildlife Biologist, Naturalist, avid Sportsman and Outdoors Writer and resides in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org