Mild darkness bathes northern Nova Scotia this evening, obscuring the ground mist that settled over meadows and forest and Matheson Brrok as I returned home from walking rural roads in late afternoon. Like yesterday, the afternoon air temperature soared to 10°C, enticing me outdoors to revel in this balmy, spirit-lifting gift, particularly now on the Northern Hemisphere’s increasingly dark path to the shortest day of the year. Yesterday, I jogged in tights and a T-shirt, a first for me in a Canadian December. Today, I strode through light rain that faded into mist and unzipped my thin jacket because I was too warm. On my return to the house, I stepped up onto the wraparound porch, sat on a deck chair, and simply watched the thickening mist. The sweet scent of balsam fir wafted through the air from the boughs in my planters. Along with alder twigs adorned with nutlets and rose branches crowned with scarlet hips, the fir boughs add a festive air to my porch planters not only for Christmas, but throughout the winter.

In the same way that the past two days of unseasonably warm weather have been a gift, Alaska’s mild early spring was a gift that Vilis and I enjoyed during our five-day visit to Anchorage in May. On our last day, after scaling Flattop Peak (see my December 2 post), we drove south from Anchorage on the Seward Highway to Potter Marsh, a birding hotspot at the south end of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. The marsh is a vast freshwater wetland (about 3 kilometres long) sandwiched between the highway and a range of hills in Chugach State Park.

Potter Marsh, Alaska

Potter Marsh, Alaska

We ate a late lunch of sub sandwiches in the shade of shoreline trees and then spent an hour slowly walking 500 metres of boardwalk that offered excellent views of the marsh’s north end. Mew gulls nested on dry islands of vegetation. Canada geese floated and dabbled. Elegant arctic terns skimmed over the water. A northern raven flew inland above the marsh. I spotted a greater yellowlegs wading in shallow water and a spotted sandpiper on a sand bar. Green-winged teal swam among clumps of emergent marsh plants. I heard what I was sure was a Lincoln’s sparrow, found the distant bird perched atop a shrub, and confirmed its song using a birding app Vilis had downloaded onto his smart phone (Now I want a smart phone of my own!). A lone sandhill crane landed in the marsh and nearly disappeared in the dense vegetation. I threw Vilis an ecstatic grin. The sandhill gave me my 49th species for our Anchorage trip. Tree swallows were everywhere, flying their erratic flight patterns as they hawked insects.

Tree Swallow at Potter Marsh

Tree Swallow at Potter Marsh

The hour Vilis and I had allotted ourselves disappeared too quickly. Reluctantly, we left the marsh and drove to the airport to return our rental car and catch our flight to Seattle, the first leg of our return trip to Nova Scotia. We only had five days in Anchorage, yet those five days gave us a wonderful glimpse of southeast Alaska’s spectacular scenery and diverse wildlife. I would happily return.

Tree Swallow at Potter Marsh

Tree Swallow at Potter Marsh

 

 

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