Posts Tagged ‘marsh’

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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‘We’ve been expecting you,’ the salt marsh sentinel announces from his roost at the top of the spruce.  It’s the first time I’ve seen great blue herons perched high on the treetops.   Though it all looks like business-as-usual in the marsh, there are always wonders waiting to be discovered.   It’s good to be back. 

‘We heard you’d been combing the beaches looking for us,’ the sea stars say collectively.  ‘We thought if we gathered together in one spot, you’d know how much we missed you and you missed us.  Why did it take so long for you to seek us here?’  

‘It’s a long story,’ I tell them, ‘one with lots of drama that didn’t involve me but nevertheless took a toll on my days.  Children suddenly needed me and caring for them took all of my energy.’

 ‘Tell me about it,’ another heron adds.  ‘We know what it takes to rear the next generation in an environment that seems more and more out of our control.’

‘I knew you’d understand,’ I tell them.  

A kingfisher ‘s compact body finds a stable position at the end of a dried twig.  I marvel at how expertly birds keep their bodies and lives in balance.  

In spring and summer their focus is on ensuring that the young ones survive to maturity.  No hardship or sacrifice seems too great as they provide sustenance and safety to the next generation.  But then, after giving their all for a season, they quietly revert back to concerns for their own well-being.    Could it be because they carry no burdens in their hearts that they are light enough to fly such long distances to warmer climes?

Thank you to all who sent emails or left kind comments asking where I was over the past few months.  It is good to be back :)


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From their roosts high in the canopy of the forest overlooking the salt marsh, two eagles check the area for activity.   

Don't look now, but I think we're being watched.

While bald eagles scan marsh waters for fish and the forest floor for small mammals, they also prey on smaller birds.  With so many migrating birds passing through the marsh these days, it’s inevitable that some will be weak or injured, becoming easy targets.  Eagles may also scavenge seal and deer carcasses or steal prey from other raptors such as ospreys. 

Stop honking or you'll wake up the eagles.

Once inland waters freeze and eagles are no longer able to fish due to ice, they will seek open water or fly farther south. 

In the meantime, their presence in the salt marsh is a welcome sight, if not for creatures lower on the food chain, then at least for us humans.

In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence.

~  Robert Lynd

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This weekend’s venue for the Fall Marsh Conference was the beautiful salt marsh in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.  The location was ideal, as northern delegates such as the Canada geese were able to stop over to attend the events during their migration south.

This year’s conference theme was The Tides of Change which gave all attendees opportunities to discuss strategies for the future while sharing lessons learned.   A panel presentation facilitated by Dr. Bob Cat, entitled The Coyote Bounty:  What it Means for the Rest of Us drew standing room only crowds, especially from the rodent delegation.

Four workshops were also well attended:  Innovative Uses for Discarded Tim Horton’s Coffee Cups, Coping with Off-leash Dogs, Managing Expectations for Migration Destinations after the Gulf Oil Spill  and Winter Storm Survival Techniques.  Once again this year, the sessions were coordinated by the great blue herons.

A gala evening on Saturday featured music by the Sandpipers.   Though the main vegetarian course was delectable, many of the attendees chose to find alternate fare off-site at the Roadkill Café on Bissett Road.

This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. B. Eagle who provided some keen insights into life at the top of the food chain.  It should be noted that conference organizers greatly appreciated his willingness to refrain from eating any of the delegates until after closing ceremonies.

Thanks to all who worked diligently behind the scenes to make the conference a success!  We hope to see all delegates again next year.

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You’ve been standing still for far too long with your feet in one spot … turning the same possibilities over and over again in your head. The days aren’t getting any longer and you’re not getting any younger.

The time has come for you to spread your wings.  Others may not approve and may even scowl at your need to do what moves you.  

Don’t let yourself be distracted by their expectations.  Be brave enough to ask yourself what expections you hold for your own life.   Be prepared for the unexpected.  

Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered — either by themselves or by others.
~ Mark Twain

You may have felt the need for some time to stand on the rock and show the whole marsh world who you are.

I’m no angel, but I’ve spread my wings a bit.
~ Mae West

On the other hand, your wing-spreading may be spurred by a growing desire to explore and employ your talents.  How better than by using them could you express gratitude and praise to the One who gave them to you?

