We live in southern Ontario, but we also have a summer place in Prince Edward Island. Laura and I spent a couple of vacations getting to know the island, we fell in love with it, and we ultimately bought a house there – our own little slice of waterfront heaven. Our place sits on the mouth of a creek, and this tidal estuary makes it a very special spot for bird watching.
On past trips we’ve seen all sorts of birds there, so when we went down a few weeks ago I made a point of packing the camera and a moderately powerful lens. Watching birds is fun, but I’ve recently discovered the joy – and challenge – of trying to properly photograph the little beasts.
Like much of eastern Canada, PEI has been enduring a cool, wet spring with near-record rainfall. Water levels everywhere are quite high, and it continued raining off and on during our recent visit, limiting the amount of time I was willing to bring the camera outside. When it wasn’t raining the wind was brisk enough to make photographing the goldfinches, warblers, chickadees and even blue jays a real challenge. That said, there were some wonderful moments.
The biggest delight – in more ways than one – was the re-appearance of our nesting bald eagles. Two adults and one juvenile spent the week entertaining us with their aerobatics and haunting cries – punctuated now and then by the furious peeping of various grackles and starlings that took turns dive-bombing them at every opportunity.
One morning the juvenile eagle landed in a tree at the end of our lawn with a foot-long brook trout firmly clutched in its talons. A rough morning for the brook trout, but an excellent start to the eagle’s day indeed.
With the rain an endless parade of grackles, starlings, robins and crows kept our lawn under continuous surveillance, finding all sorts of grubs, worms and other bugs to eat. The Blue Jay is the provincial bird of PEI, but I really think the crow might be the better choice. They’re literally everywhere on the island, and their incessant cawing is just part of the island experience.
Our creek mouth is also a choice hunting ground for a couple of ospreys. There are several places across the island where people have erected nesting platforms for them – think a shipping pallet mounted to the top of a telephone pole – and this design seems to work quite well. The local nest, furnished with all manner of sticks, bits of rope and even part of a torn fishing net, was once again being put to good use, with at least two chicks popping up every time mom or dad appeared wit a fish.
While we did see our resident kingfisher almost every day, the number of great blue herons seem to be down this year. Normally any patch of water on PEI larger than a puddle has a heron standing in it, but we saw few of them this year. I really don’t know why. I can only assume the high water has made for better fishing somewhere else.
Wild flowers were also in full bloom while we were there. I have no idea what any of them are, I just thought they were interesting – and far easier to photograph than the tree swallows, American kestrels, American goldfinches and Canada warblers that either made strafing runs on us as we sat on the deck, or flitted through the trees too quickly to catch with the camera.
Fortunately, the local fox family was far more cooperative, with Big Mama coming out to lounge in the afternoon sun every other day.
Every trip to PEI is a treat. Like everything else on the island, the birds never cease to delight.