Thursday 31 May 2018
Spring is finally pretty well sprung around home, so we have been taking the opportunity of nicer weather to make a few birding trips off the island and into the surrounding area of Yarmouth and Shelburne counties-this ‘being retired’ lark certainly has benefits!. One bird that is always reasonably difficult to find is the Veery, but we do know of a stronghold reasonably locally and headed off there. Luckily the song is pretty unmistakable, because we certainly weren’t going to see them, but a couple of birds sang out from the dense cover of a moist forest edge and we were happy.
To make a day of it, we next headed down the Frotten Road. We had travelled this road, mostly an unmade track, a couple of weeks ago and it is nice and quiet, birdy and always worth a look. Just near the start is a river marsh that hosts Barn and Cliff Swallows in the summer.
I was taken by the drifts of lupins that have recently started flowering. It was one of the things we really noticed in Nova Scotia when we first moved here (in late May of 2015), lupins were everywhere along the roadsides. As someone who had only really associated them with garden plantings, and Dennis Moore (Monty Python fans will get that reference!), it was a surprise to me. Checking in my flower book, it seems that this is the Large-leafed Lupin (or ‘Lupine’, according to the book, although I’ve never seen that spelling before), and it is an introduction, being native to North-western North America. All I can say is that it certainly is very successful! Alongside it was a tiny potentilla, the Dwarf Cinquefoil (Potentilla canadensis)-I’m always pleased to see something with ‘Canada’ in the name!
It never fails to amaze me what you can find along these rather rough tracks, I mean in the way of buildings. There are numerous side tracks leading to summer camps and cottages along the road, but the real surprise is towards the end. There’s a wooden bridge crossing a lovely piece of river, a nice piece of woodland with Least and Alder Flycatchers in residence and then a very substantial house, set in a lovely, lawned garden with mature trees. It would not look out of place in a posh sub-division, with its brick façade, pillared verandah and numerous outbuildings. Here’s the thing, how on earth did they get the building materials up that track? Was it better in the past? Here’s another thing, it appears to be empty, at least at the moment, although it may be a summer property. It always puzzles me why such a big place was built there, although it is doing its bit for nature by currently supporting a family of Canada Geese, with 5 well-grown young, who in turn are helping to keep the lawn short. An Eastern Chipmunk was also finding the base of a tree at the edge of the garden to be to his liking. We don’t see many of these animals now (they were common in our garden back in Quebec), so it was a treat to see this one.
The river by the house.
We turned back shortly after this, because the road, although it goes on to the Great Barren Lake (great name!), gets even rougher and, more importantly, damper (big standing pools of water). We did not want to get stranded, even in the supercar-well, it does have AWD capability! Instead we found somewhere to stop and eat a packed lunch (how very ‘old folks’ of us) and took a slow drive back to the paved road. On the way I noticed these beautiful ferns, just unfurling. The texture of the leaves was just lovely.
In another spot, I saw a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird taking fluffy seedheads from this plant, presumably for nesting materials. I was so entranced by the sight that I forgot to use the camera! I haven’t identified this plant, but it must flower very early.
There were lots of insects on the track, of course the ubiquitous blackfly and mosquitos (hey, its spring, Eastern Canada and you are in a moist woodland, what do you expect?!), but there were also good numbers of dragonflies (Mantled Baskettail and Lancet Clubtail) and butterflies (Spring Azure and Canadian Tiger Swallowtail were noteworthy). The Swallowtails were taking minerals off the wet sand on the track and seemed to be pretty aggressive to one another if one insect got in the way of another. Butterfly wars…not likely to be a big screen hit but interesting to observe!
Back on the paved road, we were momentarily distracted by a Broad-winged Hawk, sitting in a tree and being dive-bombed by robins and crows. The smaller birds succeeded in driving it off…the poor hawk never gets a minute to rest it’s talons!
It was still early afternoon when Mark uttered the fatal sentence, ‘I wonder if Curry is navigable?’. Well, Curry Road is infamous locally, in a land of rough tracks, as the ‘rough tracks, rough track’! We have only driven its length once, in our old Hyundai Tucson (I don’t think it was ever the same again) and I believe we decided then that it wasn’t a trip to do twice. Why, then, did we take our (new to us) Kia Sorento for a bump down it? Don’t ask me, but in a fit of bravado, and trusting in the AWD capability (something we haven’t had in a car before), we went for it. Now, Mark has a history of track driving, we once drove a hire car up a waterfall in Thailand, much to the surprise of the people at the top that had laboured up it on foot (we actually thought it was a road, in our defence-we can’t read Thai!), and this time he was looking for an interesting route home, but maybe not that interesting.
At the beginning, it wasn’t too bad. We went past this lovely pool and I waved the camera at it. Someone had filled in some of the larger holes with pea gravel, at least to where the last of the camps were. ‘This is ok’, we thought, and ploughed on. The woodland is absolutely beautiful, and there is an open heathland section further in where we found Olive-sided Flycatcher last time (not this time, though). Well, the track got rougher, the puddles got deeper, it became single-track (we crossed our fingers and hoped that we wouldn’t meet anything coming the other way) and we really only kept going because the thought of turning round and gong back was somehow worse. The car did well, although it is fitted with side ‘running boards’ (don’t know why, maybe to be able to reach the roof rack?) that are considerably lower and took some beating on the rocks. I abandoned trying to take photos and just gripped the handhold. The worst bit came where someone had helpfully painted the really bad, sticky-out rocks orange- albeit now liberally coated with other colours of paint, off the cars that hadn’t been able to avoid them (I believe there’s probably a few maroon streaks added now) and it just wasn’t possible to avoid them all. This wasn’t doing anything for my stress levels!
Just past this point we passed an area of logging, and joked that it would be all we needed to meet a logging truck coming the other way. Many a word spoken in jest…here came a logging truck, well mainly a logging tractor. He kept coming, we had nowhere to go except to squeeze into the hedge (oh, the paintwork!). Luckily he was able to squeeze by, by flattening the other hedge. He stopped alongside and asked us if we were alright, and was very impressed (amazed, even) to hear we had come all the way from Quinan. It would have been great if he’d thought to mention that his mate in a pickup truck was following on behind, as we had no sooner got going again when we ran into him (luckily, this time he had a space he could reverse into). At that point we were pretty much at the other end, survivors of Curry Road-there should be a badge!
I think our poor car will be sorry that we ever drove it out of the showroom (it had previously been owned by the sort of people who took it to the supermarket, twice a week, and never tested its AWD capabilities!), although it performed magnificently. And, if Mark ever suggests trying Curry Road again, my answer will definitely be ‘NO’!’
Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ2500.