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Friday 29 June 2018

A rare glimpse

The water was calm on this early summer morning. Winds were light with just a hint of cool air. Weather perfect! 

We came to view the sea stacks but on this day, Thunder Cove, Prince Edward Island, afforded my husband and me a rare opportunity to observe the lobster fishery. 

Several vessels were visible from the beach but one in particular, The Hailey Jo, was just beyond the sand bars. We watched her four fishers work as we walked the beach, the buoys for their traps visible from shore.

One-by-one, the traps were lifted over the side of the vessel as fishers checked for crustaceans inside. 

Occasionally an undersized lobster was dropped back into the water.

The boat visited the location of each buoy and fishers repeated the process. Traps were replaced over the side of the boat, sinking into the Gulf. On this calm day, only the usual occupational hazards apply. Imagine how those can be amplified by bad weather. 

While we were excited to see the lobster fishery in action, we were reminded of the tragedies recently off the shores of our province. Two men aboard a lobster boat were killed recently when two boats collided. 

At the beginning of the season, sandbars in several harbours around the island caused problems for lobster fishers. One boat was caught on a sandbar and started taking on water. The fishers were rescued by nearby boats. Others had to return to different ports rather than run the same risk going into their home port. 

Later on this day, we had our picnic at nearby Cabot Park where a channel through the sand bars along the beach, allows the boats to return to port at Malpeque.

While we were there, The Hailey Jo returned to port, negotiating her way through the sand bars. 

Red marker buoys should be kept right of the boat on the return to port. The Hailey Jo moved around the red buoys, as did the other boats who happened by during our visit. The sand bar must have shifted over the last two months and fishers know the location of the shifting channel. 

I admire and appreciate the work of all professional fishers.

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Misadventures at the roadside

We were headed to Thunder Cove, Prince Edward Island but stopped along the way to watch ducks on a pond. As we pulled away from the roadside, something didn’t sound right with the car. Before long, a light came on and my husband commented, “We have a flat tire on the front passenger side.”

He pulled over and I checked. Sure enough!  Since we were in front of St. Mary’s Church in Indian River, we pulled into the parking lot. 

Our best efforts to jack up the car and remove the tire failed so we called Roadside Assistance.

It was an interesting experience. The wind was high and on the cell phone, it was difficult enough to hear the other person, especially when the occasional vehicle or piece of farm equipment drove by. In addition, the person spoke with a thick accent.

I always feel bad when I can’t understand other people. They speak English much better than I could ever speak their first language. To compound the problem this time however, the person thought we were in the countryside of Ontario, despite repeated reference to Prince Edward Island. Finally, my husband asked to speak to another person. Bottom line, someone arrived to help 45 minutes later.

If you are familiar with our excursions, you know we always bring a picnic lunch. So, when the tire is flat, the Smiths have a picnic.

It was a perfect location. The only living creatures were the birds, doves on the church roof cooing and robins chirping their happy songs as they dropped by the cemetery.

By the time we finished lunch, Assistance had arrived. Back at home and $200 later a new tire solved the problem. 

It was an expensive picnic.

Monday 25 June 2018

At the Cape

A recent visit to the New London Lighthouse gave my husband and me the opportunity to visit Cape Tryon as well. We knew of the Cape, at the edge of a farmer’s property, accessed via a red dirt road through his fields. The area is open to the public however.

At the end of a rough road, the sandstone cliffs are up to 35 meters above sea level. 

Such high cliffs are unusual on Prince Edward Island. The Gulf of St. Lawrence lies below. In the distance, the traditional beaches of the island are visible.

There isn’t beach here. The sandstone rises out of the water though it has eroded into caves in several areas at sea level.

Over the rocks below and any ledges in the cliffs, cormorants are in residence.

I have been fascinated with cormorants since we moved to the island. They fly over our house spring to fall as they travel back and forth to the lighthouse in the Summerside Harbour. Their goose-like V formations are a regular sight.

