The end of winter, Annapolis Valley

Annapolis Valley view, March 14
Looking from Lower Canard towards the Canard River and the South Mountain, March 14, 2011

Before the official end of winter yesterday, the snow in the Annapolis Valley and the South Shore had mostly melted. A layer of ice, the remnant of sunny days and cold nights, was the last thing to leave our lawn; it took days to melt.

We enjoyed a March Break trip to the Valley, and waking up to these expansive views.

Vinyard in Lower Canard
Vinyard in Lower Canard, March 14, 2011

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning

Sunrise this morning. Taken with a Fujifilm FinePix F1800 on a tripod.

Another storm is on its way.  This one is the kind of blizzard you’d expect in January, with 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) of snow.

Atlantic Canada has been in the news lately with a series of storms in December, one week after another.  If you just watched the weather channel you might think that we’re living in a disaster area and maybe that’s why I haven’t been posting frequently.

But where we live, we haven’t lost power for more than a minute, and we’ve escaped the brunt of the storms. The worst damage tends to be localized, and even though Nova Scotia is small, one side of the province often has very different weather than the other. Some weather systems track up the Bay of Fundy, for example, while others are phenomena of the Atlantic Ocean.  And the Margaree Valley has received a lot of rain which seems to get trapped by the surrounding mountains.

The Annapolis Valley was hard hit by one storm which downed many trees, knocking out so many power lines that it took days to restore full service.  Berwick United Church Camp, with its 500-year-old towering hemlocks, was badly hit, as was the Kentville Ravine which also has a stand of old growth hemlock.  I’ve seen photos of damage in both places on Facebook.  It is evident that some of the trees that came down were hollow and perhaps were near the end of their natural life.  Thus the storm did what storms do:  fell trees so that they can return to the soil and nurture new growth that will flourish in the sunlit openings they leave in their wake.  Much as it feels tragic to those who love those trees – and I speak as one who grew up attending Berwick Camp every summer and loved its cool, shaded grounds and majestic trees – this is Nature’s way of renewing itself.

So we’ll take what comes – what else can we do? – and hope the power stays on.

It’s an early spring

Apple blossoms, maple, birch
Apple blossoms, maple and birch in Lunenburg, May 13th

Apple blossoms were blooming in Lunenburg last Thursday, which means they’re past their prime in the Annapolis Valley already.  The Apple Blossom Festival will apparently be blossom-less.  Usually the organizers hit the blossoms right on with their timing, but this year it is generally agreed that spring is 2 to 3 weeks ahead of schedule.

Not that we’re complaining … this is my favourite time of year, when the leaves burst forth.  If it’s part of a long-term trend, however, it could be very disruptive to the natural balance of blooming and birthing, migration and munching, which governs the ongoing survival of many animals and plants.

Spring is early across Canada, not just in Nova Scotia, or so I hear.  Is spring early where you live?  Leave a comment below.

Lake country is cottage country

Nova Scotia has so many beautiful lakes.  Some of them are lined with cottages.  In Cape Breton family cottages are called “bungalows”.  Other lakes are in wilderness areas and may hide traditional camping spots known to a few fishermen, hunters and back-country campers.

I camped out last weekend next to the cottage of friends on Lake George, on the South Mountain near Aylesford, in the Annapolis Valley.  We swam and kayaked and wished we had a little sailboat there because it was windy.  We hung out and talked and read books and ate.  When it was cold we lit a fire.  We grabbed the last bit of summer.  That’s what cottages are about.

Lake George on a September morning
Lake George on a September morning

Waiting for Hurricane Bill

Hurricane Bill approaching Nova Scotia as seen on Select clouds, windfields and map labels, then go fullscreen for the best picture.
Hurricane Bill approaching Nova Scotia as seen on Click image to see fullscreen current version. Select clouds, windfields and map labels, to get a picture like this.

“Batten down the hatches” – it’s an old expression from the days of “wooden boats and iron men” and describes perfectly what Nova Scotians are doing as Hurricane Bill approaches our shores. Memories of 2003’s Hurricane Juan, which hit Halifax hard, are fresh in our minds. There’s a sense of anticipation in the air, weighted down with high humidity and a fresh breeze. Boat owners are checking moorings, moving boats to safer places, removing canvas to reduce windage and damage, and literally securing the hatches. Everyone is stowing lawn furniture and garbage cans. Apple growers in the Annapolis Valley are concerned for their bumper apple crop, but there isn’t much they can do at this point except wait. And “pray to the rum god,” as a sailor told me as she watched her classic wooden daysailer being hauled out of the water.

Environment Canada's hurricane track predictions. Click image to see current version.
Environment Canada's hurricane track predictions. Click image to see current version.

Bill is currently forecast to pass south of Nova Scotia during the day tomorrow, Sunday as a Category 1 hurricane. I’m monitoring it on two websites: Environment Canada’s marine info section, and the more spectacular and information-rich We’ll see which of the two has the more accurate predictions!

Spring Leaf-out in the Annapolis Valley

I had the pleasure of going to the Annapolis Valley yesterday on business.  The leaves are not really much further along there than here on the South Shore, depending where you are.    I noticed a familiar Valley odour, too – a combination of green growing things and the smelly stuff that helps them grow.  No apple blossoms yet, but they must be just about to burst forth – like in this video. They always arrive just in time for the Apple Blossom Festival:

The Anglican church on Church St., near Port Williams in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, taken May 13, 2009.
The Anglican church on Church St., near Port Williams in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia.

Indigo Bunting

At first, the mysterious blue bird was shy and kept his distance.
At first, the mysterious blue bird kept his distance.

Yesterday, Dennis Robinson, the Chickadee Dude (see our Chirbles the Chickadee pictures), spotted an indigo bunting, described by the Peterson guide as “casual” to Nova Scotia, in the Annapolis Valley.

The startlingly blue-feathered bird watched the chickadees from afar.  But finally, he decided that the chickadees had a good thing going and decided to check out some millet seeds (below).

This specimen is unusual in that his lower beak is light-coloured, rather than black as shown in the field guide.

Anyone else ever see an indigo bunting with a beak like this?

Indigo bunting eating millet seeds. Note the unusual lower beak.