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Thursday, 13 May 2021

Go west

On a rare sunny day among many unfit for cycling, my husband and I headed west to complete this portion of our tip to tip island cycling adventure for this year. The Confederation Trail runs across the island and this western portion being closest to home is the easiest for us to complete.

We drove to Alberton and parked at the library which is in the old train station. 

The building is a surprise to my husband and I since we rarely see anything other than sandstone on the island. This fieldstone building is restored beautifully to its 1904 condition. One can almost hear the old steam engine chug into the station.

The trail is on the verge of erupting into green. It will add another layer of beauty soon.

Maintenance work made this section of trail a pleasure to ride, as smooth as new pavement. We passed a drum roller, a groomer and crew busy at work.

An old concrete culvert, dated 1923, now sits beside the trail, having done its time under the old tracks.

Marsh Marigold is in bloom now. The yellow blooms remind me of buttercups.

At Tignish, a place with a name I love, we reached the western start of the trail.   

On our return, we had lunch at the site of the memorial to the worst train wreck in island history. Two trains collided and four people died during a winter storm in 1932.

Lots of robins, blackbirds and Song Sparrows filled the trees. The birds are quieter now than earlier this spring. I saw a bird among the trees and watched for several minutes as my husband rode on. It was another familiar bird, a Black-capped Chickadee. I don’t have much luck with ‘new to me’ species. However I like this photo.

Such is spring in eastern Canada.

Monday, 10 May 2021


We were the only car in the parking lot at Cavendish Grove with only one car parked at the Beach. Early morning on a sunny day in the national park on Prince Edward Island, the only sound came from the birds and the sea. The sky and sea were a perfect backdrop.

While cycling the parkway, it is easy for my husband and I to be distracted by the coastline. The breaking waves and the red coast anchor the blues. We watch for several minutes each time we stop.

Sometimes, looking directly out to sea, evergreens are the anchor.

Other times, blues are muted by the sun.

On setting day as we cycled along, we could hear the fishing boats off shore, the sound carried on the wind. A few were close enough for photos as they set the traps that first day of the lobster season. Photos of working fishers are among my favourites.

Fishers of the feathered kind float on MacNeills Pond. That hook at the end of the beak is handy for fishing.

The old fence behind the dunes at Cavendish Beach and the weathered trees are highlighted by the sky.

A new walkway to the beach blends with the dunes and vegetation. 

Every time we are at the park, new favourites greet us.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Birds of the park

It stood there alone, surveying the scene, a lone sentinel on an eroded promontory. One could easily miss it with the naked eye but a walk along Orby Head and a camera lens helped bring it into focus. A Great Cormorant kept a silent vigil in a place where many Double-crested Cormorants usually gather. It looked regal more than lonely there and doesn’t move as I watch for several minutes.

A few weeks later, Double-cresteds were at the same location at Orby Head. The crests on the sides of their heads are obvious on these males.

During our first visit to the park in early April this year, we had a picnic under a maple tree which had several Black-capped Chickadees busy flitting around its branches. Unlike our experience of chickadees in more recent days on the trails, these chickadees were silent.

We hear woodpeckers in the trees around the Grove every time we visit. On one occasion, I saw this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on a nearby tree, more exposed than usual. It looks like its markings were painted on. 

It flew away and within seconds a mature Bald Eagle flew overhead. 

Common Grackles on the railing to Cavendish Beach were noisy, stopping briefly after doing aerial acrobatics, both gazing skyward.

Gulls in the waterways of the Homestead Trail soar on the wind. We recognized a Ring-billed Gull among them.

We’ve seen pairs of Mallards in the national park in several areas, including MacNeills Pond, Cavendish Grove and on the Homestead Trail. A pair was hanging out with the gulls.

Red-winged Blackbirds love Cavendish Grove with all the bulrushes/cattails there. The males are chatty and like to sit in nearby trees and survey their domain. The females are more elusive. This male shows a hint of red.

Finally, it could be sad news about the geese in the Grove. The goose which was nesting on an island in the pond is off the nest and there aren’t any goslings. 

This nest looked rather exposed to us, compared to those on a similar island in previous years. We fear the worst happened. The last time we visited, twice during the day we watched the proceedings, hoping to see goslings. This pair could be the couple which hung out in this location by the pond before nesting began.

Meanwhile at the opposite side of the pond, a goose and some mallards appear to tolerate each other. 

My husband and I enjoy the birds every time we visit the national park on Prince Edward Island.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Dunes and fields

Cavendish Grove in the national park on Prince Edward Island was our starting point. We unpacked the bikes and headed to the Homestead Trail which my husband and I have cycled before. The trail passes beside New London Bay with a view of the Cavendish sandspit on one side and farmers’ fields on the other. It was a perfect spring day, with a breeze which made the ride interesting.

The trail begins through mixed forest 

where a young chipmunk went about her business, unaffected by the seniors cycling by. 

A ride down slope leads to sea level where a view of the bay opens before you. Gulls were busy on and over the water.

MacNeill Loop travels along by the water where we noted a perfect picnic spot, sheltered from the wind. Next time! 

