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Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Vacation in Atlantic Canada - Part One

      I have been an inveterate traveller pretty much all of my life, and Miriam has joined me in that passion since I have known her, relishing the experience of new wildlife, cultures, language and food. Travel has an inherent richness to it, enabling people from different parts of the world to understand each other and benefit from shared experience. Barriers are broken down, relationships are formed, friendships cemented, stereotypes dismissed, and the world becomes a better place. 
     COVID caused our adventures to come to a screeching halt, sometimes even precluding local walks, so we were very happy when restrictions were eased sufficiently that we were able to travel in Eastern Canada. Neither of us had visited the region for many  years so we welcomed the opportunity with great enthusiasm. 

06 September 2021
Waterloo, ON - Montmagny, QC

     Our journey began in atrocious weather, with rain forming a sheet of water. We left home before dawn and the combination of darkness and heavy rain made driving unpleasant for a while. As we travelled farther east, however, conditions ameliorated somewhat, and even though there were a couple of repetitions of the deluge of early morning we at least had the benefit of daylight.
     We had made a reservation at Motel Centre-Ville in Montmagny, QC, a place where we had stayed en route to Gaspé in 2018. We did not realize that the establishment had two components one across the road from the other. On our first visit we were lodged at the main facility and found it quite pleasant. On this occasion we were assigned a room in a typical old strip motel across the street. It was mediocre, a little dingy, but serviceable for a one-night stay. The washroom was the smallest we have ever seen. Miriam, who is not a big person, could not soap up in the shower without her elbows bumping against the side. There was nowhere to put anything.

Accommodation: Motel Centre-Ville, 14, Boulevard Taché est, Montmagny, QC G5V 1B7 Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

07 September 2021
Montmagny, QC - Summerside, PEI

     We were on the road by about 05h:30, happy that the roads were dry, and we made good progress through Québec into New Brunswick, where our route took us to the Confederation Bridge, often referred to as the Fixed Link, our pathway to Prince Edward Island.


     It had been necessary to obtain a PEI Pass on line before leaving Ontario, providing proof of both COVID vaccinations, and we thought we were armed with all that we needed.
     However, I had printed a copy of the application for the pass and not the pass itself! Furthermore, we had proof of both vaccinations, but they wanted the documentation covering the batch for the first and second shots. We had not kept the first vaccination certificate once the second one confirmed that we had received two doses.

     Shortly before leaving home we had acquired a new phone and Miriam gallantly navigated her way to the Ontario Ministry of Health site and was able to bring up our documentation. Kudos to her. 
     We had been shunted off to one side so as not to delay cars behind us, and to the great credit of the young man who interviewed us he had been able to retrieve the information too, and let us know that we were cleared to go pending the obligatory rapid test.
     He was pleasant throughout and never hectored us in any way for not having the full documentation. He was a credit to Prince Edward Island.
     The rapid test was administered and we were advised to keep our phone open for at least two hours when we would be contacted in the event of it being positive. 
     We sailed on through with a great sense of relief.
     We had made reservations for three nights at Baker Shore Bed and Breakfast and did not have far to travel. Even turning into the driveway we could see that it was a lovely house. 


     We were greeted by Darrell Lowe who requested that we continue to wear a mask until the two-hour cautionary period had expired, and we appreciated this level of diligence.
     Shortly, we were joined by Lynne, Darrel's wife and shown our spacious and well appointed room.


     The room was equipped with everything we could possibly need during our stay and a card welcomed us to PEI and to their B&B.  We had barely settled in when Lynne arrived at our door with a plate of freshly baked cookies, still hot from the oven - and they were delicious.

Darrell and Lynne

     I should confess immediately that Baker Shores is my favourite B&B ever, and Darrell and Lynne the most congenial hosts. I make no apologies for my unbridled enthusiasm!
     Darrell has installed hummingbird feeders around the property, including one right at our window, and there was a constant parade of birds keen to fatten up on the rich sugar water in preparation for their impending migration.
     A walk around the yard at the back of the house yielded American Robins (Turdus migratorius), a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) and several very entertaining American Crows (Corvus brachyrynchos).


