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Archive for the ‘The Salt Marsh Trail’ Category

salt marsh trail between first two bridges

The salt marsh can be a nasty place in the winter.  Even on a sunny day, the wind can be harsh and the salt spray biting.  Regardless of the elements, my grandson and I set out on our adventure on New Year’s Eve along the salt marsh trail, determined to make it at least as far as the first bridge.

The trail was icy in spots and the wind was convincing us to turn back with every step past the shelter of the trees.  However, as we approached the end of the Canada Goose bridge, we caught sight of the first of four bald eagles hunting in the marsh.

eagle flying over salt marsh

Inspired to plod on, we forced ourselves forward in order to get a closer look.

eagles in the salt marsh

We caught sight of one on the next bridge.  It too was clearly fighting the wind, clinging to the wooden bridge rail with its mighty talons.  We ignored the pelting salt spray but the wind kept thrashing us about.  It became more and more difficult to just hold onto the camera, let alone take a decent photograph of our subject.

eagle on bridge

Despite the difficulty, we were quite elated to have had such a close encounter with such a magnificent creature.  Doing hard things has its rewards.

an eagle eyeing us from the bridge

Before flying off, the eagle looked directly towards us.   Wow.  We headed back, glad that we had dared to venture out into the marsh on such a windy day.

heading back from the salt marsh

Later at Tim Horton’s, I wondered if the bald eagles were having duck or fish as we enjoyed our soup and coffee .

Happy New Year to all!  May you always find the joy in doing hard things in the year ahead.

All photographs and text copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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Come to the marsh to see how the rising sun paints the morning sky.  Its palette is bolder than Van Gogh’s and softer than Monet’s.

I experience a period of frightening clarity in those moments when nature is so beautiful.
~ Vincent Van Gogh

Each morning’s painting is a revelation, presenting a selection of hues never seen together before and certainly never to be seen again.  Not even the rocks can say they’ve seen it all before.  Gray surrenders to blushes of coral and pink.  Clouds only serve to enhance the effect.

Look with your eyes but see with your soul the uniqueness of dawn’s unveiling.

If the sun dawned in the marsh and there was nobody there to see it, would it not still be beautiful?  Perhaps the herons would like to answer that question.

Surely the word ‘awesome’ should be reserved for such reflections of light on water.  Perhaps those who overuse that word these days have never witnessed such a wonder.

No matter how many times  I see the sun painting the morning sky and marsh water, my excitement doesn’t wane.  Somehow, the sun never disappoints, and despite my expectations of spectacular color combinations, I am always marvelously surprised.

These landscapes of water and reflection have become an obsession.
~ Claude Monet

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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The combination of heat and humidity conspires to slow down even the most energetic among us.  During these late summer days, it’s difficult to find the motivation to take on new challenges.  This land snail, however, seemed pretty determined in its early morning attempt to cross the Salt Marsh Trail.

This brown caterpillar seemed to be on a similar quest.  Caterpillars are everywhere these days.  Unfortunately, not all of them are harmless…

The heat and humidity isn’t slowing these down as they gobble their way through the leaves.  Perhaps they’re just quenching their thirst by eating more fresh greens!  Unfortunately, they are damaging fruit trees and many others in their path.  Between their hunger and the dry summer, farmers are warning of rising food prices in the fall.

At least the birds have lots to eat.  A crab isn’t fast enough for a seagull, even in the morning mist.  Many crab shells litter the trail, remnants of seabirds’ breakfasts.

The shell of this green crab is still fairly fresh.  Its color will later lighten in the sunshine.  Though it appears intact, its insides have already been feasted upon by a hungry bird.

Summer’s slow days are perfect for the living to enjoy the warmth of the sun while it lasts.  Hurricane season is right around the corner.  With warm waters in the North Atlantic, who knows what lies ahead?

On these warm humid days, our view of the path before us is often clouded in fog.   Yet, there is magic in the mist, the least of which is the mystery of the unknown that lies ahead.  Perhaps the best we can expect to do is move slowly forward on the path set before us, simply putting one foot in front of the other while hoping for the best.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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The dark silhouettes of trees stand in stark contrast to the awakening sky. Dawn is on its way.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.
~ Anne Lamott

‘Good morning,’ the sun whispers to the earth. ‘It’s time to wake up.’

‘There’s a long, full day ahead, so I thought I’d make the transition smoother with a soft blush of pink.’

