Yes, I’m posting! Yay! 😉
I don’t know whether I mentioned this or not – I might have only mentioned it on the tagAught blog – but I’m currently in a program run by Eastern Health (the section of the Newfoundland health system that covers the eastern part of the island) where I live in a house with housemates for about a year or so, learning the life skills that I lack (for which we have a life skills instructor), and then move on to an apartment. It’s a carefully regulated program, and it’s already started making a difference for me. (The only thing is that I go back to my parents’ on the weekend, because otherwise Imber and I would miss each other two much – no pets are allowed in the house, because of potential allergies and potential issues with cleanup.)
Anyway, our current life skills instructor made the suggestion that we might want to take the occasional outing as a house (AKA her and our housemates), just to have some interesting things happen and bond as housemates. So a rec budget is being set up, but in the meantime, since our current life skills instructor is leaving at the end of this week, she suggested we go somewhere free. So yesterday, we took off to Salmonier Nature Park, which is an educational centre and a wildlife rehabilitation park. They take in wild animals who are injured, most of whom are native to Newfoundland and Labrador (I say “most” because moose are not actually native here; they were imported by a British governor in 1912 who was looking for a hunting challenge), and help them. If they’re able to be fully healed, they are then released back into the wild where they are found; if they’re too damaged to survive in the wild, but still able to live they’re placed in the park; and if they’re way too damaged, they’re put down.
Salmonier Nature Park is about an hour’s drive from St. John’s, with no gravel roads (except the short driveway/entrance to the park), and the walk around the rehabilitation area (which is actually only a small part of the park itself) takes about an hour as well. It was a pleasant drive out, and despite the threat of light rain, we only got sprinkled on a tiny bit as we were walking through (despite having to drive through a short downpour on our way there!). While we were going through, I took pictures of every animal we managed to see with my cell phone. *grins*
So, we got into the Visitor’s Centre (which is just past the head of the trail at the moment; they’re building a new “headquarters”, a much larger one, but it’s still in the process of getting the inside done – the outside seems to be finished, though), and did a quick tour of the exhibits they had available.
Including an interesting one about white coyotes that have been seen lately in Newfoundland. They’re not albinos – they have normal coloured eyes, etc., but their fur is pure white. One was killed accidently, and researchers found that it had a variation of a gene that shows up in golden retrievers, which is what gives their coat that colour – the gene variation (I think – I’m going on what I remember from the exhibit) prevents the fur from absorbing the colour, but doesn’t affect the eyes or the production of the colour. They then found that a golden retriever had run away in 2002, and never been found; so they suspect that the white coyotes might be descendants of golden retriever/coyote hybrids. The gene variation in question is recessive, so the white coyotes would be the result of interbreeding between two of the descendant hybrids. It was quite an interesting read!
But I can definitely see why they need the new building. The current Visitor’s Centre is cramped, and the exhibits are tightly put together, and when seeing the second floor exhibits, the floor groans with every step!
Anyway, the man in the reception area informed us of what animals were currently in the park (they don’t always have all the animals with sections that are unreleasable but able to be shown to visitors): they had two snowy owls, two great horned owls, two caribou, two moose, one Newfoundland pine marten, one peregrine falcon, two bald eagles, two lynx, one albino mink, one arctic fox, and one red fox. (They had no woodchucks – also known as marmots or groundhogs – no Canadian geese, no snowshoe hares, and a few others that I can’t remember at this point.)
So, we started down the trail – which is completely boardwalked at this point (see the site for details!). It was quite pleasant – the middle of a forest, with birds singing around (and yes, they were singing)… the smells of nature…. Despite my headache, I found myself quite enjoying it. (Yes, terrible headache, still hanging on today, but whatever….) It was lovely. (Which is part of the whole point of the park – getting Back To Nature and encouraging youngsters today to connect better with nature.)
The first place we came to had the Snowy Owls. We only saw one of them; not the one that’s been with the park for a while, but a recent addition, a juvenile male who is still rather uncertain of the visitors that pass by. He watched us warily the entire time that we watched him. 😉
I don’t think the snowy owls could fly, because their enclosure had no top to it.
Next were the Caribou. They pretty much stayed where they were, but it was interesting seeing them. Caribou are native to Newfoundland and Labrador (a lot more native than moose!) and their population started taking a downturn in the early 1900s due to overhunting. (And possibly also to the entrance of moose into their environment….) There were two caribou in the enclosure, and we saw both of them just lying there.
