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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.

Monday 19 April 2021

A day at the park

We’ve spent time in the National Park here on Prince Edward Island recently and have thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Besides time at Cavendish Grove, we walked some trails and had our grandson with us one day. We will return again soon.

It was great fun to have the three year old with us, to share his joy in life and to see life from his perspective. He observed the three pairs of geese who live in the Grove this time of year, watched a squirrel feeding nearby and listened intently to the peepers and other frogs as they continued their serenade. Strangely, the frogs were quiet for a few minutes as we ate lunch before they started up again. A pair of the geese were unconcerned about us dining nearby.

We watched as crows flew to the bank to gobble up some frogs to which our grandson said, “That’s not very nice.” 

It takes some thought to explain the food chain to a three year old. He listened and moved on to the next experience.

He rode in his wagon and his grandfather and I took turns pulling him over the trails or joined him as he hopped with enthusiasm over fallen trees in the glade. We had Georgie, the eleven year old golden retriever with us too and she sniffed every blade of grass along the way. It was a leisurely walk on a cold but sunny day.

It was especially fun for our boy to ride on the bridge over the Lake of Shining Waters, otherwise know as MacNeills Pond,

located just behind the dunes at Cavendish Beach. 

We watched mallards on the pond as I took some photos. I love this area.

Recreational fishing season started mid month so except for one other visitor, we were alone in the park that day. Meanwhile, every pond, stream and bog hole on our way to the park had anglers busy casting for that big one. I don’t understand that quest but the quiet time in nature is appealing of course.

Thursday 15 April 2021

A different chorus

It was too cold to ride our bikes but we visited Cavendish Grove anyway, to see if it was open for this year and to walk there if it was. My husband and I love to picnic in the Grove, so we brought along our first picnic lunch of the year, one of many we hope. There is always a place one can stop for a picnic.

It was good to be back in the Grove again and as we parked, we could see our old friends, the geese, hanging out at the far side of the pond. 

Three geese couples nest in the Grove every spring and we’ve enjoyed watching them with their goslings over the years.

When we opened the car door however we were greeted by a chorus. At first we thought birds were calling from the trees, and loudly too. At the far side of the pond we listened and realized birds were not responsible for this noise. Frogs searching for mates made an amphibian chorus serenading all visitors. 

Peepers are high sopranos and are balanced by other frogs in the lower registers. Every now and then, a goose, sharing the pond, added a few notes as well. 

The vocal range in the choir was impressive. You can hear them here.

We had lunch on the red bench 

and listened to the unfamiliar song which many would find too loud. However we were amazed and when choristers in other areas of the pond started in, all we could do was laugh. Never had we been entertained quite like this before. It was an unique song of nature. Another short video here.

I managed a photo of some frogs, starting with wee ripples in the water, 

then eyes visible above the surface.

Nature so impressed us that day we are headed back to the Grove today with our grandson. It would be wonderful to hear the frogs again but if not, we will enjoy a walk and a picnic with our three year old. We are as excited as he is.

Sunday 11 April 2021

A chorus

The audience was moving, riding through a theatre with a tree lined stage which was full of performers, many unseen. 

Their voices were varied, some familiar, many not. My husband and I were part of this audience, in front row seats on a calm spring morning as we rode our bikes on the Confederation Trail from Summerside, Prince Edward Island.

The performers were feathered, in a chorus singing their hearts out as we rode by. 

The voices of the Song Sparrows were recognizable as were the Blue Jays. Robins hopped along the sides of the trail on occasion but didn’t stop long enough for photos. Occasionally we could hear them in the chorus. If only we could have identified all the songsters.

A hawk cast a shadow on the trail while Black Ducks took to flight as we rode by, quacking as they went.

Riding along, we could hear the choir as we rode into and out of the songsters’ positions. Thousands of performers put on their best show.

                                                                Snow still fills the ditches in places.

We smiled the entire time.

