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Friday 30 July 2021

On the trail again

The Confederation Trail was calling. I had fallen off my bike and hurt my ankle so I stayed off the bike until I felt 100% better and that took three weeks. Meanwhile the last section of trail, in the far eastern side of the island, was the last part of the 273 kilometre trail we had yet to complete. My husband and I were doing both directions and we had 46 kilometres left. My ankle had to be in great shape to finish this quest.

We started in Souris,

a branch off the main trail, rode to New Harmony where we had finished our last ride and headed east. This section of the trail was well groomed, taking away the challenge of the previous time when I had fallen. There was a challenge however. 

The previous day there was a short but severe thunder storm with torrential rain. The water on the trail was not dried up the next morning when we started. The water splashing up made us and our bikes filthy and it was slippery in several areas.

This part of the trail has sections which are under a thick canopy making one feel bathed in the green glow. 

Shadows dance along the trail as well, one of my favourite experiences.

We arrived in Elmira, riding beside an old section of rail bed 

as we cycled to the end of the trail. 

Nearby the old train station looked on, having seen thousands complete the trail now and the rail back when.

An old caboose is in great shape 

and the children’s play set provides the engine.

Back in Souris, we enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant to celebrate our completion of the trail. We enjoyed the meal but we enjoy our own fare and picnics just as well, sometimes better.

Souris is a pretty community by the sea. The old lighthouse stands its vigil in the outer part of the harbour 

while along the shoreline, above the cliffs, apple trees with small fruit, have roots dug in for this year at least.

Having cycled the main Confederation Trail, now we will ride the areas we particularly enjoyed and some branch lines. We look forward to autumn colour on the trail before long.

Sunday 25 July 2021

Birds around the estuary

Slowly, over the last several years, a love of birds, their appearance and behaviour, crept up on me and seeped into my bones. My husband supports my interest in every way possible. Everywhere we go these days, we watch and listen for the birds in that area. Sometimes I recognize the birds by sight and/or sound, other times, I need the reference book or a website check at home for identification. Usually, the camera is nearby for photos.

Recently, we visited our family at a beach house on the estuary of the Hillsborough River near Charlottetown, the capital of Prince Edward Island. 

We spent the day on the beach with the kids and enjoyed every minute. Some of our time was spent birdwatching with the family.

Bird listening is a better description when it comes to the Common Terns. 

The birds probably nest in the area and their in-flight acrobatics in the sky around the house and their voices were hard to ignore. In one area of the beach, they were loud and looked to be distracting us with aerial antics above our heads. I didn’t get any photos but their behaviour was amazing to watch.

One of the shorebirds, I later identified as a Willet, appeared to be nesting in the same area. We could hear noise among the grasses in the marsh and the bird put on a display a short distance from the noise. 

This bird stood on the beach and chirped its loudest as we approached and walked by. When we passed, it took to the air, the beautiful markings on its wings were easy to see but hard to photograph.

From our beach chairs, we observed the Willet and several terns being noisy and aggressive towards a Bald Eagle.

The birds flew towards the eagle, veering off at the last second. The eagle stayed around for a few minutes then flew to the trees a distance away. The smaller birds saw the eagle for the predator it was.

In the water, a flock of eleven Great Blue Herons caught our attention as well.

As the tide rose, the bird moved from one position to another, to shallow water. Eventually they flew off together. 

Watching the birds with family and sharing an interest with them was fun.

Thursday 22 July 2021

At the beach house

The beach house is on an inlet near the mouth of the Hillsborough River, with the capital city, Charlottetown, visible in the distance. A salt marsh and beach separate the house from the brackish water of the estuary.

Our daughter’s family rented the house recently and my husband and I visited. It is a lovely house in a beautiful setting and we spent much of the time with the family on the beach. 

The path to the beach goes through a meadow with wildflowers 

and Queen Anne had her lace spread about with abandon.

It was low tide 

and the Northumberland Strait having already receded, began to rise as we walked with the children and explored the beach. Plenty of shelled animals live below the high tide mark here. 

The kids enjoyed playing at the water’s edge and soon discovered they could cover themselves and each other in muddy sand. 

Why pay for a mud treatment when you can have this much fun for free?

Nearby a farm extends to the shoreline, reminding us of the connection of land and sea on our island home.

We had a wonderful day with the family and although it was overcast, it didn’t rain. We were lucky to have such a day in a week of miserable weather. If only we could share the rain this summer with western Canada!

Monday 19 July 2021

Reaching for the sun

They reach for the sun along the pathways and trails, in the meadows, around rivers and ponds and along the seashore, anywhere they can get a root hold. A variety of colours, they give their best to creation, from seeds to plants, blooms, pollen and eggs. They colour our paths and brighten our days.

