This Writer: What I Learned on a White Sandy Beach in the Middle of Canada

Grand Beach

Grand Beach (Photo credit: Travel Manitoba)

About three weeks ago I spent an amazing eight days on the prairies in a nice little place called Lockport Manitoba.  Now, I had been to the city of Winnipeg in the past on business and did not care for the swarms of homeless who came out of recessed doorways in groups and surrounded me and frightened me so I had no desire to go anywhere in that province ever again.  Lesson one which should not need to be said:  Don’t judge people or a place based on one experience.

Then my dearest friends relocated to Lockport to be closer to family and friends so a little reluctantly I boarded a Westjet and headed out.  Lockport itself and its surrounding beauty will have to wait for another time because today is about the beach.  An easy drive my second day took us to Grand Beach Manitoba.

Now in my experience, Canada does not have a lot of Caribbean comparable beaches, and certainly none that stretch for miles of white sand and dunes.  Shallows extend quite far into the lake making it an ideal playground for families, young people, and seniors.  The second lesson is pretty closely tied to the first:  If you haven’t been somewhere don’t assume it doesn’t exist.  Funny thing is that mountains, rivers and prairies often depict Canada in photos but I can’t remember ever seeing a beach quite like this one.

Grand Beach is fresh water of course, so no, there was no pounding surf.  It lies on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg which is the sixth largest lake in Canada at 9,465 square miles.  The first five comprise of three Great Lakes, Huron, Erie, and Superior, and the other two are in the NWT (Northwest Territories), and are called Great Bear and Great Slave Lake.

I never have considered myself an ornithologist as I can pretty well only identify Blue Jays, Red Winged Blackbirds, Robins, and Sparrows.  Oh and Hummingbirds.   But darned if I didn’t learn a couple more things that enriched the experience.  Lesson three:  Birds are incredibly interesting especially when seen in their natural habitat.

Piping Plovers

PIPING PLOVERS (charadrius melodus) are an endangered species of bird protected on Grand Beach.  They are a small sandy colored sparrow sized bird that nests and feeds along coastal sand and gravel. (Just as an aside there are two more things I learned – Manitobans – uh Manitobians – people in Manitoba take their wild life and food markets very seriously – but that’s another story.)

American White Pelican

AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS (pelicanus erythrorohynchos).  Go figure.  If I was on a game show like Jeopardy and my fortune depended on my knowledge of Pelicans in Canada I would be going home in a sorry state.  This spectacular aquatic bird breeds in the North American interior and migrates south each year.  Including its long huge beak it can be between 50 – 70 inches in length and has a wing span of 95 – 120 inches.  Is that amazing or what?  Its bill is flat on top with a large throat sac that allows it to scoop fish out of the water.  Now that is what I call ‘fast food’.

Our Pelicans are both smart and naughty.  They are smart enough that in shallow water they form a line or a semicircle and corral fish.  The naughty part is that they suffer from Kleptoparasitism which means they steal food from other birds.  Thieves they are.  Their victims can be other Pelicans, Gulls, or Cormorants.  Wikipedia reports that at least on one occassion the victim was a great Blue Heron who lost its treasure mid-flight.

Now some of you are shaking your heads and saying you knew all this but it was new and exciting for me and here is the last lesson: Just because I am old(er) and at times feel like I have the wisdom of Methusala  never ever assume that there is nothing I can’t continue to learn and that learning is still exciting.

Now before I dash off to find out what the heck a Cormorant is I will leave you with a wee limerick my father liked to recite to us as children written by Edward Lear.

A wonderful bird is the Pelican.

His beak can hold more than his belly can.

He can hold in his beak

Enough food for a week!

But I’m darned if I know how the hellican!

 

 

 

Scottish Invasion Recedes, Next Step Winterpeg

Well, Monday and ‘Oh the Plots We Weave’ has come and gone.  Not much news to have fun with anyway around here in these suddenly less summery and more autumny kind of days.  As my friend Celi called it yesterday in her post ‘that gentle late summer slide.’

There have been body parts showing up in the Mississauga and Toronto area and the school teachers may end up going on strike (again) which will delay the start of the school year but no wonderful ‘what ifs’ to get from any of that.

Our fave cuz has returned to Scotland taking with her some fine memories and leaving a strange void which will take time to get over.  This dear gracious woman left Saturday past to race back in hopes of enjoying some remnant bit of summer that had eluded her until she arrived here.  Well not entirely true.  After a couple of months of daily rain showers on the home front she looked forward to the 30 degree heat wave we boasted. Until the day her plane set down in Toronto bringing with it our very first thunderstorm of the season.  The funniest part was the morning she awoke, checked FB to see her son had written that it was nice to wake up and not have his sunburn hurt.  It seemed old Sol made an appearance just as she left.

Actually the weather was pretty good here and did not rain on our parade too much and it sure was nice some of that brown earth actually turned green and at times lush.

So now here on the mountain I get ready to leave to visit friends in Winnipeg and will fly out early evening for 8 days.  Now Winnipeg  is the capital of Manitoba just less than a thousand miles to the west of us. They have branded themselves ( according to one site) as the cultural cradle of the country.  I am not sure that is entirely the case – whether it is more so or less so than a hundred other locations in Canada.  The French were the first settlers in 1738 and named it Fort Rouge.  Almost a hundred years later it was renamed Fort Garry and finally after 150 years of messing around between the First Nations, the Metis, the French and the British it became Winnipeg in1873, which is a much better name since it so easily converts to its winter ID – Winterpeg.  Wikipedia states that Winnipeg is the coldest city in the world with a population of over 600,000 based on the average night-time temperature from December to February, inclusive.

It is of course my intention to be and gone before any suggestion of winter winds appear.  I have not seen, (other than Skype) these dear friends for more than a year.

Posting may be sporadic – but I will be thinking of  you and post as soon as…..

Oh by the by …my friend Joss is preparing for a big exam please do stop by and cheer her on!

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