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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. 

Monday, 22 March 2021

Signs of spring

We drove along the north central shore of Prince Edward Island to check out the Parkway biking/walking trail in the National Park. There are long sections of trail we will be able to ride soon as the temperature warms up this week. While we were in the park, my husband and I visited some of our favourite places.

Cavendish Beach stretches out in the spring sunshine, 

with the countryside visible in the distance.

There is a great deal of snow around yet and ice hugs the shoreline.

In North Rustico, the harbour ice is melting,

which the birds appear to enjoy.

At Orby Head, the last of the ice clings to the shoreline. 

From the cliffs there, it looks like water poured from the rocks and froze on its way down to the beach.

Maybe the warmer temperatures this week will melt the ice on the weeping cliffs.

Welcome spring!

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?


Monday, 8 March 2021

View from the shore


Thursday, 4 March 2021

Feathered friends

Over the past several years, my husband and I have taken great interest in feathered friends. Walking the trails and beaches of Prince Edward Island, the sights and sounds of these animals fill your senses if you but stop for a few moments. This past year, with the pandemic limiting our lives as it has, birds have helped us cope as we enjoy their behaviour, sounds and beauty at every opportunity. They have expanded our appreciation of nature in general and birds in particular.

This winter, a few Tree Sparrows have taken to visiting the boardwalk. 

The little birds pick up seeds on the ground by the bridge, blown there from those left for the animals by walkers. Prince Edward Island is the winter stopover for the little birds and they head north to breed as the snow melts. This is the first year my husband and I have seen these birds with their two toned beaks which is unusual, at least among the birds we know.

Some of our favourite winter friends are the woodpeckers, Downy and Hairy. They peck away at the trees along the boardwalk in the winter, but they also frequent the feeders and eat seed left along the bridge.

Most recently, the Hairy Woodpeckers were co-operative for a few photos.

On a recent visit to the Grand River, we saw a huge flock of Mallards, both male and female and a few American Black Ducks. 

They don’t react if a car slows in the area but if you park the car and walk, they swim or even fly away if you walk towards their area, even a distance away. Using the car as a blind was helpful this time. This would be a dangerous practice during tourist season when the roads are always busy.

A stream which flows under the boardwalk, flows into a saltwater marsh which at various times of the year floods and becomes a small pond. There are several Black Ducks which live and breed in this marsh. When everything freezes, the ducks move to open water at the head of the bay at Summerside, so we don’t see them for a few months. We were surprised to see a pair of the ducks, checking out the old stomping ground...uh, nesting marsh, one day recently. 

The harbour ice was breaking up and I imagine the birds dropped by to check out their warm weather home. I wonder what they thought as they looked out over the frozen marshland? Maybe the open sea ice will be enough to keep them in that area.

Periodically in winter, the noisy talk of American Crows fills the air around the boardwalk. During these lean times, the crows sometimes resort to taking peanuts left along the boardwalk. We enjoy watching and listening to the crows and this pair of birds sitting back to back along the harbour’s rafted ice was a curious sight.

These two sharing a branch made a nice silhouette too.

I caught a glimpse of a crow which has some white feathers. This is the best photo I could manage of one such bird near the boardwalk.

Finally, these two Bald Eagles were sitting around at Grand River, watching the proceedings.

They often hang out at the river and ignore the ducks who float and dive nearby. Their eagle eyes don’t miss much.

We are fortunate to be able to enjoy such beautiful animals as we go about our lives on this little island.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Along the way 8

Winter keeps us in more than we like, especially when the wind is high and the temperature low. As I write, the -13 C feels like -25 C with a strong wind making an otherwise sunny day too cold to venture forth. However, we have been out on a few excursions recently and as always, a few interesting items have presented themselves.

On our way snowshoeing one day, I took this photo of the boat in front of us on the road. This is unusual sight when the harbours and bays are frozen and the fishing season is months away. It is a common sight in April around the island as boats are returned to the sea.

We often see foxes on the roads of the island, especially on the backroads. Such was the case recently but this poor fox is sick. There is an outbreak of mange among the foxes on the island. Mites burrow into the skin of the animal and lay eggs which hatch and cause itching and hair loss. The animal dies of exposure in the winter. This poor creature looks scrawny and infected in the hindquarters and tail. This is the first such infected fox we’ve seen.

The first cases of mange in island foxes was reported in 2018 though the population recovered and will again. It spreads when dens are crowded. 

On a visit to Grand River we saw the domestic geese which hang out there. 

There isn’t a farm nearby so it is a mystery where these beautiful creatures come from. We’ve seen them in a variety of colours over the years but this year, they are mainly white. They congregate in the same area, this time near the bank where the road and river bank meet. They were well hidden and I only saw them by accident as I tried to photograph a huge flock of mallards. Unlike the wild birds, they were unafraid of us and stayed as we photographed them. They are well worth a photo.

A river runs through Tyne Valley, a small community west of Summerside. In the heart of the community, a pond collects the water before it flows over a small dam. 

Several homes in this area have a view and a sound booth for the waterfall. As I listen, I imagine a summer’s night with the windows open and the sounds of the water lulling me to sleep.

At the wharf at Malpeque, everything is battened down, waiting out the winter. The inlet is icy and snow covered, the boats high and dry. Fishers decorate the exteriors of some of the shacks.

This one has the tail fins of bluefin tuna caught during that commercial fishery which allows one tuna per licensed vessel every year. Inside the shack, you can see lobster traps and other gear. The weathered wood on the exterior has seen many winters. Oh the yarns this shack could tell!

Finally, after such a mild early winter, some recreational fishers placed their smelt shacks on the ice this past month. 

The sight of the shacks is a reminder to buy smelts the next time we visit the fish monger. The little fish are delicious!


We are in another lockdown due to Covid on Prince Edward Island. There are 18 active cases currently, the origin of some is unknown. This lockdown is for the next three days when the situation will be reassessed. Ages 14-29 in our area are being tested, schools and all but essentials are closed. We’ll see how it goes this time round.


Six percent of the population was tested over the last several days and no new cases were reported. We are waiting to see Tuesday’s results.