Thursday, June 22, 2017

Sunset over the Islands

After visiting Flowerpot Island during the day, we headed back into Tobermory that evening to check out the sunset over the islands.  It was spectacular!

We had an interesting conversation with the young woman at the ticket booth for Blue Heron Cruises, as we often do with local folks we meet.  She gave us the inside story on the best place to go and watch the sunset, and she was right!

On the deck where another company, Blue Anchor Cruises has its docks, we joined others to stand and watch.  It was the perfect viewpoint.  You're looking past the entry of Big Tub on the left, the Big Tub Lighthouse hidden on the dark shoreline, and over Doctor and Russell Islands to the northwest.

By the time the sun was actually setting, there were 30 or 40 people there, and a couple of boats that had gone out to try and get even closer!

The sun slowly disappears, the best sunset we have seen in a long time!

We must have been there at least 30 minutes, and took a lot more pictures than these.  As darkness fell, we headed down the highway to our campground.  But looking in the rear-view mirror, the sky was lit up - we had left too early!

We did see Big Tub Light blinking to us as we said good-bye.

Linking to:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Carnivorous Plants!

We also visited Dorcas Bay briefly one evening, another of our favourite spots up the Bruce Peninsula.  It's on the west shore, very different than the cliffs of the east.  Here the bedrock, covered with sand in the bay, dips into Lake Huron like a very slightly slanted table top, creating a series of unusual habitats.

Dorcas Bay dips so slowly into Lake Huron that you can walk out 100 yards and only have water half-way up to your knees.

There are three interesting habitats, that show up on this air photo on one of the Parks Canada sign.  There are the low sand dunes along the shore, the Jack Pine forests back of the shore, and the 'fen', the brown area to the east of 'You are here'.  This post is a little long with lots of pix, so just scan through quickly unless you're really interested.

This year the water has risen in the Great Lakes, so what was a narrow sandy stream flowing to the lake is now a deep flooded inlet, what was open wet sand is now shallow water.

We started taking a quick look in under the forest, where the Yellow Ladyslipper were in bloom, one of the more common orchids on the Bruce.  It was because of flowers like these that the property was saved from development for cottages in 1963, by the non-profit Ontario Naturalists in the 'Battle of the Bulldozer' which raised $30,000.00 to purchase the land from the bankrupt developer.  I first visited this spot the year after, and have been going back ever since.  For a few years I had a hand in its management, but it's now part of the Bruce Peninsula National Park

The beautiful little Fringed Polygala was blooming under the Jack Pines.

Behind the parking lot is the 'fen', a unique wetland habitat with shallow water and high alkalinity.  It's home to some really unusual plants which you can easily see from the boardwalk.

We spotted a few of the Blue Flag Iris.  The much rarer Dwarf lake Iris also blooms here, but earlier, in late May.  Botanists from across the continent visit to see it.

There is also some Cottongrass growing in the back corners of the fen.  Not a grass at all, but a sedge found in this unusual habitat.

But the interesting plants are the carnivorous ones.  This is the Linear-leaved Sundew, which captures insects among its tiny tentacles, and dissolves them for nutrients.

The best close-up I could manage shows you the tentacles and the drops the plant secretes to attract, hold, and then dissolve tiny insects.  Parts of the fen are almost carpeted with these plants.

The other carnivorous plant is the Pitcher Plant, perhaps the most common symbol of the fen wetland.

Insects crawl into the 'pitcher-like' leaves, where downward pointing hairs make it hard to crawl out.  Eventually they are dissolved as nutrients too.

The flower, in full bloom at this time of year, is both unusual and quite attractive, but it faces downward so it's tricky to photograph.

Out on the open shoreline we walked over the wet sand flats at the edge of the Jack Pine forest.  The only place Jack Pine are found this far south in Ontario is in sandy habitats on the Great Lakes shorelines.

Jack Pine is the pine species that needs fire to pop open the cones to release the seeds, but here on the hot sunny dunes, the temperature (which can rise to 50°C on the sand surface) is enough to accomplish that.

The native Tamarack with it's clusters of tiny needles and tiny cones is also common here.  Not many places you can see a Jack Pine/Tamarack forest in southern Ontario!