     We inquired of Lynne as to a good place to eat dinner. She gave us a list of recommendations and we chose a restaurant called Gentleman Jim's. We both had fish and chips, well prepared and very tasty, but it never ceases to amaze me that these establishments give you enough chips to feed a village. More than half of ours went back on the plate, a dreadful waste of food.
     One the way to the B&B from the COVID checkpoint, we had passed by some marshy areas and had noticed many subadult American Herring Gulls (Larus smithsonianus) loafing on the mud, and at the side of the road, so we stopped to get a better look.


     There were also several Greater (Tringa melanoleuca) and Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) and they merited our attention too.


     When we arrived back at the B&B we poured ourselves a glass of wine, in real glasses that were in the room (no plastic crap) and went to sit on the veranda out front, where three Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilocus colubris) were the finest of companions. We lingered until it was almost dark, happy to be on Prince Edward Island, and congratulating ourselves on having found so agreeable a place to stay. It was a wonderful way to end the evening.

08 September 2021
Baker Shore - Chelton Beach Provincial Park - The Boardwalk, Summerside - Malpeque - Baker Shore

     It is often patently obvious that the host of a B&B exchanges a few words with its patrons, almost as a point of obligation, lacking in sincerity and devoid of substance.
     Lynne was the exact antithesis of this. She was always genuinely interested in what we had done, what was on tap next, how she might help, and in the process engaged in a lively flow of intelligent conversation. It was always a pleasure to see her and have a chat.
     Darrell really came into his own at breakfast. The meals he created were as well prepared, varied and as tasty as is possible.
     Here is breakfast the first morning.


     That muffin was hot, homemade and delicious.
      And here is what Darrell followed up with.


     I should point out that Darrell worked for forty years in the oil fields of northern Alberta as a pipe fitter, and we can only say that we are glad that he turned in his wrench for a spatula! How many times has a baked pear drizzled with nuts graced your breakfast plate?
     The preserves on the table were all homemade by Lynne.
     Our coffee cup was barely empty before it was filled again.
     Marie Smith is a transplanted Newfoundlander to PEI and a fellow blogger. We had been in touch during the run up to our trip and had arranged to spend a morning together. Marie suggested Chelton Beach Provincial Park as a place to meet, quite close to where we were staying and a productive spot for birds.
     From the park one has an excellent view of Confederation Bridge as it snakes its way across the Northumberland Strait.


     Marie and her husband, Rick, were caught up in heavy traffic and we arrived a little before them. When they arrived we took a very enjoyable walk along the beach together.
     It was a pleasure to see a few Bonaparte's Gulls (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) out on the water.


     Sanderlings (Calidris alba), a species I seldom see in Ontario, provided great amusement as they scurried around feeding rapidly, as though not a minute could be spared.



     A Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) on the other hand was a familiar sight.



     Hoary Mugwort (Artemisia stelleriana), often known as Dusty Miller by gardeners, is originally from Asia but has become established in salty dunes in North America.


     One of the stereotypical images of Atlantic Canada is of lonely lighthouses, former beacons of navigation critical to mariners, but now mainly serving as backdrop for photographers.


     Cluster Flies (Genus Pollenia) are completely dependent on earthworms at every stage of their life, but may be found in attics and such places during the winter. 


     They are completely harmless to humans.
     The tide was coming in and the area available for walking on the beach was becoming narrower, so Marie suggested that we go into Summerside to walk along the Boardwalk, an area she and Rick frequent regularly, and a veritable oasis for them during COVID.


      This seemed like a perfect spot for a photograph of our kind and genial new friends.


     There was not a huge concentration of birds along the downtown section of The Boardwalk but a Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) swam elegantly by.


     Farther along The Boardwalk, in an area with picnic shelters, and nicely wooded, Marie and Rick provided us with a very tasty lunch, comprising quinoa salad, chicken on a bun and Rice Crispy squares (made for their grandchildren). We were offered a choice of tea, coffee or water. It was all delicious, made even more delightful by being eaten outdoors with friends.
     A couple of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus varius) flitted from tree to tree, very adept at moving to the back side as soon as Miriam raised her camera. Several Blue Jays (Cyuanocitta cristata) found the area to their liking too.
     A Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) posed for us .....


     ..... and a short walk yielded a Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria).


