Canada is known around the world for it’s winter. A country famous for snow, ice, and seriously cold temperatures, this climate is not for everyone.
Although at Chez Skerwink we see winter as our playground, there are a couple of local Newfoundland residents that hightail it south the moment the days begin to shorten. And no I’m not talking about Mr and Mrs Jones who fly to their condo in Florida, but rather our much larger, fish-eating friends that draw crowds in the summertime.
So where do they go? Who hangs around for the frosty weather, and who takes off in search of warmer seas?
As it turns out, some animals do neither. Puffins, for example, head out to sea to spend winter alone, bobbing up and down in the open ocean. Their white bellies and black backs camouflage them from predators, and the oils in their plumage keep their downy under-feathers warm and dry.
In the springtime mature birds will return to the colonies where they were hatched. Once there, they will rekindle the bond with their life-partner by building a new nest, and through courtship rituals that will continue throughout the summer, as they raise the next generation of chicks together.
Gannets in contrast will head south as a large group, maintaining strength in numbers. The younger birds will fly as far south as the Gulf of Mexico to enjoy some sunshine, while the more mature birds will stay a little closer to home. As a result, the younger birds return to the breeding grounds much later than the mature birds, and do not mate in their first season.
Finally, bald eagles do not mind the cold weather, and therefore will stay put unless a particularly harsh winter reduces access to their food supply. In Newfoundland you can see bald eagles on the coasts all year long. As long as they can access fish in the ocean, they will not migrate. If they are inland birds that depend on lakes and rivers, they may be forced to move to coastal areas as frozen waters cannot be fished.
What about the bigger beasts?
After spending the summer months feeding, humpback whales return to warmer equatorial waters to mate, and calve. Competition is fierce and bulls will compete with each other to win the right to mate with a certain female. Cows will mate once every two to three years, and those not mating, or calving may choose to winter closer to the feeding grounds.
Last but not least, orcas. Amazingly, orca migration patterns are still poorly understood. Although the same individuals have been shown to return to similar areas in the summer months, little is known about where these animals go for the rest of the year.
Whether they like it hot, cold, or something in between, they always come back to enjoy the plentiful fish off the coast of Newfoundland in the summertime. We look forward to seeing these great animals return in the spring. Perhaps you will join us.
The Skerwinkles xox