Posts Tagged ‘salt marsh trail’

Can you see the little ermine in the picture above?  Its sparkling eyes rival the sparkles on the fresh fallen snow.  It caught my eye this morning as I was walking at sunrise along the Salt Marsh Trail.

In the winter, the stoat’s fur changes from brown to pure white, except for the very tip of its tail, which remains black.  During this phase, the stoat is known as an ermine.  To see this elusive creature is considered good luck by the Japanese.  They are mostly nocturnal but sometimes will show themselves at dusk and dawn.

This ermine had the typical long skinny body of its species and moved very fast.  It’s also supposed to be an excellent swimmer.  Stoats or ermines are carnivores and would likely find a plentiful supply of food in the marsh: voles, red squirrels, snowshoe hares, birds and fish.  They are capable of taking down prey larger than themselves.  Stoats are preyed upon by coyotes and foxes.  They may be killed by domestic cats if they dare to venture into residential areas.

The tracks above were photographed near the spot where I saw the ermine this morning.  This is the first time I’ve seen this little creature in the snow.  Seeing it put a sparkle on the whole morning walk.

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We’re entering the darkest week of the year in Nova Scotia, when each day is less than nine hours in length.  This morning, the sun rose at 7:45, almost two hours after I set out for a walk along the Salt Marsh Trail. 

I often walk in the dark with the intention of seeing the sun rise while out in the middle of nature.  If you’ve never risen early and braved the elements outside in the pre-dawn light, you’re missing a wonderful experience.  It’s one that engages all the senses. 

Too often, we really only on our eyesight.  We only trust what we can see directly in front of us, and fail to engage our other senses when confronted with the unknown.

Walks in the darkness make us perk our ears more.  The scent of trees in the mist and the sounds of waking birds and rushing tide waters all add to our perception of place and time. 

Even on moonless nights, white objects stand out in the darkness.  I wondered what creature attacked this seagull when I came across these feathers on my walk yesterday morning.  A coyote?  Not knowing what’s lurking in the darkness is part of life’s adventure.  The challenge of facing our fears, whether real or imagined, shouldn’t prevent us from moving forward along the trail.

On this morning’s walk, the light drizzle soon changed to pouring rain.  The droplets were caught by the flash of the camera and capture a bit of the magic that is felt at this special time of day when most are still asleep and warm in their beds. 

The quotation below is from Canadian portrait photographer, Yousuf Karsh. Although digital photographs no longer require darkness for their development phase, his words still hold true.

Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness.
~ Yousuf Karsh

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High winds and stormy waves have thrown heaps of marsh grass across the salt marsh trail.  They’ll freeze into ragged mounds that will make passage here more difficult through the winter months.  But grass isn’t the only thing that the storm blew in…

Who would have thought one could find so many different types of sports balls in one morning’s walk?

The trap and skeet club might be missing a rack…

Does the discovery of this vacuum cleaner attachment mean that there’s also a vacuum cleaner out in the marsh somewhere?

The sudden presence of this enormous waste bin is a testament to the power of the winds and waves.  I wonder if someone should call Waste Management and let them know?

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geese in salt marsh

Though water is a constant feature in the salt marsh, during high tide, it seems like the water is everywhere.  This morning it was also the same colour as the sky, which made the entire scene appear watery.  Canada geese dotted the soft grey below the horizon line.

water and sky

The narrow trail that passes through the salt marsh allows one to be surrounded by sky and water without being out in a boat.   It’s a unique experience and certainly one that’s mind opening and peaceful. 

trail in november 

Years ago, a railroad passed through this marsh connecting Musquodoboit on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia with Dartmouth.   It was named the Blueberry Express for the number of blueberries that were transported into the city for sale.  Train service carried passengers until 1960.  Travel through here would have been a wonderful experience back then too.  The views would have been just as awesome, with perhaps even more wildlife to see than there is now.

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autumn gold

It’s been half a century since gold was mined in Cow Bay.  Gold deposits here are part of the evidence that support the theory that this corner of Nova Scotia was attached to Africa prior to continental drift.  Today, the closest we have to gold is found in November’s plant life along the Salt Marsh Trail. 

These golden grasses and leaves exhude a warmth and richness that were not present earlier this fall.

the marsh in september

The Marsh in September

The goldening of the grasses takes place at the same time that the water turns a steel grey.  

marsh grasss nov

The colours look especially burnished in the morning sunlight.  Even when there is frost on the seaweed, there is a warm glow to the landscape.

frost in autumn

The few leaves remaining on the rosebushes that border the trail are also golden.  They stand in bright contrast to the brilliant red rose hips that were orange earlier in the season.

gold rosebush

Even the November sunrise seems more golden…

november sunrise

Which makes me wonder… why do we usually think of November as such a dull, dreary month?

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sunrise november 9

The sun is just rising along the Salt Marsh Trail when the sound of geese begins to float in from the north.  They are waking up just beyond the island and preparing for flight.

geese arriving 2

Moments later, their distant honking turns into a loud roar.  What are they calling out to each other as they head out to sea?

geese overhead

Their numbers are in the thousands and it’s impossible to photograph them all in the sky.  To see so many geese flying directly overhead at dawn is an awesome experience.  The rays of dawn light up their feathers, revealing the beauty of their markings.

geese overhead 2

Their formations are like ribbons in the sky as they begin to organize themselves for their long journey south.

geese at sunrise

Within a couple of minutes, the event is over as they head out beyond the marsh to the Atlantic.  The sun is still rising beyond the horizon.

lone gooseForty minutes later, a lone goose can be heard flying around the marsh.  Its calls are distinct and clearly those of a Canada goose.  How did it possibly miss the wake up call? 

Its unanswered calls sound lonely and frantic.  Geese are known for their manner of leaving no goose behind.  How could this have happened?  Hopefully there will be more geese passing through here this week and this lone goose will be able to join the rest of its kind in their long journey south.


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