     Rick and Marie had grandparent duties to attend to and we said goodbye with a deep sense of gratitude that such a splendid friendship had been forged. Blogging can have amazing consequences at times.
     Miriam had been checking for interesting corners of the Island to visit and we headed for Malpeque on the north shore.
     Our drive took us past this grand old church.



     This white exterior was utterly typical of most of the churches we saw; many of the small rural ones having been converted into residences.
     We stopped at any interesting stretch of shoreline we saw, and Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) was the default shorebird, seen in numbers I seldom witness in Ontario.



     A Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) looked like a distinguished country gentleman out for a stroll.


     Semipalmated Sandpipers (Caladris pusilla) are at the end of their migration through Prince Edward Island, but small numbers were present and you can see one below at the left of the picture.


     We decided to make another stop at The Boardwalk to see whether the difference in the tide greatly affected the birds there. Great Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus), American Herring Gulls and Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) were loafing together.


     When we had visited in the morning a fellow had told us of an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) nest which still contained young.
     We were happy to discover a noisy parent, probably the female, doing babysitting chores no doubt.

      

     The male was in the air and perhaps the female on the nest was calling for a food delivery.
     I am quite sure this Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) had heard of the excellence of Baker Shore Bed and Breakfast and wanted to hitch a ride back with us!


     Still full from Darrell's five star breakfast, and Marie's wonderful lunch, we decided to skip dinner and nibble on a few snacks we had in our room.
     It was a warm evening, the hummingbirds were buzzing, the breeze was zephyr-like, and the veranda beckoned. We filled our wine glasses and went to watch the closing of the day. 
     Prince Edward Island had welcomed us in style.

Accommodation: Baker Shore Bed and Breakfast, 21 Baker Shore Road, Summerside, PE, C1N 4J9, bakershorebandb@hotmail.com, www.bakershorebandb.com, 1 782 355-1089
Rating: 5 out of 5, plus an extra 5 for sheer excellence that is hard to beat. Thank you Lynne. Thank you Darrell. 

Monday, 20 September 2021

Back Home

     This is no more than a quick note to let everyone know that this afternoon I returned home from a vacation in Atlantic Canada. A couple of you kindly emailed me to inquire whether all was well since I had not posted for a while. Perhaps others are also wondering.
     We had a great time while away and tomorrow we hope to begin the process of downloading and editing pictures. With any luck I can produce a post covering the first part of our trip by the weekend.
     Thanks for being concerned!

 

Thursday, 9 September 2021

An Outing for Waterloo Region Nature with COVID at bay!

      It is with a great deal of pleasure that we are finally able to offer outings to our members again, now that we are permitted to have gatherings of people outdoors, with limits that will never be exceeded by our groups. The Delta variant is cause for concern, but we can only hope that more people will get vaccinated and its threat fades into the background.
     I always consider 1 September as the first day of fall, so an outing was a great way to get right into migration.
     Here are the details of our field trip.

Leader: David Gascoigne

Participants: Carol Anderson, Ross Getsinger, Denise Leschak, Karl Malhotra, Sandye Moores, Angélique Mori, Colleen Reilly, Adrienne Zoe

Angélique, Colleen, Denise, Sandye, Karl, Adrienne, Carol, Ross

     It was a picture perfect day for an outing, with modest temperatures, bright sunshine and light breezes.
     Usually on these outings Miriam accompanies me and she takes photographs while I am busy trying to find birds, identify them and provide some background information to the participants. On this day she had other plans and I am indebted to Adrienne and Colleen for permitting me to use their high quality images. Not only are they fine photographers they are very gracious people.
     Before getting into the details of the day's activities let me say a few words about Colleen and her group, The Pipits.



     This group is made up of in excess of a hundred keen naturalists with a variety of skill levels.


     They do field trips based on a range of organisms from birds to plants, amphibians, mammals, insects - anything related to natural history in fact.
     Recently, on one of their outings, Colleen crossed paths with our president, Janet Ozaruk, and we are going to explore opportunities for joint cooperation.
     Based on the few hours I spent in the field with Colleen I can only say that it will be a pleasure to be involved together.

