Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sabbatical Journal, Day Thirteen


            We have been doing some bird watching, more of it actually than we ever do since we are in a place that has a large number or birds.  We are writing down the kinds of birds we spot and luckily we have a book that describes birds and gives pictures to help us identify them.  It is amazing that there can be several kinds of seagulls.  I always thought that if you had seen one seagull you had seen them all, but we have spotted regular ones that we see in Galveston when we visit there and also others, some kind of rugged and mottled looking and some huge in size and distinctive in shape and color, much different than the run of the mill seagull we are accustomed to seeing. 
            There are crows and pigeons that look much like the Texan kind but yesterday and this morning we spotted a duck like bird that we have never seen before.  According to the bird book, they could be murres which are a part of the auk family.  They look a lot like ducks but they are divers who go down and stay for as long as ten seconds at a time (I timed them using the slow counting method) and then spread their wings and push out their chest after they emerge from the water.  The book says that they can swim under the water much like another bird flying so I figure they are down there swimming near the ocean floor looking for food.  We have seen five of them so far, one who looks like a male with a white chest to go along with his black back and the rest most likely females, lacking the white chest.  One may be a young one who is smaller in size and also lacks the white chest.  They are fun to watch because they suddenly duck under the water and stay and then pop up a short distance from where they submerged.  This little flock may be part of a larger group but so far only these five have stayed around our area. 
            Luckily we remembered to bring our binoculars on this trip.  They have been a great use in spotting birds and in answering questions about what is going on around the wharf when suddenly people begin doing things that we wonder about.  The tide’s motion seems to bring people out to look over the pier into the water or lack of it to see what is there.  The birds seem to pay them little mind but fly back and forth seeking anything that looks like food to them.    

            We drove down the Acadian Coast again today.  That begins just south of Digby and continues down to Yarmouth and then goes eastward again toward Halifax.  The Acadians moved into the area on both sides of Yarmouth in the hundred years after the Great Expulsion of 1755 when they were able to return to Nova Scotia.  They could not go back to the Grand Pre area from where they were expelled because the British had given their land to British citizens, primarily planters who were living in the Colonies who wanted to move northward, but they could go to other places in Nova Scotia without fear of being sent away again so some went on down the coast beyond Annapolis Royal which had been settled originally by the French in 1605. 
            The land in this region bounced back and forth between the French and the British for two hundred years but finally after the Colonies became independent of England through the American Revolution, the British had to decide in which parts of Canada they really wanted and which parts they would allow French influence to remain.  The Acadians who moved into the coast regions of Nova Scotia settled in much different land than they had previously had around Grand Pre.  Now, they had to be fishermen rather than farmers because the rich farmland they had possessed was owned by British citizens.  So, they adapted and changed the way they would make their living but they did not give up the culture they had cherished before the Great Expulsion. 
            Today the Acadians live and thrive with fishing and tourism their main ways of making their living.  They promote their culture through festivals and music and the Acadian flag with red, white, and blue and a yellow star flies everywhere up and down the coasts.  There are pockets of Acadians living on every coast in Nova Scotia.  The one just south of Digby is called Clare and we drove down Route 1 that hugs the coast and passed through all the fishing villages between Digby and Yarmouth.  The nearer to Yarmouth one gets, the more English one sees on signs; otherwise, everything is bilingual on everything or strictly French where it can be displayed with little problem. 
            It was a beautiful day for a drive with the sun shining brightly but now and then we could see a patch of fog in the distance as the wind blew the fog from the ocean over the highway.  That would be only for a mile or two and then the sky would be clear again.  That happened repeatedly as we drove the coast highway. 
            Soon we were at Yarmouth on the south tip of Nova Scotia.  That is the jumping off place where cruise ships take passengers to Portland, Maine.  It is an 8 hour ferry ride and passengers either go by day and pass the time eating, drinking, seeing movies, and even going to a casino or they go at night and can sleep on board in rooms they can reserve in advance.  We are not returning that way because they do not allow dogs on the main deck and they have to spend the 8 hours in a cage down below.  We do want Bo down there so we will take the much shorter ferry between Digby and St. John, NB when we leave. 
            We had lunch in a neat little diner near Yarmouth and the continued driving the Acadian Coast that extends beyond Yarmouth toward Halifax.  I had seen a description of an old general store we wanted to explore and decided to try to find it.  It turned out to be a regular store that had simply been in that spot since the late 1800s but now modernized fairly well, a bit disappointing but the drive was nice and the countryside was beautiful. 
            We returned to Parker’s Cove via the road that Nova Scotians consider a “freeway”.  I put that in quotes because it is only a two lane highway with few places to pass other cars so if you get stuck behind slow traffic (the speed limit is 60 mph on it) you will be there a while.  This Texan did not observe the speed limit---70 seems to be as slow as I can drive on there---but I was passed by some Nova Scotians as well so I was safe. 
            It was a very nice day overall.  We enjoyed being out in nature and seeing the coast even though we had seen it a couple times before in the past.  There is pleasure in the simple things, even if it is just driving along talking and looking at the passing scenery, stopping for a simple lunch in a quaint little café, and stopping off here and there just to look at what is there. 

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