Snowy Owl at the beach

bird of prey

Sometimes, you just wish you had a better camera!  Yesterday at Lawrencetown Beach we were lucky enough to see a snowy owl.  We spotted the white bird at a bit of a distance as it flew over the waves, and then flew over us!  The walk in the cold, cold wind over the cobbles was definitely worth it Sunday.

Lawrencetown Beach_5160

On the winter beach, cobbles have virtually swallowed the stairs leading from the parking lot to the shore (crossing the dune). We walk frequently at Lawrencetown Beach.  It is close to Halifax and is an excellent hour plus walk on a cobble stone beach.

Martock — x-country skiing

cross country skiing at Martock, NS

After a bit of lovely light snow this week, we set out to try the trails at Martock.  We had a fine time in the warm sunny weather.  Imagine our surprise to find steep hills on the trails! Cross-country ski trails at Martock are laid out in a series of loops.  There is a map at the start and another at a cross point farther in and these maps are useful, but not enough.  We would have really appreciated some signs or labeling of the trails.  Because the trails are laid out in loops that cross it is difficult to know where you are.  At one point, I felt like I was skiing in circles – to which my partner replied “we are”.  Doubtless he was right, but I would have liked to be able to plan my circles!  There are not really that many loops and trails; a morning or afternoon of skiing will easily take you over all the trails.

country skiing, Nova Scotia

This week not all the trails were open and the snow conditions were ok, but not exceptional – lots of base, but a bit icy with fluffy snow on top.

Martock is close to Windsor and easily reached within 40 minutes from Halifax.

Snow storm – blizzard conditions

In anticipation of the snow (20 to 40 cm) to arrive tonight and tomorrow, I am suggesting two locations with fun after storm skiing. And in Nova Scotia, especially around Halifax, that means you have to get out soon, because it could all be gone in a few days with the rain that is sure to follow.    …So…

Early in January we had snow, snow and snow, and two days of wonderful cross country skiing.  We skied at Dollar Lake Provincial Park one day and at Pockwock Watershed the next.  Each of these locations is within an easy two hours or less of Halifax.  Each of these locations offers kilometers of varied trails through woods and along open, unploughed roads.  Trails are not groomed, but Pockwock, is popular enough that by the afternoon there will be tracks to follow.  If you like to break your own trail there are sure to be lots of untouched paths to explore and break trail too!  Dollar Lake Provincial Park is a bit farther from the city than Pockwock and has perhaps fewer trails, but the lake is closer and walking trails can be skied as well.

At the Pockwock Watershed streams and creeks add to the charm!

creek, pockwock watershed

Pockwock Watershed Skiing

Crystal Crescent Beach’s fall colours

Crystal Crescent BeachA beautiful fall weekend and beautiful fall colours in shades of orange and brown accented by a blue ocean and green spruce.  Crystal Crescent Beach is one of my favorites (and for many Haligonians too!). We didn’t make it out to the point, since we started late in the day and stopped frequently to admire the view, and snap pictures.  The sun was brilliant on the ferns and the fields were painted in sweeps of golden browns and orange browns.

Check out this post for more info on the trail itself and this one for more.

Crystal Crescent, fall colours, Sept, 2013.crystal crescent beach - fall colours

Crowbar Lake

view of West Lake, HRMCrowbar Lake Hiking Trail is part of a system of 18 km trails less than an hour away from Halifax.  We had a great day hiking there last month – a really great day!  I recommend this trail system. The trail traverses dry granite ridges and boggy low areas.  When I made a list, several days after the hike, of plants observed and remembered – it reflects typical Nova Scotian habitat for the eastern shore: pine, spruce, witch hazel, clintonia, bunchberry, twin flower, jack in a pulpit, sphagnum moss, pitcher plant, orchids, blueberry, and leather leaf.

We also saw some Indian Pipe, Monotropa uniflora.  It’s not rare, but not always seen or noticed. An interested flowering plant with no chlorophyll. A great photo and explanation from one of my favorite blogs, Botany Photo of the Day.

Monotropa uniflora on Crowbar Lake Trail, July, 2013The trail goes up and down – really up and down those ridges.  We made it as far as part way around West Lake – the second loop; and this took about 4 hours.  To complete all the loops would be a long day…maybe this fall.  The trail is narrow and fairly well maintained by volunteers in a provincial wilderness area, Waverly – Salmon River Long Lake Wilderness Area.

A previous hike is here.

And our friend along the trail:

American Toad

Upper Burnside Waterfalls

Spring is a great time to see Nova Scotia’s waterfalls.  On Sunday last, after a week or more of rain, we went on a waterfalls hunt.  We successfully found 2 out of 3 and so we plan to go back for the third. (We did find falls #3, after circling the same back roads twice. We heard it, but didn’t see it – at least not from below because we had run out of time to search for a clear path through the woods.) The first falls, Unnamed Falls, according to Allan Billard, was the tallest and most impressive.

waterfall in Musquodoboit ValleyThere was a sign in the woods that labeled these falls – “Fantum Falls”.  Neither of the two falls required long hikes to see them, although Unnamed Falls was at the end of a rough path (about 400 m) through woods and brush. The second falls, Burnside Falls, was very close to the road and a worthwhile addition to our list since we were in the area.  The local community has created a small park along the road with a long, steep stairway leading down to the falls.

waterfalls near Upper Burnside in Nova Scotia The waterfalls we planned to see were all in or near the Musquodoboit Valley.  The two falls shown are on my HRM map and directions can also be found by looking at photos by benoitlalonde on Panoramio.  From Halifax, visiting these falls is really a driving trip with stops for short hikes into the falls.

There are some lists about Nova Scotia waterfalls online.  There is also a great little book, that I refer to, Waterfalls, Nova Scotia’s Masterpieces, by Donna Barnett with text by Allan Billard.

Galls on Jack Pine

Plant diseases are infinitively fascinating.  This past weekend we saw excellent examples of galls on Jack Pine.  There were pine trees with galls in early stages all the way through to nearby pines with what were clearly older galls – well developed woody growths on the stems.

pine-pine gall rustpine-pine gall rust on Jack PineA little bit of research revealed that these galls go by a variety of names – at least on the internet.  According to Cornell University, a very credible and reliable source, the galls we saw are a symptom of “pine to pine gall rust” caused by a fungi – Endocronartium harknessii.  Most plant galls are caused by either fungi, bacteria or insects. Just like oysters making a pearl around a grain of sand, a disruption or irritation in the plant produces extra material. In the case of plants, hormones are generally produced as a response to the fungus in turn stimulating extra plant growth.  With these yellow galls, this extra plant growth provides a home for the fungus to produce spores and spread.

Our walks and hikes are such good opportunities to observe examples of the effects of different diseases on plants, I am reminded of long ago plant pathology courses.  And if you are interested in this area too, you may be interested in the post on black knot.