Posted by: alexhickey | May 13, 2013

Spring Awakens in St. Jacques ©

Between bursts of sunshine and showers of rain the calendar changes in St. Jacques as elsewhere on the planet, a little later than other parts of Canada.  Temperatures fluctuate from comfortably warm to uncomfortable cold.  An afternoon suitable for sitting on the deck listening to the songbirds swarm the feeders in the trees soon turns colder as the sun reaches the horizon.  A northerly wind coming down from Big Hill is more welcome than a southeasterly at this time of year.  The first brings dry air from the interior; the latter, moist air from the Atlantic Ocean and the ever-present threat of fog.

community wharf in st. jacques, newfoundland

Community Wharf, St. Jacques

Down on the community wharf fishers line up to offload their catch of crab for the day.  Trucks with vats of ice come and go as fresh crab heads to processing plants elsewhere on the island.  The fishers take a break then head back into their boats to check lobster traps. For lovers of the crustaceans this is nirvana.  The taste of lobster cooked just hours after coming out of the ocean is almost spiritual in its freshness and flavour.  One can say the same for crab legs steamed in a pot on the stove.  Ah, the flavour of spring!

Seagulls alert the community to the time when fishers begin hauling their lobster pots.  Hundreds of them flock overhead, watching, waiting, anticipating there will be discarded scraps of old bait, only to be disappointed since fishers will not bait the grounds where they are trying to lure lobsters into a pot.  The ritual repeats itself each day, their calling and squabbling blending in complete discord, bordering on dissonance.  Occasionally, a bald eagle glides through the air surveying the scene below then passes on the party, returning to a perch on the side of Big Hill.

finch at backyard feeder

Finch at Backyard Feeder

Songbirds have returned, bringing the sounds of spring.  Mornings are filled with nature’s Songbird Idol competition in every backyard with a bird feeder.  Robins wander through the blades of green grass now pushing skyward, their heads cocked to one side seeking a morning snack.  American goldfinches and Juncos feed together, occasionally having a disagreement which leads to a flurry of wings in the air. Now and then a small feather drifts to the ground.  Mating rituals are being played out minute-by-minute.  The male purple finch, bedecked in robes of red, stands watch over his harem of females.  White throated sparrows fight for time at the feeder, intimidating the smaller birds.  In turn, the Common Grackles disperse all of them when they decide it’s time for a snack.

Flowers, shrubs and trees emerge ever so slowly during cool days then burst forth after a day of warm sunshine.  Leaves on the lilac, maple, balsam poplars, ash, birch and choke cherry trees are forming and adding welcome

daffodils in bloom, st. jacques, newfoundland

Daffodils in Bloom

additions to the bare branches of winter.  Forsythias get yellower each day. The columbine, Jacobs ladder, geraniums, tulips, bleeding hearts, monkshood, hostas, ladies mantles, forget-me-nots and hydrangeas are all working to their fullest to make themselves noticeable.   Rhubarb, chives and parsley are all getting closer to the dinner table.  They are all contributing to the colour of spring.

An early morning visitor leaves traces of its presence like batches of brown beads throughout the backyard.  Rabbits tend not to stay much beyond nine in the morning and return again after five in the afternoon.  This one has a number of stops as it makes it way throughout the yard; now and then stretching up to nibble on the low branches of a spruce tree. During those morning hours when the rabbit is visiting, the ocean sends its wondrous scent to shore, blending with the aroma of spruce and fir trees.  Soon the flowering plants will add their specialties and we will have the complete smell of spring.

After a couple of days of rain the water level in St. Jacques Pond has risen, adding to the flow over Pitman’s Brook Falls.  White water, foaming and spraying in all directions, flows day and night over the step-like rock formations which make up the falls, on down to the harbour to complete its cycle.  Stand near the Falls and you will feel the miniature drops of water land gently on your face, soothingly washing away the last traces of winter. That is the feel of spring.


  1. Alex, love what you are doing to keep the history alive. Nice meeting with you in April. Will keep you updated on the “McCarthy Reunion July 26 -28, in St. John’s. Thank you again for all your hospitality and assistance.
    Rosemary (McCarthy) Finn, Stephenville, NL

  2. Spring might come late but it’s (almost) worth the wait :>)

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