We had seen puffins before, but only on land. Now we had an opportunity to see Cormorants atop a rocky isle these little birds at work, because we reached Nova Scotia just before the last of the puffin colony finished their hatching season and left for the open sea. Donelda and her husband run an excellent bird-watching boat trip, promising us seals in the water and eagles in the air, and producing in addition Atlantic Puffins, Black Guillemots, gulls and Ruddy Turnstones (yes, this is the name of a shore bird, and not a rock band).
We boarded the no-nonsense wooden boat for departure at 9:30 in the morning from Englishtown, on one of the northern tips of Nova Scotia east of Cape Seals on rock at left Breton. It was cloudy but not rainy and there were ten of us, counting the little girl who slept on her mother's lap for part of the trip (we needed a minimum of seven).
Our destination was Bird Island, actually several rocky outcrops covered with guano and, at first sight, cormorants. As we got closer we could see the heads of seals playing in the water (and later we saw many more seals).
It turns out that Donelda has been narrating these cruises for several Eagle swooping in decades, but she gives her talk as though it is all fresh to her, and so it is fresh and exciting to us. Her husband cut the engine and we moved only slowly in the water while she threw a couple of mackerel into the water.
The eagles knew we had arrived, and almost each time she threw a fish, an eagle would circle the boat, eye the fish, and drop down for it, grabbing it in its talons.
She explained that the most vulnerable point of the life of the birds who nest on the cliffs is when the young chicks are not quite ready to fly. Eagles Puffin flying over water and gulls swoop down and pick off the hatchlings.
We began to see puffins in the water. "Like little bath tub toys," she said and they look exactly like that, bobbing on the waves. But they are really fishing, and would dive, grab a fish, and then take off, wings almost vibrating at top speed, in the effort to lift the little bird into the air.
It was just grand. If you ever go to Nova Scotia, go before late August (we may have been among the last to see this year's puffins) and say Hi to Donelda for us.