The beauty of light is reflected all around us…  if we’re willing to open our eyes to see it.

Each time dawn appears, the mystery is there in its entirety.
~ Rene Daumal

For the mind disturbed, the still beauty of dawn is nature’s finest balm.
~ Edwin Way Teale

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New red maple leaves slowly open on a small tree.  Although these red maples are a symbol of Canada, in nature, we usually associate them with the fall season, not the summer.   On a warm morning in July, they stand out in bright contrast to the cool green foliage surrounding them in the forest.

Similarly, red elderberries are easy to see against the backdrop of green.  There are lots of them this year for the birds to enjoy.  It’s unusual to see such a deep red in the woods in the summertime.  Even more unusual to see it in the salt marsh…

In the dawn’s early light, this bright red poppy stands waiting to greet the sun.  Why are poppies growing on this section of the trail between the Bald Eagle and Canada Goose Bridges?  Could this be a clue?

Captain Jefferson Clifford Francis memorial bench

It’s easy to forget what’s important as we go about our busy lives.  Regardless of the season, Nature remembers, even if we don’t.

For more on our connection with poppies see The Earth Remembers.

Captain Jefferson Francis’ memorial page at Military Mom at Home.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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The salt marsh may look calm and peaceful in the pre-dawn light, but there’s always some nasty business afoot that we humans aren’t privy to.  These are good hunting grounds for coyotes, bobcats, weasels and bald eagles.

If the herons saw something last night, they’re keeping it to themselves.

The kingfisher is also mum.  Or is he just more interested in this morning’s breakfast menu?

Surely the crows will talk.  Whether in the woods or the marsh, they can always be depended on to spread the word if there’s a predator lurking in the vicinity.  You can always get the latest buzz from crows.

But not this morning.  If the crows are talking at all, it’s in a whisper for their ears only.  It’s all hush-hush as the sun clears the horizon to announce the new day.  What goes on at night in the marsh stays in the marsh.

It’s just as well.  Today is enough of itself.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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May is one of the best times to see plants in bloom along the Salt Marsh Trail. The experience is not one to miss. Barely visible from the trail, bog rhododendrons, shown above, look rather exotic for these woods.

wild strawberries in bloom

Simpler wild strawberries are in bloom on the ground.  They seem especially numerous this year.

The soft pink of the flowering apple trees is a special treat for the eyes against the dark green of the woods and a bright blue sky.

Pin cherry trees are barely noticeable at other times of the year but right now their blooms allow them to stand out from surrounding greenery.

Up close, an elderberry bloom looks like an ornate chandelier.

Most ubiquitous of all are the delicate service berry blooms.  Unfortunately, they’re the most susceptible to being blown off their branches by strong winds.

Perhaps it’s this quality about them that makes them seem so fragile and ephemeral.  Like springtime itself, they never seem to be around long enough.

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dawn sunrise march 22 2012
This morning it looked like a hot summer sun was rising on the horizon.  The 25.7 degrees Celsius high yesterday in Halifax broke the previous record by 15 degrees!  (That’s a 59 degree Fahrenheit DIFFERENCE).  In 1979, temperatures here on March 21st reached 10 degrees Celsius.  The average for this time of year is 5 degrees Celsius.  Today’s forecast promises more of the same.

The elderberry trees in the backyard are already showing their buds which is unusual even for them.  They’re the first to flower in springtime.

elderberry leaf buds march 2012
It’s all very strange.  What will happen if we go back to average temperatures later this spring?  I wonder if wildlife is as confused as we are.

still water in cole harbour salt marsh

The waters in the salt marsh looked particularly still this morning.

It was fairly quiet except for the sounds of the songbirds near the woods.  The soft sea breeze was refreshing in the warm sunlight.  It likely won’t be as comfortable walking there later today in the full heat of the midday sun.   It might be a better idea to go to the beach :)

 

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porcupine ball

Why would a porcupine go so far out on a limb?  Wouldn’t it be safer closer to the trunk?  Although porcupines are quite good at balancing themselves, many fall to their death by venturing out on limbs.  I’ve seen porcupines on trees in the salt marsh before, but they were always clinging to thicker branches or resting on top of large evergreen boughs.

