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Monday 29 March 2021

Foggy mornings

Ahhh...spring, when an islander’s thoughts turn to fog. That’s what I was thinking during our 9 a.m. walks on the boardwalk this past week. We don’t have a lot of fog on Prince Edward Island but we had some every day last week.

Fog is a genteel visitor, faintly covering the harbour on occasion, adding an element of beauty to the familiar Front Range Light. She adds a sense of mystery to the landscape on a beautiful sunny day, when she creeps onshore.

Other times, fog is ostentatious, blocking our view of familiar landmarks, as she asserts her presence. 

The same scene can look dramatically different if she changes her approach.

Either way, she is a curiosity of nature.

Her long finger stretches forth in this photo from Saturday. Fog sits at the surface of the harbour, slowly stretching over the land she encounters.

The Indian Head Lighthouse at the entrance of the harbour knows all about fog. 

It has endured all of her moves and moods for 140 years. Fog nor her sister ice are no match for this seasoned sentinel.

Fog adds another element of beauty to nature.

Thursday 25 March 2021

Spring melt

It has been warmer this week, double digit temperatures and sunny days. Spring! Here, we measure early spring by the snow on the ground and ice in the harbour. Both are taking a hit this week. The boardwalk is more exposed each day as the snow melts.

More water is showing through the harbour ice every day as the ice melts too. Before long, the ice will be broken up enough so that a strong off shore wind will take the ice out to sea.

People walking the boardwalk have spring in their step as well. Everyone comments about the beautiful weather. We are enjoying every minute of the spring melt.

The birds along the boardwalk appear to be enjoying the warm weather too. Their voices are raised in chorus, the year-round Blue Jays and American Crows are joined by the newly arrived Mourning Doves 

and dozens of Song Sparrows. 

You can also hear Red-winged Blackbirds but we haven’t seen them yet. A small flock of European Starlings watched the proceedings from a lofty perch above the entire scene.

The stream was partially frozen one day and two American Black Duck were back checking out the area again. They appear anxious to be back home.

The next day, the stream was open and the muskrats were out and about too. 

The Red Squirrels are busy as always. They approach walkers, expecting peanuts or other seeds or chase each other around the area. 

Before long there will be new members of the community as mating season is on the horizon. 

Meanwhile, the forecast is for 30-40 centimetres of snow on Friday. That too will melt! 


The temperature has stayed warm. The snow has been replaced with rain, such that now we have a heavy rainfall warning. 

Thursday 18 March 2021


A sunny though bitterly cold March day precluded our usual walk. I decided to tidy the closet by the entry instead and smiled when I discovered them. Our travel umbrellas were at the back of the shelf, there since our last trip several years ago. The compact devices, perfect for tucking into a bag, delivered much more than expected the last time my husband and I used them.

The temperature was different that day in late spring. We had spent the day in Budapest, exploring the city, including a tour, sightseeing on our own and trying some delicious food. We were ready to head back to Vienna, an exciting place in itself. Meanwhile, the skies had opened and it poured but we had umbrellas.

We stood under the eave of an old building although it was raining so hard our feet were soaked from the water pouring off the overhang and the umbrellas. Meanwhile, a young Muslim couple came and stood in front of us, getting soaked as they waited with the group. I tapped her on the shoulder and invited them to share our umbrellas.

They accepted the offer and we conversed with them while we waited for the bus. The eventual ride back to Vienna became more interesting than any tour could provide. They were a young Kuwaiti couple; he was a student of engineering in Cardiff, Wales and like us, they were in Vienna on vacation, taking day trips to neighbouring cities. She put her career on hold while he completed his degree. 

Luckily for us, there was a huge traffic jam that day and the trip back to Vienna was much longer than scheduled. This gave us more time to talk which was great. We learned about life in Kuwait, how it compares to other Arab countries and the couple’s experience in Cardiff. My husband and I had been to Cardiff the previous year so we shared our experiences as well. We talked about life in Canada and our part of it, Newfoundland, at that time.

Our lives were similar. While our cultures, religious beliefs and environments were different, it soon became evident how much we had in common. Family was as important to them as it was to us. They valued Art, Music and Literature as well as Science and History like we did. What made us similar was so much more than what separated us.

Borders meant nothing to us. Politics and religion weren’t an issue. Learning about each other's lives was all that mattered. The world expanded for us through the lives of two wonderful young people who accepted the offer to share umbrellas. We would share them again in a heartbeat.

Monday 15 March 2021

Sea Ice

They drift silently along the coast, the icy offspring of the North Atlantic, birthed from glaciers. They float past the coast of Labrador and then further south to Newfoundland, our first island home, floating into warmer water in an area known as Iceberg Alley. 

Over the coming months, many icebergs will be visible from shore there, some running aground, carried shoreward by the tides. The bergs usually appear in April and May, spring visitors after their long journeys. The vast majority originated from the glaciers of western Greenland and some from the Canadian Arctic.

Berg ice is different from the surface ice we see rafted into piles as the ice breaks up around our current island home of Prince Edward. No icebergs here, just wave action which causes rafting of surface ice. Piles of rafted ice can last for days after the ice disappears from the surface of the sea.

We lived in Newfoundland when our daughter moved back to Canada from London in the spring of 2009. We visited Twillingate, Newfoundland, the iceberg capital of the world, to see the icy giants. From shore, we saw numerous bergs in the distance. Close to shore, several floated around, spending their last few days subject to the tides taking them towards shore.

The display of icebergs offshore has been spectacular the last decade but I remember them from my youth as well. However, global warming has sped up the melt and break-away from glaciers. Iceberg Alley is their brief, watery home. 

Numerous boat tours along the coast of Newfoundland take adventurers near the majestic giants as they make their way south with the Labrador Current. The bergs make the tour and fishing boats look miniature in comparison. 

It was a lovely day in June on Twillingate Island when we visited, and the boat tour was a highlight, though the area has some significance for our family as well. My husband's paternal grandmother was from Durrell, on Twillingate Island.

We tasted the ancient berg ice after some crew members grabbed floating bits from a nearby iceberg. It was refreshing. Enterprising people collect berg ice and use the water to make various products, including Iceberg Vodka.

While the ice around Prince Edward Island is not from icebergs, we watch every year for its evolution and eventual disappearance. It will be a few weeks before this ice is gone this year.

Thursday 11 March 2021

Just ducky

Many birders have favourite birds, those which they especially enjoy watching and hearing. While I enjoy all birds, I especially like ducks and ones I look forward to seeing every winter are the Goldeneyes.

There are Common and Barrow’s Goldeneyes which we visit in a few locations. Fast moving water keeps the Grand River from freezing in some places and these little ducks found these areas and return every year.

Like so many birds, the males are showier than the females of these species. The Barrow’s male has a white raindrop shape on its face, whereas the Common has a white oval. The feather markings on their backs are different as well.

                  Common Goldeneye, male, in the foreground. Barrow’s male behind it.

The females of both species look alike but the Barrow’s has a shorter orange-yellow beak.

This last photo is one of my favourite photos I’ve ever taken. It was accidental, an aim and shoot, one of hundreds taken one day along the Grand River in Prince Edward Island.

It has five female Goldeneyes, and a male Barrow’s Goldeneye. Of the five, I believe all but one are Barrow’s. One of those looks as if she is quacking vehemently at the male. I wonder what she’s saying?