Cape Breton Island

June 24th, 2008

Before our trip, everyone we talked to told us, “make sure you schedule enough time on Cape Breton Island.” Some folks told us that we could spend our entire two weeks there. We ended up spending 4-5 days there, and probably could have spent much longer.

Cape Breton

We drove over the bridge, and headed toward Mabou, which is about 30 minutes from the National Park. Mabou, itself is a small, but cute town, and has plenty of hiking trails. Not only that, but we found out that just about every town along the coast, has absolutely gorgeous views of the ocean.

Cape Breton

Not only that, but the landscape itself is different from the rest of Nova Scotia because it is highlands, with huge cliffs, falling off into the sea. The rolling hills themselves are forested, or are at least covered with greenery.

Cape Breton

Once you make it to the start of the famous Cabot Trail, you soon after enter the park. The first day, we went straight to the also famous, Skyline Trail, which leads you to the top of the mountain, which has a view that pictures can’t describe. (I tried below.)

Cape Breton

Much to our satisfaction, along the trail we first saw numberous piles of moose poo, and then finally came upon this young male moose. All of the park literature about moose states that you should keep your distance, and wait for the moose to continue on its way. Well, we came upon the moose, pulled out the telephoto lens, and got our snapshots. Waited 5 minutes. Waited 10 minutes. Apparently, we had intruded on this moose’s dinner hour, and he had no plans to cut it short. Eventually, we had to go around him and continue on our way.


As night drew close, we decided to spend the night in the park, camping under our small backpacking tent. The campsite was right on the water, giving us a beautiful night sky. Had we been there a couple months later, we would have had a good chance of seeing whales out in the distance, but instead we got to watch some birds dive bombing the water for fish.

Cape Breton

We hiked a few more trails in the park, encountering a black bear, several carnivorous plants, and a moose cow and calf. We eventually left the park to make our way around the rest of the island. One day, we drove to Meat Cove, a town in no-mans-land at the top of the island. We read that whales are frequently sighted up there. We didn’t see any whales, but we got the great shot below.

Cape Breton

We continued around the rest of the island, stopping at many places to take more photos, and eat a lot of fantastic seafood. I hope to get back up to Nova Scotia sometime in the future to spend even more time up on Cape Breton Island.

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Kejimkujik: Seaside Adjunct National Park

June 20th, 2008

Kejimkujik Seaside Adjunct National Park has one of the most diverse landscapes I’ve ever seen on a 2-3 hour trail. You start out the trail loop in low brush with carnivorous plants mixed in among the bushes. Also among the bushes are “fiddleheads.” which are an edible native fern.


Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to try any, but I understand some local restaurants do serve them as apetizers. As you wind your way toward the sea, the brush turns into the low lying ground cover you see below.

Keji Seaside Adjunct Brush

Eventually, the ground cover gives way to huge piles of “river rocks” that had been turned over by the sea for years, and deposited in piles along the beach. It’s actually quite difficult to walk on these rocks, and every step you imagine your foot slipping and ankle turning over. Also, with every step you see little black spiders (or maybe crabs) scurry into the rocks out of view.

Keji Seaside Adjunct

After walking along the beach for some time, you eventually come across one of the barrier lakes of trapped sea water, forming the marsh below. Bushes surround the water, and pine trees surround those.

Keji Seaside Adjunct

Continuing threw the trees and brush, you eventually hit the sea again, but this coastline looks entirely different from the last. The water is interspersed turquoise and navy, and the beaches are a fine white sand. It looks like you could be in the Caribbean, but I assure you the water is not Caribbean in temperature!

Keji Seaside Adjunct

As if the landscape isn’t interesting enough, seals are just offshore, lounging on the rocks. From shore, you can hearing them grunting and calling for each other. On land, they don’t move very gracefully, shimmying their way around.

Seals at Keji Seaside Adjunct

But in the water, they dart around with precision. According to an information board, two types of seals are present in the park; harbor seals and gray seals. From memory, I believe the harbor seals are rarer, black, and a bit larger.

