North Miquelon Boardwalk, Beavers, and Blooms

Our first hike in the country this year, and talk about May flowers! It was the perfect day to see blossoms on our native fruit trees and the woodland plants and shrubs.

Here is the list of what the twelve of us saw in bloom today:

early blue violet (see right)early blue violet
wood violet
fairy bell
saskatoon (see above)
pin cherry
red currant
black currant
goose berry
dew berry
bracted honeysuckle
low bush cranberry
sandwort

We also saw a white tailed deer and a frog.

North Miquelon Boardwalk

Here we are on the smart new boardwalk that the trail maintenance team installed last week. The heap of boards at the bottom left is the old walk.

 

 

 

 

Poplar tree, a beaver's work-in-progress

As you know the beavers are very active in this area. This tree will not be standing upright for much longer. Here you see only the base of a really tall poplar tree. We did not linger for long.

Big Lake, Butterflies, and Birds

Our hike last Sunday was at the Big Lake area west of St. Albert. It’s a wonderful place to visit in the spring. We started with a walk through the Grey Nuns White Spruce Park. The trees were just starting to leaf out, and the growth on the forest flower was only a few inches high. Most remarkable was the white butterflies—they were everywhere.

Then we went on to the lake, where we saw ducks, geese, and snipe.

We were very fortunate to run into Dale Scott, a wildlife photographer, who had set up a tripod and giant camera on the boardwalk over the marshes. He was photographing Phoebes.

Eastern Phoebe by Dale Scott

Unless you are an experienced birdwatcher, you don’t notice these birds until someone points them out to you. And then suddenly you see them everywhere.Song Sparrow by Dale Scott

Dale has very generously provided the two photos on this page—photos which he took that day. The one above is an Eastern Phoebe and this one on the right is a Song Sparrow. You can view more of his beautiful pictures on Flickr.

 

The Secret Dark Side of the Waskahegan Trail

The Waskahegan Trail presents unique opportunities for us to surround ourselves in trees, flowers, wildlife, and interesting geological formations, all within an hour’s drive at the most. You may even be one of those people who enjoy rising early to take in a hike.

It might surprise you to know about another unique environment available to us—after sunset!

Here in our area we have an almost rare opportunity to easily observe stars and planets on any clear evening. The Beaver Hills area is one of just thirteen areas in Canada designated as a Dark Sky Preserve. This designation by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) means it is “an area in which no artificial lighting is visible and active measures are in place to educate and promote the reduction of light pollution to the public and nearby municipalities.” The Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve covers all of Elk Island Park and the entire Beaver Hills area, including the Blackfoot Recreational Area.

We are grateful to WTA member Rod Wasylishen for informing us that the RASC Edmonton Centre has a special viewing site at the Blackfoot Staging Area  (travel southeast of the Ukrainian Village from Highway #16 east of Edmonton, or see page 89 of the Waskahegan Trail Guide Book).

On weekends closest to New Moon, you will likely encounter RASC members at the site, personally observing with their own equipment. If you decide to go, please visit their main dark site page first and pay close attention to etiquette. It takes half an hour to get eyes fully dark adapted. If you come in with headlights on, or start snapping selfies, you will not be welcome.

If you are not comfortable with driving without headlights and the other etiquette guidelines, remember that the Dark Sky Preserve is a huge area. As Rod notes, “One can go anywhere in Elk Island Park or the Cooking Lake Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area for much better viewing conditions than we have in the city.”

If you end up visiting this rare secret world of night sky viewing, send us a comment. We’d love to hear about it.