DesJardins Canal, Dundas, ON

     This location is a remarkable spot for birding, with significant attractions at different times of the year.
     I have been coming here for at least thirty years, and in September have never failed to locate Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax). Moreover, adults and juveniles are always present and it is instructive to see them together. For some of the enthusiastic naturalists on this trip, it was a first sighting of this species.

Black-crowned Night Heron (adult)

Black-crowned Night Heron (juvenile)

     Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) were also present, mainly keeping to cover at the edge of the water, but occasionally venturing forth to display their unrivalled beauty.



     The males are just emerging from eclipse plumage and are regaining their finery.
     It is always a pleasure to see Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps).



Urquhart Butterfly Garden, Dundas, ON

     At the end of the DesJardins Canal one finds the Urquhart Butterfly Garden (https://urquhartbutterfly.com/about/frederick-urquhart-a-short-biography/) where a riot of colours awaits the visitor at this time of the year. Some of the many plants found there, planted with pollinators in mind are:

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

Tithonia

Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia)


Zinnia

     House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) found both food and cover. 



Grindstone Creek, Hamilton, ON

     The absolute stars of the show at this location were a couple of Green Herons (Butorides virescens) located close to shore and seemingly indifferent to to the cameras pointed at them.


     A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was stalking for food on the opposite side of the water.


     Several Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) demonstrated why they are considered by many to be the aristocracy of the avian world.


     Western Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) will soon be moving south, but an individual still here put on a great display for us.



LaSalle Park and Marina, Burlington, ON

     By the time we arrived at LaSalle it was time for lunch, which we were able to enjoy en plain air, entertained by a Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) swimming and diving in front of us, joined by a couple of Mallards (Anas platyrynchos) and a Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) or two.
     Cormorants were perched at several locations throughout the marina.


     Their number does not begin to approach the large flocks present just a couple of years ago as Ontario goes about the unrestricted slaughter of this gentle species, based on prejudice and hearsay, conspiracy theory and lack of science, stupidity and bloodlust, and fisherfolks' greed.  We continue to display an amazing proclivity to elect idiots as leaders so we can probably anticipate more of the same.
     Adrienne caught this dramatic flight of one of the lucky ones, who escaped the guns of those brave and noble folks who fire away at them, leaving injured birds to die a lingering, painful death, and young birds to starve in the nest waiting for parents who will never return with food.


     There was a movement of migratory warblers and other passerines that was the stuff of birders' dreams. 
Here are just some of the species that were passing through; these are the ones we managed to capture on camera.

Eastern Wood Pewee (Contopus virens)

Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca)

Northern Parula (Setophaga americana)

Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia)


Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus)


     Adrienne had told me that she was very keen to get a shot of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilocus colubris) feeding on Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) and you will no doubt agree that she succeeded spectacularly.


     A female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) wanted in on the act.


     Adrienne captured a male American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla).....


     ..... and Colleen was able to contribute a female.


     A couple of Red-eyed Vireos (Vireo olivaceus) joined the throng of migrants forging their way south.


     LaSalle provided all the excitement one could wish for. Colleen and Angélique opted to go to Paletta park in the hope of another warbler movement. The rest of us decided to move on to Bronte Harbour in Oakville.

Burlington, ON

     Along the way, through Burlington, at Joseph Brant Hospital our passage was slowed considerably, and we were witness to a disgusting display by anti-vaccination fanatics, bent on disrupting traffic, impeding the flow of ambulances carrying sick patients, screaming obscenities, deriding the doctors and nurses who dedicate their lives to helping others, and spouting nonsense, and carrying signs promoting every conspiracy theory in circulation.

Picture from the internet

     It is sad that legitimate protest has descended to this.

Bronte Harbour, Oakville, ON

     We had a very pleasant stroll around the harbour but bird life was sparse. 
     Red-necked Grebes (Podiceps grisegena) have for several years been the main attraction for birders, spring through fall, and breeding has taken place consistently. This year we saw only two birds, quite far out, and no sign of young.
     We were unable to get a picture of the birds present, so I am adding a couple from my files, taken at the same location in years past.



     When we parted company to return home we all agreed that it had been a fine day's birding, enhanced by the pleasure of each other's company.
     I plan to run this same excursion again on 25 September and look forward to another fine outing.