Seals at Keji Seaside Adjunct

The gray seals are grey with black markings on their body and are more commonly seen. This seal below is a grey seal. Their faces really do look like dogs, but I understand that they can be quite mean. It was also interesting to hear some local politics about seals. Under environmental protection, seal hunting is a big no-no, and thus their numbers have increased. Apparently, so much so, that the seals have impacted fisherman by following their boats, and disrupting their fishing activities. We heard some local fisherman complaining that nothing will ever be done about the seals because they’re cute and have won the hearts of environmentalists.

Seals at Keji Seaside Adjunct

I don’t know enough about the situation to have an opinion about the politics, but I do agree — they’re cute! We continued back along the trail loop, and found ourselves back among carnivorous plants and brush. I highly recommend this park.

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Kejimkujik National Park

June 17th, 2008

Kejimkujik National Park, or Keji, is the only inland national park in the Canadian Maritimes. Leftover from glacier activity, a large lake was cut out of the landscape, with surrounding rivers and marshes flowing into it. The water here is quite acidic because most of the surrounding rock is inert, exuding very little mineral content into the water. This produces beautiful, dark (almost black in some places) water through many of the waterways.

Marsh at Kejimkujik National Park

The park is also home to much forest, including a stand of 300 year old Hemlocks, untouched by early logging operations. The Hemlocks are magnificient trees, which largely create their own habitat by shading out the forest below, preventing little else from growing except for mosses, ferns, lichens, and of course, more Hemlock trees.


We noted a very percular pattern in this area where very few of the Hemlock trees had any mosses on them, but they did contain plenty of lichens. Oddly, if a rare maple stood a few feet away, it would be covered in moss, as was the ground.


The trees themselves would grow out of anything we could attach themselves to, with this tree (below) being a prime example of this feat. Unfortunately, this particular tree is in danger of falling due to too many tourists climbing on it’s roots.


Of course, Keji is full of wildlife. I managed to startle both myself and this snake sunning itself in the path. We saw frogs, trout, squirrels, and plenty of birds during our visit. Moose and black bear are supposed to be there too, but we didn’t happen upon any.


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Cape Split Trail, Nova Scotia

June 15th, 2008

One of the best hiking trails in Nova Scotia outside of Cape Breton Island is a 16km trails called the Cape Split trail. This 4-5 hour hike takes you through a beautiful forest ending at a tremendous overlook into the Bay of Fundy, where you can witness one of the most amazing tidal bores in the world.

Cape Split Trail, Nova Scotia

Unfortunately for us, we went on a rainy, misty day, so the end of our hike wasn’t nearly as impressive as the hike itself. You can just barely make out the water in the picture below due to the mist being so heavy. Even so, it was quite the feeling standing up on these tall cliffs without any railing or barrier keeping you from falling down below. (I don’t care for heights if you couldn’t tell.)

Cape Split Trail, Nova Scotia

The trail itself takes you through a beautiful forest, where most of the forest floor is covered with ferns. Fields of ferns fill in any openings between the trees, and lichens and mosses find their home on the trees themselves.

Cape Split Trail, Nova Scotia

Hardwoods dominate much of this forest, even though pines are present in some areas. The air throughout the trail smells “forest fresh,” partly from the misty sea breeze, and partly from the smell of the forest itself.

Cape Split Trail, Nova Scotia

Many of the trees had very unique and tangled looking root systems, and looked like multiple trees were growing from the same trunk.

Cape Split Trail, Nova Scotia

Along much of the trail, Purple Trillium, Trillium erectum, was flowering adding a little bit of color to the forest floor. This flower is not found west of Digby, nor has it been seen east of Pictou County, but it was quite abundant along the Cape Split trail.

Purple Trillium (Trillium erectum)

Finally, my favorite unique tree of the hike was this one below. It reminded me of the trees that Native Americans used to shape to serve as markers throughout their wooded territory.

Cape Split Trail, Nova Scotia

After 16km, we were quite hungry, so we packed up, and headed on to find some fresh Digby scallops!

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Nova Scotia Birds

June 12th, 2008

Being a maritime province, Nova Scotia is home to quite a few seabirds that sustain themselves, like the people, largely from the surrounding sea. There are many rare birds that migrate to the area, but then of course they also have the common seagull. Whether on land.


On sea.


Or in flight, the seagulls are almost always nearby. Being used to people, they have learned to follow fishing boats to capitalize on the fish that they bring up. While we were on a whale watching tour, we had a permanent group of seagulls following us around because the same boat also does a daily deep sea fishing expedition.


