Percé and the Gannet Colony

July 15, 2013
Posted on August 31, 2013

We woke up to a hot day. The sun was blazing and we got our sneakers on and shorts and went to have breakfast at ~10am. Parched after a hot night we asked for an extra helping of cold juice to add to our chocolate croissant and a good cup of coffee. The host had a telescope setup and told us that it was pointing at whales that he had seen earlier. I couldn’t see them due to all the waves. That day we cleaned the chains and lubed them, but left the bikes parked and headed down to the village on foot.


Hotel’s backyard overlooking the town and rock of Percé.

We bought boat tickets at the first booth we could find and went to get drinks. The boat was departing in 20 minutes, so not a lot of time for anything else. We also bought sunscreen remembering how red our faces became on a similar tour in colder weather. We met a funny grocery clerk who upon hearing that we were from Toronto proceeded to make jokes about our (allegedly) crack smoking major.

The boat did not leave on time, it was waiting for another boat, a Zodiac, to come in and use our boat to relay passengers through to the pier. As the tour started the boat made its way around the rock, towards the island. We saw tons of seals, gannets and auks (the latter look a bit like penguins).

Zodiac docking

Percé from the sea

Seal on the rocks

Northern Gannet mid-flight

We landed on the island and met a family from India whom we helped out because they did not have any Canadian money left and the park wouldn’t accept their US cash. We bought some drinks for the hike. It was only about 40 minutes long and it wasn’t too complicated. Everybody kept saying bonjour bonjour bonjour as we met them going the other way.

Trail to the gannet colony.

The landscape at the gannet nesting site was covered with birds, both on the ground and in the air. Each nest is made by a pair of birds, and one would stay on the ground, with their eggs or the young chicks, while the other ventures out fishing. When the fishing birds come back, they often miss their nest a bit and nearby birds on land take that as a threat and start fighting and screaming in an attempt to protect their nest from the “intruder”. The result is a very dense, noisy and feisty colony. Birds are so numerous, so densely packed they made the landscape somehow alien and entirely their own. They were very expressive and displayed both aggression and affection in a very short amount of time, completely unrestrained.

This gannet was giving me the eye as I was getting too close

Touching of the beaks and necks is a sign of affection, not a cleaning ritual.

Eventually we headed back knowing that there will still be more than an hour from us leaving the gannets to being on the mainland and being able to have lunch. We headed back on the same trail towards the boat, waited for a good 15 minutes with the boat to leave and finally we were looking for place to eat in Percé. Unusually for us we declined several restaurants before settling on one right near the boardwalk. We each ordered a lobster sandwich which was served with a bit of potato chips and a very tasty cabbage salad. The sandwiches were very tasty with flavorful crunchy bread and lots of lobster meat.

We spent some time walking along the boardwalk and sitting on the funny looking benches on it. These benches were decorated like heads of gannets and seals. We walked back across the town along main street. Stumbled upon an art shop of a local artist, Mylène Henry, and bought some postcards. The artwork was very expressive with vivid colors and bold strokes portraying Québec nature. Finally we walked up the hill towards our hotel. On the way we picked up some supplies from the local grocery store. That included some cooked peeled shrimps and cold local beer, Pit Caribou. The beer was great, the shrimps went down easy and before we knew it we were fast asleep.

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