Birds, scientists, backyards, and the experience of being "ears on"

Nova Scotia is a landscape of shore to shore to shore, with a bit of land in between. So, in effect, ecologically speaking, there is a narrow squeeze of land in between massive amounts of ocean. This creates a tremendous amount of edge. Edges between land and sea. Edges between forests and streams or open meadows. Edges between forests and rivers and lakes. Edges are well known as being ecologically diverse.

The South Shore of Nova Scotia is no exception, especially when Acadian forests meet white sand beaches.

The really delightful aspect of my July re (treat) was that I registered for a great citizen science experience with Dr. Sarah Gutowsky. We learned to identify 25 bird songs of birds still singing or calling within the area of the Harrison Lewis Coastal Discovery Centre and Thomas Raddall Provincial Park.

What made this an experience? It was “ears on” four times a day. It was being in conversation with a passionate ornithologist. It was about walking, feet touching forest soils, pastures, white sands, and experiencing different times of the day. We were in the company of someone who understands ecology, birds, and a lot about them.

I had the opportunity to interview Sarah before we left the Harrison Lewis Coastal Discovery Centre. Her refreshing, direct responses are instructive.

Tips for travelling responsibly

We take sustainable travel seriously. Responsible travel, sustainable travel, traveling with low carbon emissions, and traveling in a zero waste manner are part of our core values as a company. First, we create great experiences that help our guests to experience nature, culture, art and cuisine in memorable ways. But, backing this up in all aspects, are our commitments to offering experiences that demonstrate the best in sustainable practices.

You might ask what you can do to travel responsibly. Here are two suggestions that you may find helpful as you make your decisions about where you wish to travel.

  1. Sustaining tourism

  2. A company that we admire, that provides truly Responsible Travel trips - Here’s a good quick snapshot about how they manage profits and principles.

Let's do tourism differently

Let's do tourism differently

How might we do tourism differently in Nova Scotia? What if we engage our communities to listen to them about what they want from tourism and what they don’t want? Let’s put more time into developing experiences instead of spending so much money on marketing. Is China the right market for rural Nova Scotia? If not, then who is? How is Kings County different from other areas of the province? What does that mean in terms of how tourism is done here?

At the peak

Bald eagle at sunset

Bald eagle at sunset

Photography involves searching for patterns, lighting, and things at their peak. Tonight’s Boxing Day outing involved a convergence of just past peak high tide, peak and just past sunset, and just past the Solstice. Slow travel involves slowing down to look for patterns, listen for sounds that tell an acoustic story, and then taking time to connect the dots. This slow travel adventure took stock of the many eagles in flight at sunset, the river bathing that Greater Black-backed gulls engage in, and recognized the acoustic stretching and release of ice on the surface of water that no longer has tide waters to support it causing the panes of ice to “tinkle” and cling to emergent shoreline vegetation.

Greater black-backed gulls bathing

Greater black-backed gulls bathing

Collapsing ice panes as tide recedes

Collapsing ice panes as tide recedes

Magic light

Sun sets on the interior of a Gaspereau Valley forest where snowshoe hares, coyotes, foxes, red squirrels, and barred owls are abundant.

Walking in Nova Scotia can occur at any time of the year. However, if you wish to discover things that you don’t ordinarily see, then winter is a great time to get out. It’s in a patch of Acadian forest like this that you can smell the difference between balsam fir, hemlock and white pine. Just crush some needles and compare. This time of year is good to look through the forest of trees to discover raptor, owl, and other perching bird nests that may not have been discovered previously. Most of all, the fresh snowfalls that we receive are like an eraser on the forest floor. Every few days, it seems, the surface of the snow receives a fresh cleaning - a melt followed by a new dusting of snow. We start to notice the frequent travels of snowshoe hare and red squirrels, perhaps a short-tailed weasel, coyotes and foxes. Stories in the snow - a good reason to get out for magic light.