In Pursuit of Quebec's Giant Bird Colony

Bired Watching in Quebec
Walking The Colony Trail // photo by John Marton

by Oliver Hartman, Fathom, February 3, 2015

Oliver Hartman from Jungles in Paris (one of Fathom's 24 Best Travel Blogs and Websites of 2015) spent time on Quebec's northern coast with filmmaker John Marton. They shot a documentary about the northern gannet (out next week), one of the largest sea birds of the North Atlantic, and sent over a few favorite behind-the-scene stills.

How did you reach the giant colony of gannets?

From Montreal, we took a small flight (a ten-seater, twin-prop) to Baie Commu, then another ten-minute flight to cross the bay (which would be eight hours driving, otherwise) to Mont Joli. We spent one night at the Gites in Gaspe National Park. The rest of the time was at Hotel Le Mirage, which was certainly a good vista, and, like most of Perce, quaint and cheap.

I went with another filmmaker, John Marton, and it was organized by Quebec Tourism. When we reached the colony, there were a handful of tourists coming and going via ferry (the boat makes a one-hour trip that circles Perce Rock and the island before docking). We went back a second day and saw fewer tourists. I took a path to an observation tower where I got a few shots where I'm looking down at the birds and watching them fly by, without seeing any other people.

How did you prepare for the trip? What was the impetus?

Quebec Tourism reached out to us and we dug into the story. I'm from Maine, so I'm familiar with the region and had been to Gaspe before. It was exciting to head back. We had to think about the gear (we needed a 70-200 mm lens and a doubler, which is a piece of glass that doubles the focal length of a lens), and how to carry all of it. Also, patience, because filming wildlife, even when contained to an island, requires going with the flow.

Highlights? Lowlights?

We had two days and our we had a pretty hectic itinerary on day one, but getting to go back on the second day was great. Jon ended up getting sunburned which was a lowlight, but I got some alone time with the huge and powerfully aromatic colony and also stripped down to my underwear and jumped in the ocean at a small deserted beach on the hot walk on the longest trail back to the pier.

Best takeaway?

Speaking with the guides and watching the gannets so closely was really a nice meditation on ecosystems and populations. The sunsets on Perce Rock are also quite stunning — the rock is an amazing presence to the shoreside village.


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This article originally appeared on Fathom.


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