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Wednesday 28 February 2018

Cavendish Beach in winter

Cavendish Beach is one of my favourite beaches on Prince Edward Island, though I have many. We have never been to this beach in winter so this fine day without the wind was a perfect opportunity to explore this favourite place.

The steps down to the beach normally have sand drifted over them. 

There is more than usual today and one doesn’t sink into it as usually happens. This sand is frozen but safe under foot from the gritty cover.

The beach isn’t as I expected. There isn’t sea ice back near the dunes. 

Rather an ice wall lines the shoreline and the tidal zone is covered in broken ice and snow. 

Closer to the dunes, the sand has ice underneath and the surface makes walking easy. This beach is flooded really, the water frozen, waiting for heat to release it to sink into the sand or flow back to sea.

At first glimpse, open water is beyond the ice wall but a closer look reveals the ice, a thin sheen over the surface.

It isn’t thick yet, though it had been if the ice wall is any indication. The freeze-thaw cycle this winter has been unusual, affecting the ice around the island.

My husband and I walked the beach this day, taking in the winter air and the setting. on a gorgeous winter day.

Monday 26 February 2018

Then and now in Dunelands

It was a rare day, sunny, just above zero and without any wind or ice under foot. The north shore called to my husband and me, one of our favourite areas any time of year. We enjoy the National Park at Cavendish and wanted to visit the Beach and Dunelands in winter.

The Dunelands is near the entrance to Cavendish Beach. 

Macneill’s Pond, once an inlet of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, was formed when sand dunes cut off the inlet from the shoreline. Today a fence keeps people off the delicate dunes which are important in the prevention of erosion.

A floating boardwalk traverses the pond and provides a unique experience as the water laps underneath the walkway as it sways from the foot traffic. 

Not today though. 

The area is flooded from the recent rain, preventing foot traffic on the boardwalk. It is icy here in places as well, treacherous under foot. Today we just look.

The environment takes a beating for a few months every year.

 Before long, as the sun spends longer in the sky and has more heat, we will return to enjoy the other seasons among the dunes of Cavendish.

Friday 23 February 2018


Nature has a way of making us feel better by reducing stress, anger and fear. In Summerside, we have a paradise for stress reduction in the community. On a particularly stressful day recently, I discovered first hand how good a refuge from stress our boardwalk really is. 

It was a glorious winter day! The sun felt warm, the temperature, just above zero and the air was calm. The boardwalk called to us. There were many other seniors out too. People greeted each other, many were the regulars we see every time we go. Everyone spoke of the gorgeous day because there haven’t been too many such days this year. All were determined to enjoy this one.

The forest was alive with birds. My husband and I recognize their voices now. The crows, 

blue jays, chickadees, mourning doves and woodpeckers 

all spoke to each other, filling the woods with their happy voices, as they too enjoyed the respite from the bitter cold. The woods sounded and felt happy as we walked.

In the river by the bridge, three muskrats played in the water, not bothered by the admirers who stood above watching them. 

Occasionally someone threw a peanut in its shell into the water. The furry rodents grabbed them quickly and disappeared under the river bank,

to emerge later in search of more. While the river has open water, an inlet to their den or push-up is still frozen. 

The furry creatures manage well under ice as well as water.

Two American Black Ducks were in the water too. 

They dabbled for food and preened themselves in the sun. Then the two tucked their heads under their wings, as they stood in the water. They didn’t mind the people standing a few meters away, watching them, talking among themselves, several with cameras. 

The squirrels approached as people stood admiring the muskrats and the ducks. They too wanted peanuts and looked at each person, watching for food. They were brave as they observed humankind but were prepared to run at any sudden move.

The setting was perfect and though there is ice as far as the eye can see, 

the heat of the sun, the sounds of the animals and their antics take one away from the worries of the world and life. The greetings of other travellers, the shared human experience and connection in nature’s living room were a refuge from the storm of life. Such an encounter helps one face the day! Time well spent!

Wednesday 21 February 2018

At risk

We had seen Common Mergansers already at Stanley Bridge and as we drove toward Cavendish, there were ducks in some open water by the oyster farm. “More mergansers,” I said as my husband as he parked the car. 

The gate of the Oyster Company was open. We approached the building, hoping someone was there so we could ask permission to look around. We discovered later the workers were on the opposite side of the bridge on and under the ice.

The ducks were in the water behind the building. We stealthily made our way along but they swam away of course. 

These weren’t mergansers but I couldn’t identify them. They swam around as we took photos and later flew off. 

Checking the photos, I was surprised to see the ducks were Barrow’s Goldeneyes. These birds are considered “at risk” in eastern Canada. It is estimated that 400 individuals winter in the Maritimes. We saw about 25 of them.

