Notes of Restigouche
by: Mike Lushington  

            At times, this has seemed like the winter that didn't want to quit.We did not have a lot of snow,it is true, but I am willing to bet that the original flakes that fell back in November are still there, at least in places where they were not disturbed. I believe that it is a matter of official record that this has been the coldest winter in the past fifty or more. It is also true that we did not have very much extreme cold (temperature in the order of -30 or lower), but we had no break from it from mid-November until late March. I have been keeping records of my own for some time and according to them, we had one day just before Christmas when the temperature got above 0; that did not happen again until march 3rd, when the temperature got to +2 for a couple of hours in the morning, before falling to -16 by mid afternoon and -22 by the next morning.

            The ice formed in the river before Christmas this year and the smelt fishermen were able to set up their nets in the main channel by mid-January. For the three years previously the ice hardly formed at all. Last year, they had a three week season, and the ice was well broken up by now. This year (as I write) the first soft spots have just become visible and it is safe to say that unless an icebreaker attacks it soon, there will be ice into early May.

            Bird migration is on hold, it seems. I saw an early flock of robins in late March but have still to see the big invasion that usually takes place the middle of April. The same can be said for blackbirds, early sparrows and the small finches that are usually abundant around our feeders by now. We have seen a few scoters, scaup, and long-tailed ducks in the patches of open water off Inch Arran and the Bon Ami Rocks, but the big flocks are stalled to the south. Geese are late, I've seen no herons, and there are only a few cormorants.

            However, there are signs of spring everywhere, especially in the woods. Carla and I took a walk along the MacNeish Road here in Pt. la Nim the other day, especially to see what was happening with the trees and bushes. Those that bud early - the willows, Balsam poplar, the dogwoods and alders - are well on their way to forming leaves. The big maples, birches, and beeches are all full of swelling buds and one can see the signs of growth in the twigs and leave stems. They need a few weeks yet. but I am willing to bet that they will be on schedule by late May.

            Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated with the changing of the seasons. I would have to say that the most perplexing of those changes is that which takes place at this time of year. In recent years, since we have had the opportunity to travel south in March, I have come to realize that we really do not experience spring here on the North Shore in the same way that nearly everyone else in Canada and throughout the US does. We get the transition of temperatures, a great deal of our thaw, and a surprising volume of growth while there is still ice and snow present. I am always fascinated by the simple little miracle that occurs everywhere around here at this time of year: on one day, a particular patch of grass or soil is still covered with snow; it finally melts, and three days later, dandelions and colt's-foot are growing. The transition from winter white to spring green seems to take forever to get started, but when it does, it explodes.

            In the meantime, while we wait, we console ourselves with the thought that by mid-June all of this will be but a memory, and that our gardens and lawns, so far behind our friends and relatives even in places nearby to the south right now, will have caught up in that frantic outburst of energy that characterizes growth here in Winter Country.

            Mike Lushington

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