Brother Nature's Riddles:

A St. Margaret’s Bay Trail Adventure

2 hr 2.3 km return Moderate

Trail Info:

This is a flat gravel trail on an abandoned railway that runs along a beautiful stream and passes by Hubley Mill Lake.

This trail is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers but a number of activities will need to be done along the trail rather than following the directions to go down short side paths. Stop 8 is the only non-accessible activity.

Directions:

St. Margaret’s Bay Trail Trailhead
View in Google Maps

From Halifax Metro, travel 18 km on Highway 103 to Exit 5. At the end of the ramp, turn left onto Highway 213. Go 2 km and turn left onto Foxhollow Drive before an overpass and across from Tantallon Elementary School. Go 0.7 km until you see yellow markers on both sides of the road before a set of guardrails. Park 20 m before the bridge and take the trail on the left.

Trail Tools

Can You Outsmart Brother Nature?

Stop at the beginning of the trail.

Mother Nature is filled with riddles and Brother Nature thought up most of them. He’s a trickster who thinks he can outsmart folks like you. Test your skills by trying to solve his riddles along the trail.

Try these for practice:

Who is the forest’s jolliest resident?

What stays in one spot but always moves to the sea?

Now find a neat natural item and create your own riddle for it in your Adventure Journal. Try to solve each other’s riddles.

You need sharp eyes to find riddle clues in nature. Search for these natural items as you walk to the next stop:

  • a cone
  • a neat leaf
  • a rock as big as your thumb
  • a tiny cave or hole in the ground
  • an insect
  • something yellow
  • a tiny tree
  • something shiny

1. Flutter About

Walk about 160 m on the trail to a “Slow Children Playing” sign. Go 15 m further and turn down a small path to the right to a flat area by the stream. [The accessible option is to do this on the trail.]

Quick Riddle: How are the letter “A” and a flower the same? … A “B” comes after them.

Many creatures, such as bees and butterflies, depend on plants for food. They suck nectar from flowers. Find a flower nearby, or a bud or a seed (this means it has a flower at some point in its life cycle). Now figure out what action the butterfly is doing in Brother Nature’s Action Riddle:

I land on the colourful flower,
Though delicate, I have great power.
Into the flower my long tongue is sinking,
It is nectar that I am …

To survive, some butterflies use camouflage to blend in and hide from their predators. Can you spot camouflaged butterflies?

  1. Choose one person to place the butterfly cutouts in a defined area. They must be fully visible from above.
  2. Flap your butterfly wings as everyone searches for them.
  3. Take turns hiding the butterflies.

Which butterfly colours are easiest to find? Does the background colour where the butterfly is placed make a difference?

Do You Know – Camouflage

Camouflage is just one type of butterfly defence. The monarch butterfly has toxins in it that taste bad. Its bright colours act as a warning for predators. Other butterflies have eyespots on their wings, making them look much larger than they are so that predators think twice before grabbing one.

2. Discover Hidden Pictures

Walk about 160 m and turn down to the stream on a small path on the right marked by a line of six boulders. [The accessible option is to do this along the trail.]

Explore and find a neat moss-covered rock or tree. Get down on your hands and knees and look at the moss closely with your scope. Can you find tiny thin stalks coming out it? What other cool features do you see? Here is Brother Nature’s Action Riddle for the moss:

I capture the light of the sun,
In all my green parts, every one.
This energy must keep on flowing
To help me as I am …

Do You Know – Moss

Look closely and you’ll see that moss is made up of thousands of tiny plants, each with a stem and leaves. The leaves capture sunlight energy and make their own food through photosynthesis. Moss reproduces through spores: tiny one-celled particles that are much simpler than seeds. The tiny, thin stalks in the moss are the reproductive parts that release the spores.

Mossy rocks make good pictures. Take a picture of your rock:

  1. Hold your frame tool at arm’s length in front of you.
  2. Zoom it up close or zoom backward to get just the right picture of your rock.
  3. Share your picture with others.

Take some more pictures using your frame tool along the stream. Look for neat patterns, closeups and water scenes. Take an underwater shot or a sky shot up a tree.

3. Join the Dance

Stay in the area overlooking the stream. [The accessible option is to do this along the trail. Follow this pattern for the stops ahead as well.]

Quick Riddle: Though a knight may try to slay me, I can fly too fast for her to see. Who am I? … Dragonfly

One ferocious butterfly predator is a dragonfly. They can fly over 100 km an hour! Can you spot a dragonfly near the stream? Here’s the dragonfly’s action riddle:

That butterfly was a sweet snack.
I came from behind to attack.
My wings, how they flutter with speed,
To take me wherever I need.
Around my wings the air does sing,
With great speed I am …

Dragonflies seem to dance and hover in the air as they fly. Create their hover dance:

  1. Find eight leaves with different shapes. They’re your dancers.
  2. Stand on a high spot near the stream. The stage is below.
  3. Twirl each dancer’s stem between your thumb and forefinger as you throw it in the air.
  4. Have everyone watch each dancer flutter to the ground.

On the way to the next stop, search for dragonfly prey such as butterflies or insects.

Do You Know – Monarch Butterflies

Once a butterfly finds a flower, it uses its long coiled tongue, called a proboscis, to drink the nectar. Butterflies also drink tree sap and the juices of rotting fruit. They suck up the salt and minerals from water in puddles. There are 72 species of butterflies in Nova Scotia. The monarch is the best-known and the only type that migrates. In August they leave Canada and migrate in huge numbers to a small mountainous area in Mexico with special climatic conditions. Monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed while adult butterflies obtain nectar from wildflowers. Monarchs are rapidly dwindling in numbers. Their mountain habitat in Mexico is being lost to logging and farming. The wildflowers and milkweed growing in and along the edges of fields across North America have been drastically reduced by herbicides and industrial farming practices. Find out more here.