Fear not.  Don’t get rattled by the sound of the wind blowing through your feathers as you begin to spread them.  If you dare, others may even take your lead and follow with a little wing-spreading of their own. 

Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another.  It is the only means.
~ Albert Einstein

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It’s a busy morning in the marsh.  A sandpiper rushes across a stretch of sea-smoothed stones.  If only we could make such sweet piping sounds as we take off in flight to meet our deadlines, Mondays wouldn’t be so bad.

Crabs are sparring with one another just beneath the water’s surface.  The disagreement is over almost as quickly as it’s started, and they respectfully move to their territorial rocks.  Look at all those little fish.  Surely there’s enough for everyone to share.

Mergansers have already had breakfast and are determined to stay close and tight as they move quickly to their next destination.  There are only three young ones left in a brood that might have had eight or more to start with.  Things don’t always work out as planned, but it’s important to move forward and make the most of the day ahead.

A great blue heron wrestles with a long fish.  The bird twists its snake-like neck and turns its head upside down in order to get a better grip.  It could certainly teach us a thing or two on the value of being results-oriented.  Sensing that I am getting much too close for comfort, it takes off with its meal in flight.

The heron below also takes off as I draw near.  The sandpiper wading nearby doesn’t mind its ominous silhouette.  It knows that things usually aren’t as scary and threatening as they might appear at first.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~ Wendell Berry

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According to the Canadian Ice Service, an enormous chunk of ice, 260 sq.km. in size, separated from a glacier in Greenland last week, becoming the most spectacular event to take place in the Arctic in 50 years. The broken piece will eventually fragment and inevitably melt in warmer waters, contributing to rising sea levels worldwide.

The first 6 months of 2010 were the hottest globally on record.  [See Ice Island Breaks Off Glacier at the Weather Network].

It’s dawn and the sandpipers are gathering at low tide along the shoreline in the marsh.  They’re so intent on eating that they take no notice of humans next to them on the trail.  Their gentle piping calls to one another are a fitting accompaniment to the rising sun.

Sandpipers have always seemed to me to be among the most delicate of the shore birds.  Like the endangered plovers, their fleeting movements, whether in flight or along the edge of the water,  never give me a chance to appreciate them for long.  I wonder if they’ll be affected by the oil spill down south when they migrate this fall.  [See BP oil spill could affect Maritime plovers at CBC].

Further along the shore, growing near the strandlines, statice is beginning to bloom.  It seems odd that such a delicate flower chooses to grow here along such a rugged shoreline.   Yet it manages to survive, despite winter’s stormy waters and winds.

When I think of rising sea levels, I wonder how wildlife such as sandpipers and statice will be affected in the years to come.  Will they simply disappear?  Or will they find a way to cling to life beyond the present shoreline?

This is a beautiful planet and not at all fragile.  Earth can withstand significant volcanic eruptions, tectonic cataclysms, and ice ages.  But this canny, intelligent, prolific, and extremely self-centered human creature has proven himself capable of more destruction of life than Mother Nature herself…. We’ve got to be stopped.

~ Michael L. Fischer

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Maybe black and white is the best medium for landscapes, I don’t know.

~ Fay Godwin

I don’t know either.  Yet, as much as color enhances, black and white seems to add another dimension to subjects.  Perhaps it’s by eliminating color that we’re able to see form more clearly.  In their magnificence, colors can distract and prevent us from looking more deeply at a subject’s form and contours.

Just before dawn and dusk, landscapes are void of most of their hues.  A similar effect is created by fog.  Color becomes less important as one’s eyes focus on simply identifying shapes.

Layers of hills and trees become more discernible in the distance.  In color, one layer doesn’t look too different from the other, but the gradient shades are more noticeable in black and white. 

The seasonal palette disappears in the absence of color.  It’s replaced with forms and shapes that convey a feeling of peace and tranquility.  

Perhaps black and white images provide us with a silence for the eyes that affects the soul in a way that’s similar to what our ears experience in quietude. 

