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Gaspé—Ile Bonaventure



September 10–11, 1999

We discovered the next morning that we had not been the only guests at Cotê de Surprise overnight—there had been five other rooms filled! It seems we had arrived on the last weekend the establishment would be open before closing for the winter. In fact, had we arrived a week later, we would not have found much open in the area at all.

Even though the fog was as thick as pea soup, we couldn't leave without a visit to Ile Bonaventure to see the gannet colony there. So we had a quick breakfast and hurried to catch the boat tour. The boat, a small one that rode the choppy waters like a bucking bronco, sailed close to Rocher Percé so we could get a good look at the hole in the rock. Here's what we saw, at close range.

As we drew nearer to Ile Bonaventure, we began seeing curious heads popping out of the water near the boat. These were the seals coming out to see who was visiting. They were really cute! We also saw a lot of birds, both in the air and perched on the sheer cliffs of the island. Here is a passage I lifted from another site (thanks to that accurately describes the experience of a visit to Ile Bonaventure:

"In 1604, Samuel de Champlain wrote of Canada's Atlantic coast: 'The abundance of birds of different kinds is so great that no one would believe it possible unless he had seen it.' This spectacle is now limited to remote Atlantic islets as well as Bonaventure Island where over 200,000 birds nest in an area of only 416 off the Percé coast. Of these, about 50,000 birds form the largest gannet colony in North America. Other seabirds include Leach's stormy petrel, herring gull, black legged kittiwake, common murre, black guillemot and the razorbill, many of which can also be seen on nearby Percé Rock. A boat ride to Bonaventure Island allows some interesting walks among wildflower meadows to the cliffs overlooking the gannet colony. There are outstanding views of the mainland but this is not a peaceful walk due to screeching birds and pungent odors. Generally, the best birding sites in Gaspesie range from Cape Bon Ami in Forillon Park to the New Brunswick border. Brackish waters, where rivers meet the sea, as well as sandbars, attract great numbers of shorebirds. Two favorite sandbars for bird watching are located at Barachois, just north of Percé, and Carleton. Shorebirds can also be seen on the northern coast in the saltwater marsh located at the Baie-de-Capucins."

It was interesting to watch the bird socializations. There were quite a few "youngsters" in the gannet colony, as evidenced by their gray moulty feathers. Each young bird had a parent fussing over it. Occasionally the other parent would swoop down from the sky with a choice morsel for the family. We caught up with a park ranger at the site, who told us that each of the parents takes turns going off to find food. Upon return, the adult bird finds its family in that huge population by listening for the apparently unique "voices" of its own.

It was time to start back to Virginia. A long trip. We bade a reluctant goodbye to the Gaspé Land's End and started driving down along Gaspé's southern coast towards New Brunswick. We stopped from time to time at picturesque spots, but none compared to those we had seen along the rugged northern coast. The southern coast was more densely populated and catered to the beach crowd. Towards the end of the day, it started to rain very hard, the rain staying with us for the duration of the day's drive. It ended up being a very long day as we made the mistake of not stopping when we crossed over into New Brunswick. There was nothing for miles, and we were beginning to worry about finding food and lodging (or even something approaching civilization at all) when we came across one place in the middle of nowhere—the O'Regal Motel—that had both available. We were surprised to find mostly French-speaking people in this region.

The trip down through Maine was long, as expected. The most excitement we had was seeing a young black bear scamper across the highway. We still haven't seen one moose!! We broke the trip up a bit by stopping off in Freeport to have a look at the LL Bean outlet. We found not only LL Bean, but a whole town of outlet shops there! We relaxed over a lobster and shrimp dinner and discussed our thoroughly enjoyable trip to Gaspé. If you're from Virginia, two days up and two days back, but worth every long highway mile.


The pierced rock at Perce


The cliffs of Ile Bonaventure


Lotsa gannets


Gannet with youngster


Gannet bring food to young


Gannet colony at Bonaventure Island


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