The Indian Paintbrush were glowing in the evening sun.  Usually red, but occasionally yellow.  With that we better quit; if you've lasted this long, thanks for your interest!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Flowerpot Island II

We landed at Beachy Cove, and headed off to explore Flowerpot Island, following the trails toward the flowerpots themselves, with quite a few other people.  It was a perfect day to be on the island, sunny and warm, but with a cool breeze to keep us comfortable.

We fortified ourselves with lunch before heading along the trail to the smaller flowerpot, which you get to first.

A very rare picture of Mrs. F.G.!

The walk right along the shore is rugged, so it's easier to head up into the woods to follow the trail.  I'm afraid some people come ill-prepared in terms of footwear.  Strollers make it even more difficult.  But it's certainly beautiful.

We got to the larger flowerpot and I managed to get a couple of pictures sans people.  I had to be quick.

You do have to keep an eye out for Poison Ivy on these shores, assuming you can identify it.  Here it fills a crack in the bedrock.  The three leaves are pretty easy to identify.

The shoreline and the water offshore is certainly beautiful on a sunny day.  The deeper blue water not far offshore indicates deeper water, here about 300 feet deep.

I could have spent the entire day exploring the island, but we only had two hours.

We did have our first encounter with some 'instagrammers'.  These two women sat behind us on the boat and we overheard them talking about their plans - to get pictures they could post on Instagram.  Yes, one of them wore a long flowing white dress to go hiking and explore the island.  It's nice to see that generation out exploring, but it's a social media habit I don't quite understand.  On the other hand, maybe blogging is pretty similar?

We didn't go hunting for the rare flowers on this trip, but we did see a fair bit of the beautiful Fringed Polygala in the forest.

Finding our way back to the dock, we met our ship to head back to Tobermory.  Next time it will be a longer visit!

The Coast Guard patrol vessel, CCGS Private Robertson, was still in the harbour, and I was surprised to see Al of the Bayfield Bunch, post a picture of this ship in the Goderich harbour just yesterday.  There must be a way to track where these boats are going over the season; it would be interesting to follow them.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Flowerpot Island I

Finally, I've got you to Flowerpot Island.  We sailed from the northwest, approaching Lighthouse Cove and the Lighthouse first, then around the corner were the 'flowerpots', and beyond them the dock.

These are the lighthouse keepers' cottages, built over 100 years ago, when the keepers and their families lived a very isolated life here.  Today they are one of the best examples of volunteer contributions to our parks, maintained entirely by volunteers among the Friends of Fathom Five.  One of these is a museum you can visit; volunteers stay in the other house.

And here is the ugly new light tower, replacing the old lighthouse in 1968 as part of a nation-wide modernization drive, automating many of Canada's lighthouses.  As you can tell, I'm a bit biased.

This is a terrible picture, but it's my only picture of the old lighthouse, which looked like a house with a light on top.  It's a scan of a slide that is at least 50 years old (pre-1968), and was taken from a cave entrance across the cove to the west.

The cliff on the right here has several large caves, one of which frames the photo above of the old lighthouse.  When I first visited you could follow trails to about 8 big sea caves up in the cliff, and we explored them all.  Today, for safety reasons, only one is advertised, and you can only go the entrance of it.

We sailed on around Castle Bluff, and there was the first of the flowerpots, across a beautiful small bay under a cliff with more sea caves.  The caves date from a time when lake levels were much higher.

My memory of the island does not include many people, sometimes no-one but ourselves.  But today there are lots of people, many more come July and August.  They do give some sense of scale for the large flowerpot here.

A little further and we could see both flowerpots, sticking up along the very rocky shoreline.  Both have their feet in the water today, but I've known them to be both high and dry, and flooded.  Both flowerpots are seastacks, left standing as softer rocks eroded around them.

Here you can see the 'witch's nose', a face on the east side of the larger flowerpot.

You can clearly see the stonework that holds up the small flowerpot here.  Both flowerpots were reinforced by stonework decades ago, in the 1930's I believe.  Today there would be a debate over whether we should do that!  Flowerpot Island itself was a National Park in its own right for decades long before it became part of the new Fathom Five National Park.

Shortly thereafter we arrived at the dock, circling into Beachy Cove around the big breakwater.  We got off to enjoy a couple of hours exploring the island.