Sunday, December 26, 2010

Winter Storms

The weather these past weeks really has me baffled.  When we moved to Atlantic Canada I thought we would never see a green Christmas again.  Prince Edward Island is known to have lots of snow in the winters and below freezing temperatures.  We are a solid zone 5 garden here.  There was snow last year, although not very much.  This year there is not a drop.  Instead my yard has become a mud pit.

The little snow we had in November melted as the temperatures soared up to plus 12 degrees celcius.  Rains have poured down and winds have whipped up everything in their path.  Three weeks in a row we have been hit by a major storm.  I came home from work one day last week to an odd sight.

Honey, says I, did you move the picnic table?

Nope.  That's some wind eh?

This table used to reside ON the porch, not beside it.

Even stranger was the bird I found.  I'm going to warn you all right now, if you don't like gross photos then scroll far down the page.  He isn't dismembered or anything so it's not really bad but he is dead.  I was just so dumbfounded when I found him lying underneath the birch tree.  The thing that struck me immediately was that he doesn't belong here.

WARNING:  I'm going to show the photo now so last chance to avert your eyes.


Can you see what bothered me so much?  Look at his legs and feet.  His legs are seated far back on his body and his feet are webbed.  I don't know what this bird is (and if you know please tell me!) but his legs and feet are indicators that he is a sea bird.  He should not be in my yard.  Google Earth tells me I live just over 1km from the ocean as the crow flies.  Not a terribly long distance but far enough.  I'm guessing but considering the winds we've had, gusts up to 120 km/hr, it's possible this little guy got caught in the wind and was blown to our yard where he was slammed into the birch tree.  The power of these storms is tremendous and it's scary how they keep coming.

We are fortunate to have escaped any real damage thus far but others have not been so lucky.  The north shore of the island has been hit particularly hard.  We walked down the beach today in North Rustico and the damage was obvious.

The siding on this lighthouse has been ripped right off.  To read more about the storm damage here on the island click here.  More photos can also be viewed here.

With temperatures continually jumping around the thermometer the ground is not as it should be.  There should be an insulating coat of snow and frost to protect plants and keep the ground from washing away but that hasn't been the case.  Luckily I had the forethought to put a good layer of mulch on almost everything so the damages at this point appears to be minimized.  The birches are all standing tall and have lots of buds waiting to open for next year.

But the evergreens are showing some wear and tear.  The needles of this white pine are tipped with yellow.  So many factors could be contributing to this.  The ground is sopping and the tree could be drowning in poorly draining soil.  Or conversely, these high winds could be continually stripping the moisture from his needles.

Other trees simply couldn't handle the wind and tipped right over.  We have two spruces that were dug out of the ditch and transplanted in our yard.  They never seemed to have a good root structure so I'm not surprised but it's always disappointing to see this.

Frankly I think this tree should be removed.  If it's roots are unstable after 6 months in the ground I don't think there's a good chance it will improve.  I don't want him to grow up into a big unstable tree as that's a danger and a liability.  But hubby has a soft spot for this tree and has stood him back up.  So we'll leave it for now and see how it fairs in the next storm, which is forecast for tomorrow.


  1. You really did get the wind. We are having high winds too, but not like you. Your bird is an odd visitor. Too bad for his demise.

    Your tree may survive, good your hubby uprighted it. My tree grower straightens them out all the time when the wind topples them and has good luck doing it.

  2. The snow is so unpredictable in the east. Wishing you a nice blanket of the white stuff very soon. :)

  3. Marguerite it sounds almost like our weather has switched, we have had snow and not much wind when we usually have no snow and terrific gales, the snow has almost gone from here now,
    I'm glad your home is safe, sorry for those who's homes got damaged,
    I live about half a mile from the coast (don't know what that is km) I often see sea birds on the field at the back and on the rail of the bridge just along the road from me, I'm sorry though that the birds are suffering,
    your yellowing needles, if it's the wind and I'm sorry to say it probably is then they will go beautiful autumn colours then drop and if it's an evergreen that doesn't grow on old wood those branches will stay bare but the tips will probably give new growth,
    I think wind does far more damage than cold but they only 'zone' according to cold, I wish there was more info and help with strong winds and salt laden winds, which yours probably were,
    I hope you had a nice Christmas, all best wishes for 2011, Frances

  4. Everytime we read the news about the east coast we shake our heads and say we can't believe you're all getting hit again. Stay safe and I'll do my best to send the sun down your way.

  5. The bird may be called a Dove Key.
    They get blown inland when we have bad storms with high winds.
    The weather sure has been wacky and now it's snowing with freezing rain.
    Glad I don't have to work this week.

  6. I agree, Marguerite, it IS like West Coast and East Coast weather has switched (only temporary, I'm sure!).

    I have a hard time impressing family and friends with tales of snow and cold when they're getting the same thing back home! :)

    That poor little bird. It was indeed a strange find for you!

    And here we go again with another storm tonight!