The males are black and white, a black head with a crescent white shape behind the beak. The unique white markings on both sides of the back are indicative of this bird. 

The females are less distinctive, with a brown head and gray body. 

They made a whistling sound as they flew away.

It was a thrill to observe them.

Monday 19 February 2018

Busy, busy

Our eldest granddaughter, Sylvie, 

had a day without school and her grandfather and I spent it with her. It was a busy day with a variety of activity, including a drawing class at the local library. Shopping for a gift for her sister’s birthday preceded lunch. 

The kids’ choices of restaurants always fascinates their grandfather and me. We never know where we will be eating since the kids usually pick a different place every time. This day it was the golden arches, not my favourite but their grandfather doesn’t mind.

Then we took some food to the local food bank, shopped for her new sneakers and seeds for the animals along the boardwalk. After a short time home at art work, we headed to the boardwalk.

We needn’t have worried about the animals. Others have been feeding the muskrats, birds and squirrels. Instead, we watched them go about their lives and chatted about the various critters. 

The mourning doves were perched in the trees around a common feeding area. The puffiness of one, trapping air under its feathers to stay warm, resulted in our favourite photo.

Its neighbour across the path wasn’t as cold.

This area of the boardwalk has deciduous trees which are at least 20 meters high. We heard the tapping long before we saw the woodpecker. Sylvie didn’t recognize the sound but she will in the future. Passers-by helped us locate the bird high in the tree. The red patches on the male fascinated her when she saw the photo.

We finished our day with her tap dance class which Sylvie thoroughly enjoys.  As I drove her home, we talked about our plans for our next alone day, her time without her sister and brother. No time for board games today. Next time! But, we don’t need plans, just time together.

Friday 16 February 2018

Growing oysters

Raw oysters on the half shell may appear to be a long way from this place. 

However, this is where many oysters begin their journey to the oyster bars, tables in finer restaurants and our own tables. 

On this beautiful winter day, a drive along the north shore took us past the PEI Oyster Company. The facilities, located on one side of a bridge, were deserted. On the opposite side, four men worked on 

and under the ice. Burr...

At the worksite on the frozen bay, the men had cut out blocks of ice to allow access to the diver. Beneath them are the oysters which are at various stages of development. The growing time is from five to seven years to achieve market size. The process, at various stages, involves mesh bags, racks 

and cages. 

The frozen bay is no deterrent to these fishers.

I always admired fishers because of my knowledge of my grandfather’s work as a fisherman in Newfoundland. However, this glimpse of the oyster fishery today added another dimension to my appreciation of this work.

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Wintering ducks

Prince Edward Island is surrounded by ice this time of year so where do ducks find open water? My husband and I have pondered this question for the last two months. On our recent excursion to the north shore of the island, at Stanley Bridge, there was open water with a flock of ducks in attendance. It was great to see them after months without a duck sighting.

At the Bridge, a flock of Common Mergansers floated in New London Bay, which isn’t frozen near the bridge. 

The birds had their heads tucked under their wings when they weren’t feeding. 

The water looked like it was boiling near the flock. 

Could this be smelts which people seek in winter too? Smelt shacks are on the ice throughout the province now. 

The ducks may have found the best location for smelt fishing.

We were a long distance away but the ducks were aware of us nonetheless. As we walked the length of the marina, they moved further away. 

They tested the limits of my camera. 

The females with their gray bodies are distinguishable from the black and white bodied males. The back of the female’s head has a shaggy crest of feathers as well. It was impossible to see the true colour of their heads from this distance.

It felt good to be outside again, bird watching, one of my favourite hobbies.

Monday 12 February 2018

Out of water

A beautiful sunny day drew us out of the house last week. We drove to Stanley Bridge on the north shore where a number of objects which are usually in the sea were prominent on shore. 

The marina at the Bridge has many floating docks where the boats tie up during the warmer seasons of the year. 

This day it was different.

Many of the floating docks were high and dry, stacked on top of each other in the parking lot. 

It is unusual to see what lies beneath a dock, but seaweed and mussels were visible on the pontoons.

On the opposite side of the parking lot, closer to the water, buoys of different sizes were ashore as well. They were brightly coloured and the largest ones dwarf the small shed nearby.

Next to the largest buoys, others of various sizes were piled together. All had mussels and seaweed below their water marks.

There isn’t much room for boat storage in this area but one boat was tucked in below the road. 

And as is often the case, lobster traps, some of the tools of the trade, were stored beside a shack. 

There was activity, as a few people worked in the fishing shacks. An open door gave a glimpse into the domain of the island fishers who are out of water too. However, spring is on the horizon!