Birding the Quebec Maritimes’ Islands near Rivière-du-Loup

Lighthouse at Pot du Phare ( Roberta Sotonoff)

Lighthouse at Pot du Phare (Roberta Sotonoff)

The Quebec Maritimes are a haven for people like me who are into nature. This northern part of Quebec along the St. Lawrence River provides both a serene escape from the city and incredible scenery. Jagged rock formations erupt from the water. Birds soar above and their chattering fill the air. Once I board the ferry from Rivière du Loup, my senses brim with the sights and sounds.

In Your Bucket Because….

  • You find beauty in stark landscapes.
  • If you are birder, this is your place.
  • A different kind of place to take the family.
  • You like being away from crowded tourist areas.
  • You are a sucker for beautiful sunsets.

The Pot Islands

As we cruise, the boat passes the Pot á L’eau-de-Vie Islands (translation: Brandy Pot Islands). These three islands – Gros Pot, Petit Pot, and Pot du Phare (Lighthouse Pot) got their names during French rule. I am told that brown tide pools reminded sailors of brandy. (The French would think of brandy!) . And, during Prohibition, it is said that bootleggers stashed alcohol behind Gros Pot.

Gros Pot Island aka The Rookery (Roberta Sotonoff)

Gros Pot Island aka The Rookery ( Roberta Sotonoff)

So many birds soar above me. They almost blacken the sunny skies. Large flocks of scoters, black ducks and brants perch on the rocks or skim the waters. The black and white goldeneyes make me laugh. They look like flying penguins when coming in for a landing.

These isles are a chick hangout. I can’t believe how many different species of birds there are. Moms of double-crested cormorants, great blue heron, black-crowned night herons, razorbilled auks, black guillemots, kittiwakes and gulls consider them a prime nesting place. Gros Pot, also known as the rookery, is crowned with greenery. And the rocks? Well, they are frosted with guano.

Much of Petit Pot is filled with the acid droppings of the cormorants. Not an enticement for vegetation or people.

People do inhabit Pot du Phare. The red-roofed, 150+year-old lighthouse adds a dash of color to the sea. There were 240 shipwrecks in the area between 1840 and 1849. Out of necessity, the lighthouse was built in 1861. Today, it is a cozy inn.

L’Île Aux Lièvres

My evening digs, Auberge du Liève on L’ Île aux Lièves (Inn of the Island of the Hare), is on a little, nearby island. Surrounded by the water and trees, the six-room inn is far from fancy but then again, I have not come here for posh but to enjoy the scenery.

Looking at the tidepools on L’Île Aux Lièvres (Roberta Sotonoff)

Looking at the tidepools on L’Île Aux Lièvres (Roberta Sotonoff)

How pleasant it is to explore the island on this bright, warm day. There’s a path through the woods to the beach is on other side of the island. Dead tree limbs lay on its rocky shore. A warm breeze blows and the tide is out. Odd-looking green plants pop under my feet like bubble wrap as I walk over the granite rocks to the tide pools. Some baby ducks are floating with their mama on the water.

The path back is through another part of the forest. I am taking pleasure in all this tranquility, when a rabbit appears hops into the middle of the path. This is the island of the hares, but this one is huge.

At dusk, the setting sun turns the clouds pink and the islands gold. It is so peaceful . No wonder the birds flock here. It is a lovely place, even if you are an empty nester like me.

Practicalities

  • The birds get first priority. Visitors can only roam freely over Île aux Lièvres and Îles du Pot à l’Eau-de-Vie after early July when birds have finished nesting.
  • If you are coming from the United States, do not forget your passport.
  • Bring layers of clothing and good rain gear. The weather can change rapidly. It can get chilly around the St Lawrence River.
  • Forget swimming. The water is too cold here.
  • Know that the boat crossings are at the mercy of the tides. Give yourself plenty of time for your flight home.

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