  7. Hoo boy! so glad there have been no injuries or loss of life! (other than the poor wee bird) It's hard being so far away from my PEI home while all of this is going on - I will be making enquiries but due to being a km inland and on a hill I don't think I have toworry about water damage but the WIND is a different story. Hope it calms down SOON!

  8. This is such a weird winter all down the Eastern Seaboard, I think. So strange that you have had no snow. I've read before that snow is a good insulator for plants in cold climates. Hope things improve for y'all up there.

  9. GardenWalk - I'm glad to hear that the trees do stand a chance if uprighted but unfortunately we had a huge amount of wet snow this morning and it's been knocked back over again. I'm not holding out hope for this one.

    Ms.S - we got our white blanket this morning but it's melting as quick as it comes. This really doesn't feel right.

    Island Threads - I'm sure you're right about the wind. There's so much of it and it's bound to be full of salt. Those pines with the yellow tint in their needles are evergreen but the needles only stay on for 2 years. So perhaps, as you say, they will eventually fall off and the new growth will be healthy. Here's hoping!

    Liz - We've actually done surprisingly well since we've moved here. Living on the south shore we're protected by Nova Scotia so we've been lucky that way. But the consistency of these storms is pretty nerve wracking.

    Witch thank you! I'm so excited. Indeed this bird is a Little Auk/Dovekie (the winter plumage makes it look a little different). And you're right that they do get caught in winter storms and blown around. Poor things. Woke up to mounds of snow this morning and now it's no more than a deep slushy puddle.

    PEIHome - I know!! My family calls asking how we're 'handling things' and are we ready to come back to the nice weather in BC yet?! yet our weather has been far nicer than theirs this year.

    Jane - I don't think there's any issues Alberton way so I'm sure you're safe. Try not to worry. The wind here really is something though. I hadn't bargained for that when we moved here. We'll spend a fortune in shingles.

    FloridaGirl - It is shocking how strange the weather has become. We have no snow and you're having frost! Snow is something we count on here to keep the plants cozy when the temperatures grow cold. No snow can really make a mess of things. So it'll be interesting (and possibly upsetting) to see how the plants have handled it all come spring.

  10. Marguerite, I think of you when I hear about the weather coming your way. But you are on the coast and usually the weather is a bit milder.
    Here in Georgia we had a white Christmas for the first time in 140 years.Unfortunately (???) its all gone now. Weather patterns are changing. I won't forget the snow I ran into in Montreal a few weeks ago..Nothing has changed there..The winter won't last too long and there is the garden to plan
    Hope you had a lovely Christmas.

  11. I agree with IslandThreads that wind is the bigger factor than snow or frigid temps in the cold zones. I've had spruces pushed over by winter winds, and they are now growing up tilted, but growing. I'll stay tuned to see if your hubby-rescued little spruce makes it by next spring!

  12. Hi Marguerite! You just described our weather. Green, wet and windy. Hold on there and stay warm!

  13. Such a strange year it has been for weather! We had a hotter than normal summer and then three snows already in December! The snow is most unusual for us. I'm told that it doesn't mean we're in for a harsh winter, and I hope that's true. Weather has been extreme all over the country!

  14. The winds that have been blowing down your trees and picnic tables have also been lashing northern VA. It's been incredibly cold and windy here, too. I agree with you about taking down the little tree - maybe if you replace it with a healhty seedling Jody will be more understanding. Hopefully, your weather will calm down soon and you'll be posting pix of snowmen!!

  15. Sandra - snow in Georgia! now I've heard everything. Glad you are having a good holiday despite the snow. On the with garden planning!

    Laurrie - seems he has a couple people rooting for him! I'll keep you posted whether that spruce makes it through winter.

    Tatyana - It's true. I've thought several times in the last weeks that this weather is exactly as it was when I lived in the northwest!

    Ginny - the weather really is odd and everyone seems to be experiencing strange patterns. More and more each year. It's fascinating but disturbing.

    TS - I've tried to tempt him with a Blue Spruce or pear tree in that spot and he might take the bait. But he's also mentioned how much growth that tree put on and how impressed he is with it. We'll have to see how it looks in spring and decide it's fate then I think.

  16. Hello! I too live in this wonderful province. This Bird is indeed a Dovekie and is most commonly found diving for crustaceans far out to sea-usually around pack ice as it prefers colder waters. It will come closer to shore for shelter during winter storms which is most likely why you found it in your yard. While it is not native to PEI, it can be found around the Souris ferry, The Whistle (Grand Manan I,)NB, Cape Sable I. NS, all over NL, as well as Pointe ST-Piere (Iles de la Madeleine) and some other PQ locations. Hope this answers your question!
    This spring I found a dead seabird as well that I couldn't identify. It turned out it was a Northern Gannet. Again, not a bird that is commonly ashore but was brought here by a winter storm. In one respect, I think it lucky to have seen either one of these-even in a deceased state, as they are commonly seen far out to sea.

  17. Darlene, thank you so much for that information. It really is amazing that this bird ended up in our yard. I saw ganets last year when I went on a fishing trip with my dad, really fantastic birds but as soon as we turned for land they disappeared!