Just home from one of the best weekends I've had with anyone, let alone my sister, in a very long time!
It was to have been the three sisters, together for the first time in awhile, but one sister, whom I shall call Hop-a-long ended up moving some bone from her hip to her mouth, and in five words, “Hurts like shit, can't walk”...so she couldn't come, and then we were two.
The purpose of the get together was to celebrate a milestone birthday for my other sister, whom I shall call Hops-a-lot. Her actual birthday isn't until May 3rd, but because she is generally like a Mink on a Mission, and very well organized, she had suggested this past weekend as the beginning of her celebratory month...(so many cakes, so little time, really, unless, you plan for it...) which in true Hops-a-lot fashion she did!
So, off the two of us went to Prince Edward County, an island in Lake Ontario, accessed via Belleville. It's Ontario's newest wine region, so naturally one of the items on the agenda was touring the wineries and sipping and tasting and generally enjoying an experience that she'd never had before. Which explains why she now has 8 new bottles of wine in her home. And I have too.
We stayed at Hillsdale House B&B in Bloomfield -and if you're looking for a charming, comfortable turn of the century home filled with just the right mixture of antiques, fine art, books, and small treasures, look no further. The breakfasts were excellent – fresh, local, and mouthwatering – while the accommodation was very comfortable...snuggly beds, and exceptionally clean and quiet.
We met up around three o'clock on Friday afternoon at the B&B, and as I'd arrived a little earlier, and looked through some of the tourist info, I was telling her about discovering that Prince Edward County was in fact an internationally significant birding area...looking at a map it makes sense, but I'd never made the connection before (too busy at the wineries is my guess). Diane, our B&B landlady told me about the Prince Edward Point Conservation Area, so we quickly agreed that would be our destination for the remainder of the afternoon.
Whenever I travel, I carry a trip diary with me in my birding bag which also contains the usual maps, pens, binoculars, and bird books. I keep my own bird list(s), and following a pretty brief chat about the why's and wherefore's, Hops-a-lot said she'd like to start one too. As a loving sister, I absolutely agreed to enable her about to bloom addiction to birding,and handed her a blank ABA Birding Check List.
We drove from Bloomfield to Prince Edward Point, a distance of about 20 km. Our total trip time was about 2 ½ hours, and by the end of it we had seen 29 species! It was fabulous because it was so unexpected...and apart from the joy of welcoming back some wonderful birds after a long winter, it was even better watching my sister discovering a new life long interest (and racking up a Lifer every couple of minutes!) We stopped the car whenever we saw anything moving – and discussed in earnest the need for a bumper sticker: Birders on Board. Swerves and Sudden Stops to be Expected. Some wonderful sitings too – Red Breasted Mergansers, Ring Necked Ducks, Caspian Terns, Horned Grebes, Mute Swans, Long Tailed Ducks.
As we made our way back to the B&B we drove through Picton and dined at Portabella ...an upscale little restaurant that prides itself in good local food prepared well, and once again we were really pleasantly surprised. This is what a little getaway should be about - fun, food, and feathers!
On Saturday, our day began early as we made our way to a garden show. Are we talking girls' dream weekend or what? On our way we stopped at a yard sale, then scoped out a future weekend away taking a course in glass blowing at The Red Barns, and finally, spent two hours rambling around the show looking at trendy fun fixtures for the yard, 'til we tired of that and decided it was time to explore a winery or two or five. Now this was serious fun! Drive in to a beautifully designed architecturally interesting building, generally situated amidst fields of grape vines; chat with the staff – all of whom seem to have taken drama classes and are expert story tellers; sip some good grape juice; ka-ching; and on to the next! We had a blast! And we got funnier and smarter as the afternoon wore on!
Dinner Saturday was in Picton again, at Currah's and it was good too. By now I was beginning to feel like I was actually on a vacation – I hadn't thought about anything other than the next wee adventure for 24 hours. I'd laughed, relaxed, and been seriously sated. And it wasn't over yet! The best was about to begin. Like all excellent adventures, part of the reason it's so wonderful is that its completely unexpected.
We'd heard at the garden show that there was bird banding taking place at “our” conservation area from 6:00 am 'til noon, so we decided that on Sunday, our final jaunt would be to drive back out there, and see if we could find the volunteers who were catching the birds, then banding, weighing, measuring, and releasing them as part of the Canadian migration monitoring network.
After a few wrong turns, that led us to and from a beautiful old lighthouse, we did indeed find the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory (www.peptbo.ca) and it was awesome...in the best sense of the word. Two cheerful volunteers giving up weekend family time to mind the mist nets, and checking for birds every half hour or so throughout the day, because they recognize the need and want to help.
We wandered around, observing the process, the care taken and respect given to each little winged creature, and then made our way towards home, mindful that it's not the grand gestures, but the small ones, that ultimately make a huge difference!
So! Two sisters, five wineries, ten bottles of wine, plenty of shops, and 48 species of birds later...time to start planning the next sistercation.
(Please note, I have had several technical problems trying to post this blog so the photos are not what I had originally taken, and the layout has been simplifed. For some reason internet explorer just doesn't like this post!)