5. Oak Point Park Oak Point Road (off Route 102)
Standing on the old rail line looking south you might wonder if this was the place where Alex Colville painted his famous ‘Dog, Boy, and St. John River’. The river opens up here into a large arm of ample width to accommodate numerous islands. This scale is a harbinger of what lies below in the great Bay of Fundy. Gone is the placid flowing narrow river flanked by low-lying intervales and wetlands. It is a formidable expanse now. You can imagine the large waves pushing upriver on those stormy November days when a good easterly is blowing, and on the Bay scallop draggers are being pounded on their port side as they make their way back to their home harbour. These same winds have pushed new arrivals and vagrants alike into the heart of this river system to the delight of listers whose daily ritual involves the wait for the noontime internet postings of other avian enthusiasts. If you make your way down to the sandy beach at Oak Point proper you can look across and a little upriver to Grassy Island. This island is home to the southern-most nesting colony of Greater Scaup, a bird that nests almost exclusively in northern Canada. Look out on the river and you can see up to a few thousand of these birds congregating in large flocks just off Oak Point proper. The gulls are here too. Great Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls, and Ring-billed Gulls patrol the waters and are posted on the islands and the mainland shoreline listening and looking for any opportunity that would present some food to these most successful omnivores. Less than half a kilometer walk down the old rail-line will bring you to Marley Creek. This gem of a wetland is isolated and serene. From high atop the elevated trail you will be privileged to watch as Common Goldeneye and Wood Duck hens guide their broods to favourite feeding and resting sites. Look for the bright yellow cotton balls of young Wood Ducks scouring the edges of emergent vegetation. Whereas Common Goldeneye broods will look greyish black with large patches of white, always nervous because of their preference for open water and the vulnerability this brings. Infinite wisdom and evolution has taken care of their susceptibility. These little puff balls are expert divers and disappear into the water upon the slightest danger signal from their mother or after a short run on the water and the realization that they can’t outrun the threat. From your sentinel post on a still day you might even hear the call of a Sora Rail. This marsh is also occupied by the Virginia Rail but their quiet and reserved character make them difficult to spot. The more open areas abutting the edges of the marsh contain numerous perches that make ideal habitat for Eastern Kingbirds. The beautiful deciduous forest of large floodplain Maples and Elms that escorted you to the marsh make up the hiding place of Baltimore Orioles, whose piercing call often culminates in a real good look at a bright coloured male proudly perched atop one of the hardwoods. At anytime in this healthy floodplain forest you can see the non-descript Eastern Phoebe. The thing that most often gives him away is the bird’s habit of frequently wagging its tail and its very familiar ‘feee-bee’ call. If the wind has turned and the sky is grey on your way back from the abandoned railway bridge, the fleeting thought of Colville’s painting might just materialize in your mind once again.