Port Neville: a Love/Hate Story

0700 hrs: Morning calm (click on images to enlarge)

My husband and I have a love/hate relationship with Port Neville.

We love it for the shelter it offers. Reaching more than five miles in from the open water, Port Neville  is a welcome sight for us during the long trek up Johnstone Strait. Many times it serves as an essential duck-in when we feel the wind rising and seas steepening – or when we’re just too tired to go any further that day.

I also love Port Neville for the photographic feast it provides. Despite a considerable amount of logging over the years, the mountains and shoreline vistas around the inlet can appear sublime. There’s good paddling opportunities too, usually in calm waters, and an occasional bear to be seen on the beach.

View over Port Neville to Vancouver Island mountains

But I confess: we have also grown to detest Port Neville. It’s because of what happens after dark.

You’d never know it from the photos I’ve taken, but once the black of night has closed around us, this seemingly tranquil “port” has become a whirling wind tunnel on too many of our stopovers. Despite dropping our hook in a number of different spots over the years, Port Neville has gifted us with long nights of anchor watches, worry and sleep deprivation.

Clouds over mountain in evening sky

Still, once daylight breaks again and that infernal wind drops, those golden moments can make Port Neville feel pretty mellow.

Golden light on trees along shoreline

Even so, I’m not sure I want to hang any of my photos of this place on our wall at home.

Bears and Boulders

Black bear turning up boulder on beach

When the tide is out, bears check the larder (click to enlarge photos).

Boulders on many beaches along our coast are always being moved about, and not just by waves – it turns out that bears have a big paw in the process.

If you’re anchored fairly close to shore in what we call a “bearable” place, you might see one rearranging the beach at low tide, like the Black bear in these photos.

From our boat, less than 200 feet away, we watched the bear amble across the rocky intertidal area, lifting and turning over one sizeable boulder after another in search of the tasty treats below.  We could hear the clatter as each rock flipped over. The exercise looked effortless to the bear – underscoring just how powerful these critters are. (If that fails to convince you, click twice on a photo and check out the size of those claws.)

Black bear eating what it found under boulder on beach

Tiny shore crabs and other invertebrates may seem paltry for a big bruin, but by the time the bear had finished its beach renovation, all those little morsels likely added up to a decent meal.

As the tide began to rise again, the bear picked up its pace and moved on to the next stop on its agenda. Perhaps some sweet thimbleberries were calling from the forest’s edge over on the next bay.

Black bear crossing intertidal area

Baby Time

Robin fledgling in grass

Meeting the world in wide-eyed wonder: American robin fledgling (click to enlarge)

When I stopped to watch this fledgling robin on our lawn yesterday, an anxious mother called out a loud, sharp, repeated alarm. I had my camera in hand and squatted down to photograph the youngster, but I had to be fast. Sure enough, I managed just one frame before it responded to its mom’s commands and raced unsteadily through the garden fence, away from the scary human.

It’s definitely baby time around here. I was in a hurry yesterday and almost stepped on another young robin, standing motionless in the middle of a path. Later in the day I watched a Purple finch father in rapid motion, feeding three hopping, noisy fledglings atop one or our garden trellises.

Other, much quieter babies are in the offing. For a few days now, our young doe, Elgie, has been absent – which likely means she’s busy in the forest, welcoming new fawns into the world and figuring out how to do her best to protect and nurture them. We look forward to meeting them once she feels ready to introduce us.

Ah, Baby Time: that delightful season of new beginnings and wide-eyed wonder.

**Today is World Environment Day, which this year marks the launch of the UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Rewilding our lawns and gardens, growing trees, greening cities, cleaning up our coasts – each can be a step towards making peace with nature, today and all year round. Learn more about World Environment Day

Spring Light at the Picnic Tree

Spring light, new energy and the “Picnic Tree” (click on any image to enlarge)

What a difference the longer days of spring make!  Our “Picnic Tree” sports a heady canopy of leaves, while the grass beneath it grows visibly denser and the dried brown ferns of last summer rapidly disappear behind fresh green fronds. And judging by the volume and variety of songs I’m hearing, the birds around here are also feeling the spring energy.

The Picnic Tree is actually made up of several shrubs of Indian plum (Oemlaria cerasiformis), growing closely together to look like a multi-trunked tree.

Indian plum, also known as Osoberry, is a charming native species and the first shrub or tree to bloom here each year. Its flowers, which precede the leaves, usually appear in profusion by late February and last through March, a feast for hungry bees as well as for winter-weary human eyes.

Here’s how our Picnic Tree looked on February 25 this year – no visible leaves, just a mass of tiny flowers.

Large Indian plum in bloom

And here’s a closer view of those flowers in mid-March, once the leaves had started to unfold.

Detail of Iindian plum flowers

A couple of months from now, summer light will reveal a copious amount of tiny plums among the foliage. If I’m lucky (and fast), the birds might allow me to indulge in one or two before they begin their annual avian picnic.

Cluster of Indian plum fruit hanging from branch