We observed the birds, noting the white feces over the rocks. Here, it is subjected to the elements, thus does not become the famous guano, which is a much sought fertilizer. 

The nests are made of stick and twigs, coated white as well.

This is the oldest cormorant colony on the island dating back to at least 1941. Two species of cormorants, Double crested and Great, live here. We saw Great cormorants at a distance. 

They have white around their beaks. Both species have a prehistoric look, with the long hooked beak and the S-shaped neck. 

Cormorants aren’t songbirds. Sometimes they sound like pigs. You can hear the voices and calls here.  Their grunt-like sounds were common on this visit.

A close-up look at one of the Double crested birds shows their uniqueness. 

The deep blue eye and the orange around the beak adds colour to the matte black. The feather pattern shows a combination of small and larger feathers and long ones of the tail. 

These birds are made to swim fast and far underwater in pursuit of food. They always surface a distance from the diving spot. Cormorants can cover a large area in a matter of seconds.

The lighthouse at Cape Tryon is not the original one which housed the keepers and their families in the early days. This one lights the way for vessels but watches over the colony as well.

A close-up of the Great cormorants is my next goal. We will be back!

Friday 22 June 2018

On the beach

This was the scene in January on the beach at New London.

Not so inviting! This week the beach is windswept but there is much to see as we walk its length.

I love how the fishing boats are so close to shore as they navigate the channel to French River. 

They always have seagulls following them, expecting a hand-out as the fishers clean up from the day’s work. 

Fishers have a friendly wave to people on the beach, while waves from the wake are impressive on this windy day.

Low tide has exposed some rocks, not a common site on this beach. The remnants of an old wharf is exposed today too, the first time we’ve seen it. 

The remains of a lobster trap is partially buried in the sand. A well weathered piece of driftwood has withstood another winter.

Tons of seaweed has been cast ashore on this beach. More than the amount, I am taken with the colours and delicate nature of some pieces.

Low tide exposes the signs of wave action on the sand. A variety of shells, whole or broken have begun the journey to sand themselves.

Along the shoreline, apple trees are in full bloom now as is choke cherry. Lilacs need another week.

We were the only people on this beach today, taking in the best a beach has to offer. What could be better?

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Yankee Hill Lighthouse

We recently visited one of our favourite lighthouses at New London, Prince Edward Island. A picnic by the old lighthouse was in order before the tour buses returned to the area again.

I met a young woman recently who grew up in French River, near this lighthouse. She referred to it as the Yankee Hill Lighthouse. I knew the reference from my previous research of the area. 

The Yankee Gale as it was known, occurred in 1851. I wrote about it previously 


The Americans were buried all across the North Shore of the island. Some are buried on the hill above this lighthouse, hence the term Yankee Hill Lighthouse. The unidentified Americans were buried in unmarked graves near the Pioneer Cemetery which we visited last year.

On this day, as we had our lunch by the old lighthouse, tucked in behind the dunes, we could hear the boats motor past as they headed into port.

On the left, last year’s cattails swayed in the breeze. Numerous male Red winged blackbirds flitted around, sometimes landing on the seed heads. 

The birds balanced themselves with their wings, sang songs and made their unique whistles as the pods swayed.

Overhead, we watched confrontations between the blackbirds and crows. The crows appeared to pose a threat to the blackbird nests among the cattails.  Any time a crow approached an area of cattails, a blackbird or two dived towards it, warding off the crow. It was a lesson in bird protectionism.

Around the lighthouse, vegetation sprang to life, taking advantage of the extra daylight and warmer temperatures. The area was full of life if one looked and listened.

Though the old light has been automated for years, some things haven’t changed. Nature goes about her business as people come and go. Looking down over the old lighthouse from the hill is a beautiful resting place.