Happiness is the harvest of a quiet eye.
~  Austin O’Malley

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Trees and shrubs are blossoming in yards, orchards and even in the marsh.  It’s blossoming time in Nova Scotia.  The air seems enchanted as delicate white and pink petals are blown in the wind.  The time to enjoy them is now. 

Chokecherry blossoms are blooming in the woods and near the marsh. 

Break open a cherry tree and there are no flowers, but the spring breeze brings forth myriad blossoms.
~ Ikkyu Sojun

The flowers of Elder trees are nearing the end of their blooming time.  By Midsummer’s Eve, their green fruit will already be visible. 

Serviceberry, also known as shadbush, are among the first of the trees to blossom.  Their delicate flowers have already been blown off many of the trees near the marsh.

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
~ Anais Nin

Pin cherry blossoms are not as showy as most of the other blooms.  Their tiny fruit will be appreciated by the birds later this summer.

The crabapple tree is blossoming next to the house.  I always wonder where the pinks of the buds go once the white flowers open.  This tree seems to bloom for such a short time.  The strong winds we’ve experienced over the past day have blown so many of the petals off the trees.  Blossoming time will soon be over. 

Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Hearing loud splashes in the deeper waters of the marsh is not unusual.  Fish are frequently active at the water’s surface and birds such as cormorants and ospreys will often dive under in search of food.  But this morning’s splash was much louder than usual and the surrounding ripples revealed that the diver was indeed quite large.

For several minutes, my eyes darted across the grey water, looking to see what would surface.  Once the creature emerged, I was not disappointed.  It was a harbor seal.

This is the first time I’ve seen a seal in the salt marsh.  Apparently it’s not uncommon for harbor seals to follow fish inland during high tide.  They’ll also feed on clams and crabs which are plentiful in the marsh.

The winter before last I managed to see a seal on the iced inlet behind Rainbow Haven Beach.  It was the first time I’d seen a live seal.  

Harbor seal behind Rainbow Haven - January 2009

Whether in the water or on the shore, harbor seals blend in very well with their surroundings.  I almost tripped on a dead one at Martinique Beach a couple of summers ago.  It was perfectly camouflaged among the rocks.  I wonder how many live ones have watched me over the years as I’ve walked along the shore, absorbed in thought.  Wildlife is all around us, whether or not we have the eyes to see.

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Earlier this week, I spotted this large weasel-like creature at dawn along the rocky shore of the salt marsh.  Its brown fur blended in well with its surroundings.  It stood very still when it first noticed me, then moved slowly among the rocks.  Once it was on the grass it ran quickly away. 

A sign in the marsh reveals that otters have been spotted here. Otters feed primarily on fish which would explain its proximity to the shore.  Could this be an otter

I managed to get closer to this animal than these photographs reveal, but unfortunately, none of those images turned out well.  What I did observe at close range was its large fluffy tail.  It was covered with black hairs, while its body was medium brown.  I don’t recall its tail being as tapered as that of otters.  Also, its eyes were more closely set than those wide set ones typical of otters. 

So I’m wondering… could it be a fisher?  They’re usually crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk).  Their diet consists of snowshoe hares and porcupines (both plentiful in this marsh).  The fisher population in Nova Scotia is scattered and low. 

What do you think this animal might be?  [Below I've attempted to sharpen a blurred close-up image of the animal.]

In Nova Scotia, the mustelid or weasel family consists of fishers, martens, short-tailed weasels (ermine), mink, river otters and striped skunks.

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Despite cold winds and freezing temperatures, a walk along the salt marsh in the early morning is still a worthwhile undertaking.  The play of light on ice and water is fascinating to observe.

Even the frost on the bridge sparkles in the sunlight. No surface seems immune to the effects of the intense cold.

Marsh grass is covered in ice where water has splashed up repeatedly along the trail at high tide.   Layers of ice form a  coating that’s several times larger than the blade of grass hidden within.

However, repeated doses of light make even the thickest frozen masses prone to melting once temperatures warm.  These large chunks might take a little longer, but eventually, they’ll melt too.  Warmer temperatures are forecast for the days ahead.  Even if the skies are clouded and overcast, the rays will somehow find a way to make light of all this ice.

Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.

~ Albert Schweitzer

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