The ride around the Loop provides views of the nearby Cavendish sandspit 

and the community across the bay.

Further along the trail, a farmer was preparing his fields for the spring planting. 

The experience of land and sea so intricately intertwined is one of the reasons I love this island. 

We completed the Homestead Trail and rode to the Cavendish Beach area along the Dunelands Trail. The dunes along the length of beach are a pretty backdrop for the pond.

Lunch back at the Grove with our friends the Canada Geese was a treat as usual. One of the females is nesting on a island across the pond, 

and her partner stands watch along the bank, but ignores us. He doesn’t see us as a threat.

It was another great day at the park.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Lunch on the trail

Our weather has been cold and wet with an occasional fine day. My husband and I take every opportunity we can to ride our bikes and we’ve been on the trail recently, enjoying every minute.

We take our picnic lunch with us on the new bike racks we received last autumn, replacements for two which were ill fitting. It is great to be able to stop at any of the picnic sites around the island for lunch. The National Park has lots of tables and the Confederation Trail has tables positioned at regular intervals across the island.

Meanwhile, we rode to nearby Wellington for a picnic one day, stopping at a table by a river.

The sound of the water flowing by as we had lunch was like a dream after this past pandemic year. Nearby, noisy and nosy Common Grackles were chatting it up on a wire overlooking the scene. 

Our most recent outing was from O’Leary to Elmsdale along the Confederation Trail. Along the way we passed several locations where peepers and other frogs sang happily. One area had these cattails which looked as if they had cotton tops.

Near river banks now, Coltsfoot is in bloom, the first flower we’ve seen in our travels this spring. This type of daisy is a welcome addition to the greys of early spring on the island.

Butterflies are also busy. Despite several efforts, I was unable to photograph any as they flitted around us along the trail. 

We had lunch at Elmsdale in an area where the trail runs parallel to the highway. The traffic on the road was light at that time of day.

Back at the car in O’Leary, Rock Pigeons watched us from a nearby roof as we loaded the bikes on the rack. While there are pigeons in downtown Summerside, we have never seen them around the areas we frequent.

It has stopped raining so we are headed out on our bikes again today! Yay!


Monday, 26 April 2021

Song and dance

The birds which live along the Rotary Trail are not as tolerant of people as those along the boardwalk in Summerside. On the Rotary Trail, they are more difficult to observe as they flit around the treetops so high above one’s view. 

However, I was able to take a few photos and videos of the spring avian song and dance here on Prince Edward Island. I hope with time to improve the quality of my work.  

Patience is important in this endeavour. My husband walked on while I waited and followed a Red-breasted Nuthatch among the trees. 

It had a nest, a hole in a tree which it tended. Back and forth it went to the hole.

After a few minutes it started a step dance along nearby branches, doing footwork and moving back and forth. It turned around on the branch and repeated the performance. It did this for several minutes, then moved to another branch and repeated the behaviour. The entire time it called out in its best nuthatch way. A video is here. While it is not great quality, you can see and hear its dance and song.

Another interesting sight was the American Robin, with the breast which looked like velvet. 

It flitted around, calling out as it went. It wasn’t as high in the trees and was easier to photograph and video which you can see here.

There are lots of Black-capped Chickadees at the Rotary Park and on the Confederation Trail. On the latter trail a few days ago, we could hear the chickadees in one section of the trail singing. 

We stopped for a time and watched one in an apple tree. It was the same song being sung by chickadees all along that section of trail. The wind made it impossible to take a good video.

Yesterday my husband and I rode along the Confederation Trail again, this time near O’Leary. I watched and listened to two Northern Flickers high in a tree.

The birds had a unique song I didn’t recognize and though I recorded them, the video quality is terrible. 

The birds are singing and dancing their way through April here on the island and we are privileged to witness their performance.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

By the river

The Dunk River flows into the Summerside Harbour and a hike along the Dunk had long been on our To Do list. On the last good weather day last week, my husband and I ventured along the return walk of 7km, etched along the shoreline of the river, the fast flowing water a rushing soundtrack for the distance. You can hear the river here.

The area is home to one hundred year old trees, hemlock and yellow birch primarily. With trees that old, the wind can cause immense damage. 

In addition, early spring in the forests of the island is primarily grey since the leaves aren’t prepared to greet the cold. Yet, the trail was starkly beautiful.

Undergrowth in some areas of this trail consists of Ground Hemlock, a type of yew which is harvested for taxanes used in cancer treatment. This yew provides an uncommon green for this time of year. 

Two sections of this trail give hikers the option to walk along the water’s edge or a few meters inland. 

We tried both, switching to the other when the going was rough. The sound of the running water fills the river valley.

We spoke to a number of anglers along the river. 

The Dunk River is one of the great fishing rivers on the island and anglers were enjoying time on the river during one of the first few days of the season. It was a long winter and time outside is precious now.

Water striders on the river in a few locations were the only insects we saw. They were close to the river bank which made them easy to spot. For striders, walking on water is a reality.

We will walk the Dunk River Trail again when spring has a firmer hold and the leaves are beginning to grow this time next month.