Saturday, April 6, 2013

Easter on the road in Nova Scotia.

Okay so I recant what I said in my last post. March did come in like a lion (huge snow storm on March 1) and go out like a lamb... Easter weekend was sunny and upwards of 10 degrees Celsius! Diego and I decided to take the weekend and hit the road and explore some place in Nova Scotia that we have never been before. So we settled on Cape Sable Island. This is a small island off the southermost tip of Nova Scotia. Its really almost a sand bar for all its magnificent beaches.
So why would we go to an island of many beaches in March you ask? It has everything to do with this little goose...
Image by Mike Baird

These are Brant Geese or Branta bernicula. They pass through the Maritimes on their way North at this time of year, so they only stay for a short time in March. I know, I am not a birder or ornithologist, so why am I so interested?...other than being a biology nerd that is... these geese have a very special diet; they eat the marine plant eelgrass (Zostera marina)! Which if you have been following my blog, know that I was studying this particular plant for my doctoral thesis and it continues to be the subject of my research. Click here for more information on eelgrass itself and here for information on its distribution. So you might be thinking that I must have seen a lot of these geese throughout all of my many years of research BUT in actual fact, I had never seen one. There was a disease outbreak in the 1930s that wiped 90% of the eelgrass beds on both sides of the North Atlantic that in most places took more than 30 years to recover! The consequence, a collapse in the population of Brant geese and those that remained changed their migratory route inland instead of up the coast to take advantage of food in farmers fields...which means they no longer come near Halifax. So this was my chance to see these amazing birds that act like cows, increasing the productivity of eelgrass beds by cropping the tops of the plants but leaving the roots and rhizomes intact!

So off we went with our binoculars, maps, hiking trail guides and food for the weekend to stay at a little cottage on the ocean. Did I say binoculars...? Arriving at Cape Sable Island Cottages after more than 2 hours in the car I realized that we left our binoculars at home. So I said; "How hard can it really be, there are supposed to be hundreds.". In the end we spent 2 days looking for this elusive goose and managed only to see them at a distance or flying overhead. I am obviously not a birder! Oh! but the beaches and marshes we saw looking for them, were totally worth it!
 Did I say it was 10 degrees Celsius? It was when you were out of the icy wind! As you can see in the photos, the beaches seem endless and the reason is because the tide was low and the tides here are influenced by the Bay of Fundy which has the highest tides in the world! Although the tidal range is not a large as the head of the Bay of Fundy (13-15 m), it is double (2-4 m) than near Halifax (1-2 m). So when combined with a pretty flat (or low slope) beach there is a lot of the beach that is exposed. We also spent some time enjoying the cottage, hiking and visiting the surrounding communities. 
Easter Sunday Sunrise.
 Morning coffee and afternoon wine in the warmth of the sun and sheltered from the icy wind by the cottage.
Rail trail through the historic Town of Shelburne. They are mallards...not Brant geese.

Overall, we had a wonderful Easter!! In addition to not seeing the geese close up, there were a number hiking trails and beaches that we didn't get to so we have lots of reasons to go back next year...but this time with binoculars!
Yes, we have matching boots...and I have a smiley face!

I hope you had a great Easter weekend!

***I am not being paid to advertise the cottages, they were just lovely, clean and had a great view and want you to know about them if you are ever down that way.


  1. Love the storytelling and photos, particularly the original shadow one! I also learned something new about the geese. Definitely on my list of places to visit. Thanks for sharing! Mom

  2. teehee-it's always fun to read about a place I grew up near from a more 'tourist' and passionate perspective :) so glad you had a fabulous easter!