Monday 18 June 2018

Waves of land

Mere feet above sea level, the countryside of western Prince Edward Island where we live is flat with gently rolling hills in some areas. As one travels east, the countryside changes to hills, formed by glacial till deposited between 10,000 to 15,000 year ago from melting glaciers. 

Looking over the central countryside, it looks as if the land attempted to mirror the motion of her sister, the sea, with waves as well. These waves are bigger than those of the sea in our part of the ocean however.

As we walked along a Heritage Road in the center of the island, these land waves were obvious as we crested the hills and walked through the troughs of these static waves. 

The vegetation closed over Perry Road prevents a clear view into the distance unlike the asphalt over the open countryside. 

This area provided a workout compared to our regular routes.

This glimpse of the fields in one area along the way was unusual as the road cut through forest along much of its length. 

However, in several places, one could see the remnants of human habitation, an old gate or an old road, long grown over.

Bird greetings made us welcome but the only one we saw was this Yellow bellied sapsucker who was busy on a favourite tree.

Black flies were in abundance as the wind was calm but insect repellent helped. We check for ticks any time we’ve been outdoors these days since they are here too.

The incline on the treadmill will get a few workouts before our next walk among the waves in the center of the island.

Friday 15 June 2018

The veil

Our recent visit to a Heritage Road in central Prince Edward Island took us past a watershed conservation area overseen by the Trout River Environmental Committee. The non-profit group wants to “restore the natural integrity” of that watershed.

The waterfall, like a veil over the face of the pond, made us stop. 

In this area, boats appear to launch, people stop to fish,

and a ladder helps fish swim up river. 

A lone cormorant swam on the far side, periodically diving and resurfacing meters from his original place.

Overhead, tree swallows flitted in the air; their antics made us stop and watch. One of two bird houses in the area was broken on one side and straw could be seen through the opening. The birds availed of these homes.

The sound of the water was calming as was the scene. We will visit again, maybe to fish and have a picnic with the kids.

Wednesday 13 June 2018

The final show

She cried to break her heart. Her mother, our daughter, wrapped her arms around her oldest child, Sylvie, and asked what was wrong.

“Dance is over again,” Sylvie replied through the sobs.

This was the scene after the final show for the 2017-18 season. The last ten months were busy for both granddaughters, as dance classes filled the calendar. At seven, Sylvie took three classes and assisted her teacher with a class of younger students. Five year old Caitlin took two classes.

The showcase for the students who worked so hard all year was a treat. From the little four year olds to the senior students, everyone did a wonderful job.

This year Sylvie had the stage to herself for a brief time as Snow White, summoning princesses on stage, the girls from the class she helped with all year. She proceeded to put them to sleep with a bite from that special apple. 

Sylvie also performed with her tap and ballet classes, never missing a beat.

Caitlin performed her ballet steps as a mouse. She was not shy on stage and performed every movement well. She was the cutest mouse ever!

For now, dancing is a passion for both girls. Who knows what the future will bring but Sylvie and Caitlin are already talking about what classes they want to do next year. 

Monday 11 June 2018

In the neighbourhood

This is the second year a skulk of foxes has made its den in the small green belt near our daughter’s home. The skulk is smaller than last year, but the three foxes are active late every afternoon, undisturbed by people enjoying their neighbourhood.

During our last visit, the three were out in the afternoon sun, oblivious to Georgie, the golden retriever, the three kids and the group of adults nearby. People walked their dogs on the sidewalk a few meters away and the animals were oblivious to it all.

The pup is black with hints of a lighter colour. 

It stayed near its mother the entire time we were there.

It was in a playful mood and walked over the vixen and nipped at her. She tolerated  the young one’s antics.

The male is blond and lighter in colour than the vixen. He is unconcerned about the pup which ignores himtoo. He relaxes in the grass away from the other two.

The vixen is a mix of colours and alert to the humans in her environment but comfortable enough to tolerate their presence.

Soon they will move on for another year when the pup is old enough to venture forth on its own. We’ll look forward to their return visit.