The Sky

I’m not always looking down into the water, though. The skies above Newfoundland are speckled with many types of seabirds. They, too, are looking for capelin. Seabirds form massive colonies of thousands of birds. Here, parent birds raise their chicks on land until they can all fly together to
the ocean.

The best-known birds on the island are Atlantic puffins. It’s hard not to notice their bright orange-red bills and feet. But you’d be surprised what they do with them! Puffins use them to dig underground burrows in the grassy areas of Gull Island in Witless Bay. There, puffin parents raise a single chick, protected from predators.

These potato-shaped birds are strong flyers and excellent swimmers, and they like to combine their skills into one assault on the sea. They take to the sky and then catapult themselves downward, straight into the water. They break the surface of the water with beaks full of fish.

Puffins are a familiar sight on Gull island.

Northern gannets are strong flyers that nest on the sides of cliffs.

Newfoundland has another winged visitor called the northern gannet. They are much bigger than puffins and look nothing like a potato. They are slender and shaped like an airplane. Because of the design of their body, they can stay airborne just by holding their wings out and gliding with the wind. They are hard to miss because the special markings around their blue eyes make them look like they are wearing makeup.

I’ve traveled to a place called Cape St. Mary’s to see these fancy birds. You have to travel on long dirt roads and hike down a long, steep trail toward the ocean. At the end of the trail, there’s a cliff with a
91-meter (300-foot) drop.
Just on the other side, out of jumping reach, there are thousands of gannets nesting in the open. Exposed to the harsh elements, these birds somehow manage to stay put without falling into the roaring ocean. It’s spectacular! 

Our moose “mascots” often munch on native plants. 

The Land

I told you about my encounter with the caribou at the lighthouse. Newfoundland also has its share of moose. They are something of a mascot here. But they didn’t come from here. People introduced a handful of these animals to the island more than a hundred years ago. 

Moose quickly adapted to this environment. Thousands of them live in the forests and wetlands, grazing on grasses and other plants. I’ve spotted them on Gros Morne mountain, the second-tallest mountain in Newfoundland. Their outsized appetite is actually becoming a problem. The moose are munching on all the native plants and changing the plant ecosystem. It’s something we need to pay attention to.

The Full Picture

You might be wondering: Why is it important for a marine biologist to pay attention to land and sky creatures? Newfoundland has taught me about the connections that exist between sea, sky, and land. I’ve learned that all of the living things in an ecosystem rely on each other. For the birds in the sky to prosper, they need the fish in the ocean. For land animals to prosper, they need plants and other animals to eat.

As a scientist, it’s important for me to observe all aspects of an ecosystem. To me, Newfoundland is a special place. How is where you live special to you? I hope that you go out in your part of the world and fully experience it. Take a look at the wildlife around you. See if you can find the connections between the plants and animals. By thinking critically about our world, we can start to see how everything fits together. 

Newfoundland’s sea, sky, and land are filled with life!