Cape Breton

The highlands of Cape Breton are the juxtaposition to city life.  This sleepy island cluster on the easternmost part of Nova Scotia captivates with sharp peaks, craggy drop-offs, highland forests, inland rivers and the Bras D’Ors lakes fed by the sea.  We took a multi-day trip here with Roam and Tiovoli to explore the Cabot Trail by car, staying in cute little cottages and taking in the scenery along the way.


The villages along the coastline were disconnected Gaelic and Acadian fishing settlements in the distant past such that they developed independent of one another.  There were vast salmon fisheries in the rivers and lakes since the days of the  Mi'kmaq indians.  Now they are not much more than a memory.  The remaining fleets now fish lobster in a short summer season, and squid and mackerel off season.

Cape Breton National Highlands park has endless trails that would be fun to explore.  In fact, we didn’t see much of anything in our early morning hike in chilly fog.  The effect was eerie but the terrain still breathtaking.  

We didn’t see a moose, but we did see a track!  

There was a snowshoe hare (in summer colors) and few songbirds crying a sweet song like this hermit thrush.

The highlight of our time in Canada was a visit to small islands off of the coast by tour boat.  On the way we saw a northern gannet flying by and the captain said that these birds often follow whales by the sea… and up came a minke whale to prove him right!

There was an [over]abundance of everything on the islands on this day!  Gray seals perched on every low rock.  There wasn’t enough space for all of them so the rest bobbed around or swam by to check us out.  

Angular rock formations were the perfect housing for nests.  The herring gulls, black-legged kittiwakes (smaller than herring gulls with black legs), ruddy turnstones (note 2 in photo), great blue herons and cormorants were breeding here in July.

One huge surprise was the number of bald eagles on these islands.  

We saw no less than 25 eagles, probably more like 30-35 in total.  

The juveniles were well camouflaged and just starting to fly.  

A friend informed me of a bald eagle replacement program that has been successful in bringing birds from Cape Breton to the USA.  They are certainly much more common to see in the eastern seaboard of the USA these days, fishing alongside the osprey.

There were other new [to us] waterbirds to see here including the black guillemot (with bright red feet) and the razorbill.  

...But the big draw of the trip was the irresistible puffin!  

They are smaller than you might expect but their cuteness is grand.  

They dive, fish, puff-up, take-off with frantic wing-beats and fly back to their nests.  There must have been favorable conditions here since the captain mentioned this was the most puffins they’d seen in a long while.  It was a true puffinry (aka… a burrow, circus, colony, improbability of puffins)!

© M&M 2016