Wildflowers don’t need human prompting, they manage on their own just fine. Seeds, carried on the wind, by birds or other animals, sprout and reach into the soil. Before long, voilĂ ! The leaves and showy blooms are reaching for the sun again.

Sometimes they stick with their own kind. 

What looks like one bloom per plant, such as bunchberry, 

or numerous clone-like blooms like yarrow are worth a look.

Various colours catch the eye, such as the yellow of St. John’s wort with the tiny stripes on its buds which look to be painted there.

The pink and white of bindweed is always a nice surprise as it climbs its way up and around shrubs. This may please onlookers but not the plant it climbs. 

One notices a white plant among the bushes but the details of this male Tall Meadow rue with the lemon anthers and white stamens are beautiful on closer look.

Blue Flag iris is always a nice addition to the banks of a wetland.

Even seed heads, such as this one of Yellow Goat’s beard, which resembles dandelion seeds, makes us stop for a look.

Pinks and white of Dame’s rockets fill the ditches and pathways. The natural beauty of the wild roses, rockets and clover along this section of trail by the sea is a seasonal treat.

And the most spectacular of all is the riot of colour when a variety of wildflowers share a space such as here

or here,

or here.

Mother Nature is an excellent gardener.

Friday 16 July 2021

From the harbour to the cove

It was a great find. My husband discovered some old slides, long forgotten and misplaced over the years. From the 1980s, they were part of an assignment he did for cultural geography. Photos of my mother’s hometown of Maddox Cove and my grandmother’s hometown of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland worked well with the subject for the presentation. They were easy to digitize last week.

There are many old photos of Petty Harbour, a well protected fishing town tucked in an harbour in Motion Bay, just south of the capital, St. John’s. This area, a fishing station for the English in the 1600s was captured by the French in 1696, as the two countries fought over the fish from the waters and the land as a way station between the Old and New Worlds. The English eventually won.

Petty Harbour, like many areas of Newfoundland is rock, with a thin layer of soil in places. 

Houses are stacked over one another on the mountainside, the exposed rock visible all around. This is not a place with gardens and vegetable patches as every millimetre of soil is hard-won.

My grandmother’s family, Hearn, lived on the other side of the harbour, 

up the road and around the turn, tucked in under the mountain. Her father was a fisherman. 

A kilometre or so from Petty Harbour is Maddox Cove, down a road which is carved out of the side of the cliffs.

Here my great grandfather Edward O’Brien, an immigrant from Ireland, settled with his wife, Bridget Kieley and raised a family. The youngest son, Gus, was my mother’s father. He was a fisherman out of Petty Harbour and worked the farm in Maddox Cove.

There was more soil in the Cove and vegetable gardens were common, though my mother’s family worked hard to amend the soil with seaweed and manure. They raised chickens, sheep, cows and had horses to work the land.  

When I was young I spent summers with my grandparents in the Cove, in the days when there were only twelve houses there. Large families meant I had lots of playmates although Mary, Bernard and Margie were my best buddies. We had wonderful summer days, playing in the pool we dammed in the river, on the beach, in the woods, playing house and school and games with the other children after supper, in the old schoolhouse yard. Days weren’t long enough to do everything we planned. 

My grandparents were loving people who worked hard their entire lives. They would have been around my age now when I spent those summer days with them. I can understand their interest in my life and spending time with me. It is how I feel about my grandchildren.

These photos were wonderful reminders of family and friends in a place which helped shape my life.

Wednesday 14 July 2021

Inland waters

Our quest to cycle the Confederation Trail from east to west on Prince Edward Island took us to what may be the most remote section of the trail last week. On our return ride from Selkirk to New Harmony, we only met one person, which is unusual. In addition, a section of this trail has not been groomed yet this year which made it look untamed. It is where I fell with my bike. However, the ponds and wetlands in this area are worth a visit.

Larkin’s Pond near Selkirk is known for fly fishing although on the two weeks we’ve been past there we haven’t seen anyone fishing. 

We saw ducks on both occasions but they were too far away to photograph. The wind in the bulrushes is almost musical. 

Numerous Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies flitted over the trail in this area and one posed for a photo.

Further along, in a peaceful wetland area, 

reflections of the occasional cloud overhead adds to the scene on the water.

We crossed the road to New Zealand, PEI, 

a tiny farming community whose name first appeared officially in 1925. There isn’t much written about this community but several families left the area in the 1800s to settle in New Zealand. The name of the community on PEI reflects the connection of its people to that island so far away. 

McVarnish’s Pond is a Conservation Area with a fish ladder which allows smaller fish, 

such as smelts and gaspereau easier access to inland waters where they return every year to spawn.

The area is pristine and quiet, the run of small fish over for another year.

Near New Harmony spring water flows, rising from the earth below, at a constant temperature of 7 degrees Celsius year round.

This section of trail has pristine water features and is more isolated than many areas of the trail. It will be safer for bicycles when it is groomed for this year.