Amongst Clouds, Trees, and Darkness

Hello faithful readers, this week we’re in Cape Breton, and what a beautiful place it is. Plenty of mountains, trees, and landscapes covered in dense bushes to keep us occupied. Today we hand collected at Jack Pine Trail and set up our final night sheet at Clyburn Brook.

Martin Zlatkin, Katelyn Lutes, and Graham Ansell looking out onto the ocean at Cape Breton Highlands National Park, NS.
Martin Zlatkin, Katelyn Lutes, and Graham Ansell looking out onto the ocean at Cape Breton Highlands National Park, NS.

To start off, let me give you a summary of what kinds of bugs we found on the trail, in the trees and the surrounding lichens, on a rainy and cold day: ants, isopods, and nothing. Most of our hand collecting, since it was too wet to use our sweep nets, involved looking under logs or peeling away the bark of dead trees to find our fare. The beginning of the trail was very productive; I turned up some large spiders and pulled a sweet Lepidoptera cocoon out of some leaf litter on a rock, along with the usual assortment of beetle larvae and flies too slow to avoid my aspirator. When we began to go uphill, however, things became quite different. The pines began to thin out, making more room for dense shrubs and rocky outcroppings. Unfortunately, finding bugs began to be much more of a challenge. After finding not much of anything we continued to make our way up further and walked right into a cloud. We were so high up that the lowest reaching clouds could settle on the now flat mountain, and the feeling was pretty exciting. Here the trail had leveled off, and became a half flooded stream bed that required us to tiptoe and dance on the rocks to get through. After a lot of what appeared like relatively insect-free walking, we made it down to the other side, which went right up to the coast. The waves splashing up, powerful and sudden on the rocks, provided us with an awesome place for action shots of our group and the ocean. Moving away from the ocean, we headed back to the bus on the trail, collecting as we went, and then took a break for lunch.

After lunch, we drove back to our campsite and took a couple hours to relax and prepare for the late night ahead. After plenty of reading and game playing, we had dinner and made our way to Clyburn Brook. The night sheet went pretty well, we caught a lot of flies, as usual, some large carabid beetles that seem to only come out at night for our sheets, and a big waved sphinx moth. Between collection intervals of the sheet, we mostly did our own thing to relax and try to not fall asleep, including the two hour chess game between Martin and I that ended in a draw at midnight. During one of our breaks, a car, seen only as a pair of headlights, showed up to our site. It blinded us for a while, drove back as if to leave, returned their lights to us, moved away, and then hit us one more time before leaving. We were very confused and wondered for quite a while what they were doing at a pond in the middle of the night. It turns out that it was a Park Officer who was planning on giving us a ticket for illegal camping until he realized we were working with the park. He was very friendly, and I hope his kid likes the buttons and bookmarks we gave him the next day. We continued collecting until the sheet stopped bringing in anything new at about one in the morning. We piled back into the RV and drove back “home” where we promptly fell asleep.

This will be our last full week of work in the field and we’ll be heading back to Fundy on Sunday. It’s supposed to be rainy and cold for the rest of the week, but I think Cape Breton will still prove to be a lovely final park to do. Here’s hoping for the best!

– Graham

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *