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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Hurricane Dorian

Just about a week ago, the Maritime Provinces were hit by Hurricane Dorian, which actually sped up as it powered up the East Coast.  That was unusual, because most often, hurricanes slow down as they approach our area, and tend to reach the Maritimes with just some gusty winds and rain.  That wasn't the case this time.  Hurricane Dorian made landfall in Nova Scotia on Saturday, September 7 with wind speeds reaching 150 km/h (93 mph), essentially a category 2 hurricane.

I had left our home to go for a week's vacation with my parents in Prince Edward Island, starting on Friday, September 6, but Marc had stayed home for a couple more days because he wanted to come to the Island on his motorcycle.  The night of September 6, I slept off and on (more off than on) in our rented cottage on the Island, where I listened to sounds that made me think the roof might come off, and watched the back wall of the cottage flexing in the wind, about 1.5 inches each way, from what I could see.  It was a very scary night.  Marc was woken in the early morning hours by a tree falling on the roof of our house. 

By morning, the Maritime provinces had more than 500,000 residents without power, thousands of trees and power poles were lost, and even a construction crane collapsed in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Many cell phone towers were damaged, leaving people without service.  In addition, more than 100 mm (4 inches) of rain fell in 24 hours.  Our situation was nowhere near as dire or catastrophic as the situation in the Bahamas, but it was very challenging none the less.

Our vacation was hampered, to an extent, by the loss of power, given that we were in a cottage where the water is pumped from a well, and when the power is out, there's no water.  We did a lot of reading and walking on the beach and enjoyed some lovely times despite the inconvenience of no power.

Upon arriving home yesterday, I was able to survey the damage around our home.  It wasn't pretty.  One of my favourite shade trees in our yard lost its largest limb, which I think is a fatal loss.  I will have an arbourist come and look at it, but I don't think it can survive this kind of damage.

From a distance in a picture, it doesn't look as bad as it does when you get closer, and when you see the size of my lens cap for scale.

The trunk has more-or-less been ripped in half.  Marc started some clean up of it yesterday.

There are some sizeable logs that will be useful for the next time we lose power in the winter - they will be burned in our wood stove.

The falling limb also took out my clothesline.  I will have to have a new post installed.  The old one is laying next to the chicken coop.  Thank goodness it didn't fall ON the coop!

The clean-up of the maple will take some time.  I'm really sad to have lost such a beautiful shade tree.  It narrowly missed my new arbour, for which I am grateful. 

It also missed my raised beds. My beautiful squash vines are pretty much toast, but the root crops are all OK.  The tomatoes have suffered somewhat but I am confident I will still get some more ripe fruits from them.

The tree that fell on the house and woke Marc in the middle of the night is on the back of the house.  It is a very large big-tooth aspen tree (Populus grandidentata).


Unlike the maple, the aspen was uprooted rather than snapped.  You can see it also took a couple of smaller spruce with it.

We are fortunate to have a steel roof, so there was no roof damage.

We do, however, have a badly cracked window that will need replacing.

I feel lucky that my bird feeder poles weren't taken out.  Amazingly, the hummingbirds are still around so you can see I still have the feeders on the window of my home office.

 Removing this tree will take some care and planning to ensure that no other windows are damaged.

I am very grateful for the limited amount of damage we have in comparison to so many others who were affected by Dorian, and am also very glad that none of our animals were hurt.  At the same time, we definitely have a lot of clean up to do, and I suspect I will have to have the rest of the maple taken down by an arbourist.  It is close to our power line and we need to be very careful about that.  I sure hope that's the only hurricane for this year.




Monday, August 26, 2019

Odonates Abounding

I went to the Sackville Waterfowl Park on Sunday morning for a walk.  It is definitely a favourite spot for me to take a walk, immerse myself in nature, and enjoy some quiet time.  I also like to take the camera along to record any interesting birds, bees or butterflies, and any other critters I see.  This time, it was definitely a day for odonates, meaning dragonflies (darners, meadowhawks, etc.) and damselflies (bluets, spreadwings, and others).  I spent quite a lot of time watching them and snapping pictures when I could.  Many of them don't settle for long, so it can be really difficult to take their pictures.  I thought I'd share some of the pictures I took. It's a bit of a picture-heavy post, but they really are beautiful creatures.

There was a lot of odonate love in the air....they really do contort into amazing positions for procreation.  I believe these are familiar bluets (Enallagma civile).

See how they make a sort of sideways heart shape?  I think that's kind of cute.

This is another bluet, but I'm not sure which species.  They can be very tricky to identify because they have very similar markings.  There are tiny differences in the tail appendages but this shot isn't clear enough to show those.

This is a band-winged meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum).  It is easier to identify because of the brown tinge in the wings.

Here, just for some variety, is a tri-coloured bumble bee (Bombus ternarius) on goldenrod. 

This is another meadowhawk, but I can't identify it because there are several that look similar to this.  It is probably either the cherry-faced or white-faced meadowhawk (S. internum or S. obtrusum).  I love this picture because of the shadows of the wings - it makes it look like it has 8 wings instead of 4.

Here are a couple more bluets, but these are less acrobatic at this point.  They fly around stuck to each other like this.  Fascinating.

This is one of the big dragonfly species - a darner.  I can't tell which one because I couldn't get a side view shot of it, and the side markings are how you identify these critters.  Still, I love this shot of its eyes.  They are simply amazing to look at.

This is almost certainly a white-faced meadowhawk (Sympetrum obtrusum).

This bluet posed nicely for me.  Probably a familiar bluet.

This is a male slender spreadwing (Lestes rectangularis).  Look at those blue eyes!

This is a spotted spreadwing (Lestes congener), which an expert helpfully identified for me.  I post many of my sightings to iNaturalist, which is a great place for citizen science.  Experts can help identify all forms of life that are posted there.  You can post pictures of plants, insects, animals and birds, even fungi and lichen!

The white-faced meadowhawks were busy ensuring the future survival of their species as well. 

They look like a two-headed creature in this shot!  Who does the driving?!

I took some other insect pictures, including this mud dauber wasp.  What a weird conformation - look at how the abdomen is connected to the thorax with such a thin strip.  I love the stripey legs!

Here's a regular ol' two-striped grasshopper, hopping in the grass.

And here, one of the strangest things I saw on my walk, is what I initially thought was an interesting fungus growing on a branch.  Turns out that it isn't fungus at all.  It's a species of aphid called the cottony alder psyllid (Psylla floccosa).  The nymph stage produces this weird-looking cottony "fluff" on alder branches.  Definitely a new find for me.  You just never know what you'll see on a walk in the park.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Polyphemus Moth

I recently had an up-close-and-personal experience with a beautiful polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) and wanted to share some of the photographs I took. As you can see, this is a very large moth, with a wingspan of about 6 inches.  It's the largest moth that I have had visit my screened porch moth lights.


Those beautiful spots on its hindwings earned it the polyphemus name, after the Greek cyclops of myth, whose name was the same.

It has marvellous antennae that look like small ferns growing out of its head.  This specimen is a male.  The female antennae are less glamorous.

As you can see, it has a 'furry' appearance on its head and body, although those are really just scales that will rub off if they are touched too much. 

The larvae of this moth eat maple, oak, willow and birch, among other deciduous tree species.  In fact, the caterpillars eat 86,000 times their own weight in about 2 months before they transform into the moth form. Amazing!

The moth uses its feet to hold on very tightly, even though one doesn't really feel the grip.  I could turn it completely upside-down. 

He is also wearing marvellously "furry" trousers.

Those eye spots on the wings help camouflage the moth and can confuse potential predators.  I hope to have more visits from this beautiful species in future, but having this nearly perfect one visit me this year was such a treat!


Friday, August 9, 2019

Moulting Blue Jay

I know I'm anthropomorphizing, but I can't help but imagine this blue jay feeling pretty embarrassed at its current condition.  Are the other birds staring at it?

Blue jays moult, just like my chickens and other birds.  Sometimes, their head and neck feathers fall out almost all at once, and they have to go more-or-less bald for a few days until the new feathers grow in.  In my area, that is most likely to happen in August.

There are other blue jays around who are not having this type of moult, so it doesn't seem to happen to all of them, and many seem to moult in a more gradual way, so you barely notice anything happening at all.  But not for this one!

I put some peanuts out to give this jay something to be excited about in the midst of its indignity. I think it was pretty happy about that.  

You can see the new feathers are coming in already, so it will only be a few days before this bird looks totally normal again.

The peanuts have lots of protein to help that process along.  Don't worry little jay, I still think you're beautiful!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

A Visit to Fort Beauséjour

This weekend was beautiful and sunny and we decided to go to visit a local historical site.  We don't often get out and do things like that, so it was a good change of pace to go somewhere new.  I thought I'd share our visit to the Fort Beauséjour site on the blog so you can live vicariously through me!  The fort actually has two names - For Beauséjour and Fort Cumberland.  It is one of Canada's oldest forts, constructed by the French in 1751.  It is on the Tantramar Marsh, very close to where we live.  The Tantramar Marsh is a tidal salt marsh.  The views from the elevated land of the fort are beautiful.

It was very windy today, although it's pretty much always windy at the head of the Bay of Fundy, and you can see the tree in the far right of the picture below has grown on an angle as a result.  It would have been more striking if I'd taken the picture from a different angle, but I think you can still see that the tree is growing on a slant.

There is an interpretive centre at the fort with lots of artifacts from the archaeological digs that have taken place over time.  Although the fort was built by the French, it was captured by the British in 1755, and became a base for the deportation of the Acadians - a dark and dreadful time in the history of Atlantic Canada.  At that time, it was known as Fort Cumberland.  Later, in 1776, the British routed a rebel force from the US, retaining the area under British rule.  It was eventually abandoned in 1835, and declared a national historic site in 1920.

Outdoors, there are a variety of different cannon and mortar examples.

The fort is star-shaped, but that's difficult to show in photographs taken at ground level, so here's a picture from an info-board at the site that shows the shape.

Many of the old foundations of the original buildings still exist, such as this foundation for the British men's barracks.  

There were also several restored casemates (a vaulted chamber in a fortress), both stone and timber, where provisions were stored and in the event of emergencies, they could also be used as housing. This picture is a restored stone French casemate.

This stone casemate is from the British modifications to the fort.

This is a restored timber casemate built by the French.

There was a series of narrow windows, known as a curtain wall, providing views out over the marshland and the water, giving the fort's inhabitants a clear view of approaching troops.

As you can see from the following picture, the curtain wall looked out over the water and the marshland.

I like this shot showing the fort and its star-shaped protrusions with the modern windmills in the background.  I'm glad we have green energy sources now.

The fort offers a camping experience for people who want to experience tents styled after those from the 1700s that could have been used in the vicinity.  I think that would be kind of fun.

The fort has a lot of useful information panels as well as artistic renditions of activities that would have occurred at the fort.  This adds to the experience by helping visitors imagine how life would have been at the time the fort was occupied.

We got some exercise scrambling up and down the hills, as Marc demonstrates!

All in all, it was an enjoyable visit on a very windy day, and we had fun exploring this piece of local and national history.