Despite being kind of nasty and obnoxious adults, the baby seagulls are adorable. With their fluffy down, they’re as soft as can be. Watch out handling them, however, as pooping is their first defense!

Baby Seagull

We had the wonderful fortune of getting in contact with a birder who cares for a series of small islands off of the coast of Pubnico that houses a small colony of rare rosette terns. He graciously took us out on his boat to get a glimpse of some of these islands, and the birds surrounding them.


We didn’t see many of the rosette terns, and the ones we did were too fast for my camera, but this is a more common tern (above) in flight. We counted several eggs on the island, and took note of any that had been preyed upon by crows, owls, or voles.

Tern Egg

We also found a number of Common Eider eggs, in downy feather nests. The feathers kept the eggs at an incredibly warm temperature. Our caretaker covered these eggs up to help avoid them from being easy pickings for the afore mentioned predators.

Eider Eggs

One of the more distinct looking birds we saw was the Cormorant, which nests in colonies along cliffs or in trees as shown below. They actually end up killing a lot of the trees because their excrement is so potent.

Cormorants Nesting

As you get closer to the tree the birds inevitably fly away, but I was able to get this shot of one before they did so. They’re actually quite pretty!


And of course, we saw plenty of other birds like this guy who was scavenging the surf for small crustaceans. We had a fun time following this bird, trying to photograph him, as he constantly scurried away from us whenever we got within 20 feet.


We saw countless other birds other than what I’ve shown below, but I hope you’ve enjoyed the few pictures that I’ve posted up here. Not being a knowledgeable birder myself, I’m sure I saw a ton of species that were lost on me, but I can confidently recommend Nova Scotia to anyone looking for some quality bird watching.

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Nova Scotia Bogs

June 10th, 2008

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in awhile. I just returned from a nice vacation in the wonderful Canadian province of Nova Scotia. We spent two weeks exploring every corner of the province, so while I get my aquariums back into presentable shape, I’m going to share some of the nature pictures from my trip. (This is incentive for me to sort through over 1000 photos that we took.)

The two Canadian national parks in Nova Scotia are Kejimkujik and the Cape Breton Highlands. We visited the two parks, and found carnivorous plants in both! First, at the Keji Seaside Adjunct park, there is a wonderful trail that winds through a bog, and eventually takes you to a rocky beach where seals perch themselves on small islands offshore. Today, I’m just going to cover the bog.

Keji Seaside Adjunct

All along the path, pitcher plants were mixed in among the moss and bushes. The patch below wasn’t the best looking bunch there, but unfortunately, this was one of the better pictures I got. These plants were mostly yellow and orange in color.

Pitcher Plant

And of course, the plants were feeding. While ants were a popular food found floating in the pitchers, this lucky plant got a fairly large beetle.

Pitcher Plant

Still being early in the season, none of the pitcher plants were flowering yet, but a few were starting the process, sending flower stalks toward the sky. Eventually, these flower heads will unravel revealing a rather unique looking flower. The ground in this bog wasn’t inundated with water, but the moss kept it just damp enough. We also saw some sundews, but I didn’t get any good shots.

Pitcher Plant Flower Stalk

Up in the Cape Breton Highlands Park, they have a trail aptly named the “Bog Trail.” Of course, the first sign on the trail explains that it’s actually a fen because unlike a true bog, it also sources some of its water from groundwater. This fen is more heavily covered by grasses and doesn’t have the same amount of bushes that the one in Keji did. Also, it’s impossible not to notice the large moose hoof prints and droppings throughout the area.

Cape Breton Fen

One of the most startling things about the pitcher plants in this area is how red they were. Brilliantly colored, and in standing water, they were beautiful!

Pitcher Plant

Not to be outdone, the sundews here were quite pretty as well, sending sticky red fronds out of their yellowish foliage to trap unsuspecting insects. There were far more sundews in this area then their were in Keji, but they looked relatively similar.


In addition, the Cape Breton Bog trail also contained a species of Utricularia floating in the water. A blatterwort, Utricularia traps tiny organisms in the bladders shown below.

Utricularia sp. in Cape Breton

Carnivorous plants have always fascinated and I was so pleased to have been able to see so many in my trip around Nova Scotia. Comments welcome!

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