You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.
~ Will Rogers

porcupine head alb
Rogers’ quotation might apply to porcupines in apple trees, but this porcupine wasn’t on a fruit tree.  Porcupines will eat the inner bark of fir trees in winter when other food is more scarce, but although there are many fir trees in the marsh, this wasn’t one of them.  The porcupine was also hanging out on an island that’s a common roost for bald eagles in the marsh.  Eagles, coyotes and bobcats, all marsh residents, are known to prey on porcupines.   

porcupine on a limb

Why is this porcupine so far out on a limb?

This tree looks like a maple and it does appear as though some of its bark has been chewed.  Perhaps, with its acute sense of smell, the porcupine was lured by the scent of tender leaf buds that might be just beginning to emerge at the tips of the branches.  I can only wonder.

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You may already be aware that nature inspires and refreshes our spirits but did you know that it also influences our speech? Here are a few idioms (words and phrases that hold a special meaning in a given language) that have their roots in the natural world:

A hornet’s nest <Potential trouble> ~ I don’t think anyone would care to poke this nest, even with a ten foot pole.

All that glitters is not gold < Attractive appearances can be deceiving> ~ In this photo of rocks found along the Salt Marsh Trail, it’s pyrite aka fool’s gold.

To mushroom  <To grow or develop at an exponential rate> ~ This enormous shelf fungus seems to be growing more quickly than normal on a decaying tree in my yard.  It’s about a foot in width, an unusual find in my neck of the woods.

Thanks to Karma at Karma’s When I Feel Like It Blog  who challenged her readers to use photographs to illustrate three idioms from the English language.  A photo showing ‘Hallowe’en’ was also part of her request.  To me, Hallowe’en implies something scary, and to many people, next to death and public speaking, the scariest things on the planet are spiders. 

Living near boggy woods, we have a lot of spiders near our home, especially around Hallowe’en.  Sometimes they cross the threshold uninvited and visit us indoors.  This one  is probably the biggest I’ve ever found in the house.  After the photo shoot, it was promptly sent on its merry way outdoors while I cleared out the cobwebs.

If you’d like to participate in Karma’s idiom challenge, you have until October 31st 2011 to do so.

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Canada geese may be just barely visible beneath a cover of marsh mist but their morning talk is unmistakable.  Their communication is not just limited to their signature honk but to a medley of sounds as they wake to another day in another marsh.

According to Ducks Unlimited, Canada geese may be only next to humans in their talkativeness.  Greetings, warnings and contentment are all communicated from the time a gosling is still in its shell.

However, as there are some humans who like to talk more than others, there are probably some geese who are also more talkative than the rest.  I wonder if some geese put their heads underwater to get away from the nagging chatter under the pretext of finding food.

geese talking

Don't even think of flying next to her today!

Considering the amount of effort that goes into planning a trip abroad for a large group, it’s probably the communication skills of geese that allow them to be so successful in their migrations year after year. 

Geese are known to share the responsibilities of leadership, especially in flight.  Also, if a member of the flock is injured, two will stay behind to nurse it back to health, rejoining the larger flock together after it recovers.  Any of these actions would require a great deal of planning and discussion.  No wonder they’re so talkative!

Once the geese have breakfast, make their flight plans and leave, quiet returns to the marsh until the next flock arrives to spend the evening.  

For more information about these beautiful and talkative birds, see Facts on Canada Geese at Ducks Unlimited.

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The sun may be lighting up the sky in a spectacular display of color, but there’s another reason why nobody’s sleeping in this morning.  Some mother’s child is upsetting the peace and quiet of the marsh with incessant whining.  Good grief!

Despite its camouflage plumage and the low light, it’s easy to see from where the annoying whining is originating.  I’ve caught this act before.  It’s not unusual to see immature seagulls pestering adults for food.  It’s an odd sight as some of these juveniles appear just as large as the parent.

The whiner’s mother is of course ignoring it and pretending it’s someone else’s offspring that’s waking up the entire neighborhood.

What’s a parent to do, especially with a child that should be old enough to fend for itself?

‘Feed the brat!!’ the cormorant suggests. But is that really the best solution?

Don’t give in to whining.  Giving in teaches a child that whining is the sort of behaviour and tone of voice that will generate a result.

~  Jo Frost aka Supernanny

Okay, so you don’t give in.  But surely there has to be a way to make it stop.  Late last week I came across the carcass of a juvenile gull along the trail.  Did the eagles take matters into their own hands talons that day?

Who knows?  Unfortunately, what goes on in the marsh stays in the marsh.  The cormorants certainly weren’t disclosing anything on that story.

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