Thursday 8 April 2021

Feathered friends

The salt marsh which is sometimes a pond along the boardwalk is changed again. A recent storm removed the seaweed and sand which provided a dam at the mouth of the pond. Now the pond is gone and a stream is back in its place. You can see the opening to the harbour in the photo.

The poor American Black Ducks which call the area home don’t have enough depth to swim in places. Now we see them on the beach most days. Another storm is required to wash seaweed and sand back into the opening in the natural dam. I hope the ducks get their home back in their favourite condition soon.

Late in March, a pair of Kildeer were back in the marsh area. A pair hung out there last summer. Could they be the same birds? 

One day recently, this Hairy Woodpecker was interested in the senior taking her photo. 

The American Robins were back on the island during the last few days of March.

A Black-capped Chickadee landed on the bridge while I was there. I placed my hand in my pocket and the little bird flew around my head. I imagine it expected some food.

Mourning Doves like to pick seeds off the bridge when there aren’t any walkers around.

Dozens of Song Sparrows sing their greetings all along the boardwalk. Several were busy on the bridge collecting seeds one day. These tiny birds have powerful voices and their songs fill the air.

Tree Sparrows continue to visit the bridge as well.

A Red-winged Blackbird  finally stood still long enough for me to photograph him. We have heard their chatter for a few weeks.

The Blue Jays along the boardwalk are always talkative. Their voices dominate any choir.

A Herring Gull 

and a Ring-billed Gull 

are from a flock of various gull species enjoying the harbour these days.

The harbour/boardwalk area is an avian paradise despite the cold so far this spring.

Monday 5 April 2021

Notes from the isle

The temperature warmed up for a week then we had snow again. Now we are into a week or more of rain. Maritime weather in spring is totally unpredictable but it marks our gradual emergence from what feels like our winter confinement.

My husband and I brought the barbecue out to the deck again, ahead of the warmer weather. The only encouragement we needed was the lack of snow on the patio. Clothes are on the line again too. As soon as it starts to warm up, the dryer has a rest for a few months. Probably most importantly though, we open the windows on occasion. The fresh air requires a duvet on the bed for another few weeks but that’s perfect. It will be too hot soon enough.    

What a great feeling to be on the bikes again, more than three months since our last rides. I was shaky for 20 seconds when I started but adjusted easily. My husband had no problems either.

Whenever possible, we walk the boardwalk then ride our bikes. It is quiet in our area in the mornings, a perfect place to try out our bikes again while we wait for the snow to disappear from the trails. Our first long ride will be in Cavendish but around the neighbourhood is fine for now when weather permits.


Meanwhile, my husband and I both have our appointments for vaccinations later this month which will be a relief for sure. The province plans to vaccinate everyone before second shots are administered this summer.

Looking ahead, the hope in Atlantic Canada is to have another Atlantic bubble, like last summer, beginning April 19th. This will mean anyone who is a resident of the four Canadian Atlantic provinces can travel among those provinces without two weeks isolation on entering another or returning to one’s home province. Such is not the case at the present time. Maybe other Canadians will be able to visit later this summer. It is almost too much to imagine after the year we’ve had. 

Slowly but surely, we are creeping back into the world after a pandemic winter.

Thursday 1 April 2021

Shades of blue

The shades of blue in sea and sky always catch my attention and the boardwalk in Summerside is a perfect place to see them. While I appreciate a clear blue sky, the hues of blue cloud which often precede rain are captivating. Add in the sea and I am in blue heaven.

Sea ice adds another element to the blues.

The colours along the shoreline provide some contrast, while sometimes the ice in the harbour is all that distinguishes sea from sky.

A sky in hues of blue is reflected in a small section of open water in the harbour. It doesn’t take much water to make a perfect scene.

This favourite bench is a perfect place for the blues.

Then, on occasion when you only have a cell phone as a camera, fog beyond the harbour, the dark blue patches of sea between the surface ice and a storm-blue sky stop you in your tracks.