Here’a a better image of the closer of the two caribou:
And here’s the farther of the two, unobscured by the fencing (sort of) – this one kept their back to us pretty much the entire time:
After the caribou, we saw the Great Horned Owls. They were neat – and one of them (whom the receptionists at the Visitor’s Centre, when I stopped in at the way back, called “not in the best of tempers”) actually barked at us, a few times! And it was definitely a bark, not a hoot – the first time, I almost looked around to see where the dog was!
This is the one who barked at us. I’ve got a few pictures of him, with his head in different positions, but this was when he was looking straight at us, so I think it’s the best picture.
The other one just sat on the stump at the other end of the enclosure, and appeared fairly disinterested in us:
After the Great Horned Owls, we saw the lynxes. (The receptionists at the Visitor’s Centre were rather surprised that we actually got to see the lynxes – usually people miss seeing them.) The first one was lying by the bushes near the front of the enclosure when we first got there, and I tried to take a picture, but it evidently wasn’t interested in being seen by us, so it got up and went to a small square area where a fallen tree intersected some green bushes and lay down there – and I didn’t get a picture of it before that, though I tried. Then the other lynx in the enclosure wandered over from wherever it had been, and I managed to get a fuzzy picture of the two of them in the “square” area – not the greatest quality, between being a cell phone camera, their camouflage, and the distance. As a result, I did a bit of editing to show where they are in the pic:
We went on from the lynx enclosure to take a look at the Newfoundland pine marten, which managed to get moved from “Endangered” to “Threatened” status, in part due to the efforts of Salmonier Nature Park at conservation and breeding. Unfortunately, the marten wasn’t in the mood for visitors, so we didn’t see it. A pity, since I was looking forward to it, but… *shrugs* You can’t exactly force the animals to come out and see the visitors. According to the site, visitors who get lucky might see 80% of the animals present when they come.
After the marten was the peregrine falcon. Lovely creature – I’ve never seen a peregrine falcon before, though I’ve read about them; it simply stayed on its stump watching us, and looking around. Speedy creatures – peregrine falcons can go up to 250 km/hr when diving on their prey!
After the falcon, we saw the two bald eagles. Again, like the snowy owls, I don’t think they could fly, because there was no cover over their enclosure. There were two, an adult and a juvenile (less than 4 years old). The way you can distinguish them is that the adults have the fully white head, and the juveniles have a dark head that slowly turns white.
The adult just stayed on its stump, watching us:
The juvenile, on the other hand, was walking along the edge of the creek/river that ran through their enclosure. It was eating something when we first saw it:
Then it walked around a bit. Legs looked huge in comparison to other birds, because of the way they’re covered in feathers.
After that, we saw the Moose enclosure. The moose were at the far end, and (again) stayed where they were, not even really moving to look at us. I took a picture, but all you can really see of the moose are the large brown things near the upper centre:
After that, we went to the albino mink enclosure. Like the marten, it seemed the mink didn’t want to greet any visitors, so we couldn’t see it. Pity, again, but… *shrugs again*
Next was the snowshoe hare enclosure; we’d forgotten that the Visitor’s Centre had said they didn’t have any at the moment. So we looked for some, but didn’t find any. (Naturally! 😉 )
Following that was the red fox enclosure. I was rather looking forward to that, even though there was only one in at the time, and was hoping to take a number of pictures. (See any and all references to A Fox’s Journey, A Fox’s Fight, and The Trickster’s Trade, and my kitsune protagonist, for why! 🙂 ) Unfortunately, the red fox felt the same as the marten and the minx, and had a lot of hiding places right around the fence near to us (and so more otherwhere in the enclosure), so we didn’t get to see it either. (Actually, the Visitor’s Centre mentioned to me when I said that, that the foxes had been acting a bit oddly lately.)
Nor did we get to see the arctic fox that was next (and last) on the trail. Again, not in the mood for visitors, I would say.
But even without getting to see all of the animals, I had a great time. It was a pleasant walk, very green (which I appreciate – it’s a colour that doesn’t tend to hurt my eyes, even when we’re talking green light), and the weather was good for it; not too sunny (which also hurts my eyes), only a tiny bit of sprinkle (I think I got a total of about 5-6 drops of water on me the entire walk), and quiet. It helped.
And the animals we got to see were fascinating, as was the info about them! So I really enjoyed it, and definitely plan on going back sometime.