Earth Steps

Here are some things you can do to help insects including butterflies:

  • Plant milkweed to attract Monarchs and to feed their caterpillars.
  • Report sightings of Monarchs at Monarch Watch.
  • Learn more about butterflies by getting a butterfly kit by joining the Butterfly Club. This is sponsored by the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute.
  • Don’t use chemical pesticides and herbicides, which wash into waterways, to protect insects and their predators.
  • To help dragonflies, protecting watersheds is most important because dragonfly nymphs live underwater. Allow for small pools and ponds where water collects.

4. Enjoy the View

After 125 m there is pile of boulders and a flat spot to the right overlooking a pool in the stream. Move down over the pile of boulders and to the right. [The accessible option is to do the activity along the trail.]

Quick Riddle: What did the frog say to her visitor? …Welcome to my pad!

Frogs and toads love to warm up on the rocks near the edge of the water on a sunny day. They look out at the mini-moss forests nearby:

  1. Find a mini forest nearby (a moss-covered log, stump or rock with tiny plants growing on it).
  2. Use your scope to focus on a small section of it.
  3. Swoop your head down close to the surface.
  4. Look for tiny trees, valleys, mountains and little creatures.

Hungry frogs in this pool would love to eat a juicy dragonfly! Figure out the frog’s action riddle:

I try to catch the speedy dragonfly.
A hop from my legs sends me high.
As I go up my heart is thumping,
Don’t you know that I am …

Try to spot a frog in the stream. Don’t try to catch it as a frog is easily injured.

Did you find anything a frog or toad would eat? Do a frog hop to the next stop.

Do You Know – Eels

American eels (katew, in Mi’kmaq) are an intriguing and unique inhabitant of these lakes and streams. They have a long and slender body with small fins and can be over a metre long. Adults vary in colour from olive green to brown to greenish-yellow. Eels are active at night (nocturnal) and eat a wide variety of plants, worms, insects and small fish, but crayfish are their favourite food. They burrow in the mud in the winter. All female eels travel thousands of kilometres to spawn in the Sargasso Sea out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, before returning home to their freshwater habitats.

5. Trap Fish

Just before the bridge (60 m), turn down a small path to the right and head to the edge of the water.

Quick riddle: Where do fish sleep ? …On a river bed!

Mi’kmaq have been fishing in places such as this for thousands of years using weirs. Reflect for a moment that people have been living in this area for 1000s of years. See if you can build a mini weir for trapping fish here on the stream bank like they do, although they would build it in the water. Here’s how…

• Collect lots of small, short sticks (about 15 cms) and poke them in the ground in the formation of a “V”.

• Weave thin tiny twigs or dead grass or plants in between the sticks to create walls on the sides of the “V”. These walls hem the eels and fish in where they can be trapped and caught.

Consider how different your life would be if you were a Mi’kmaw youth helping to build weirs and living here many years ago before European settlers took this land.

Eel weir from NS Ed Net Resources

Netukulimk—
Eels & Weirs

Eels (‘katew’) are an important food source for the Mi’kmaq. They were traditionally caught in large “V” shaped weirs when mature females traveled down streams to the salt water to spawn in the spring and returned upstream in the fall to their homes in freshwater.28 The eels swim into the wide part of the V and get trapped at the narrow end. The weirs were made either of carefully placed stones, or interwoven sticks that are stuck in the river bottom in a muddy area. Weirs were often placed at narrow points in a steam at the outflow of lakes. This is a good locale for a weir. Eel is roasted or smoked or dried. They also can be speared at night when they are active, either in shallow areas or from boats. Eels are an indicator species of the health of watersheds and unfortunately have declined dramatically in the last century due to dams, pollution, parasites and climate change.

Learn about Netukulimk

6. Use Your Eye in the Sky

From the bridge back on the trail, continue 110 m to just past a giant pine on the left where a small path with some gravel at the top goes down to the water’s edge path. Do the first activity near the pine tree.

Quick Riddle: Where do frogs keep their money? …In the stream bank

As a frog, watch out for bird predators above you with a special eye in the sky :

  1. On the side path, hold your eye in the sky (mirror) at waist level.
  2. Walk slowly along the side path while you look down into the mirror.
  3. Check out the sky and the neat shapes in the tree branches as you walk.
  4. When you find something neat, look up and try to find it with your real eyes.
  5. See if the others can find it too.

Continue to the edge of the lake, use your scooper to sample the bottom in the shallow area. What could a frog eat?

Oops, the frog jumped in the lake and was eaten by a fish. Solve the action riddle for the fish.

After having a frog for lunch,
I would like to rest a whole bunch.
I take oxygen from the lake,
My gills work without a break.
With no lungs like you for heaving,
Still I do lots of …


Netukulimk—
Eel Benefits

Eels (‘katew’) have spiritual and medicinal benefits for the Mi’kmaq, beyond being a valuable food. Eels are sometimes given as a last meal to help facilitate a Mi’kmaw’s journey to the spirit world. Eel heads are left as an offering to Creator in gratitude for a successful hunt or for the survival of a harsh winter. Consuming eel is said to make one feel calm and relaxed. They are a great source of omega-3 fish oil. Eel oil is used to sooth ear aches, and soften and remove ear wax. Eel skins were used to wrap sprains or broken limbs. They could secure the injury like a cast but also be reused.

Learn about Netukulimk

7. Watch Out Below

Return to the main trail. Go 100 m along the trail and stop 10 meters before an interpretive sign where you first have a view of the lake. Go down just off the trail to a flat spot.

Quick Riddle: Which birds spend all their time on their knees? …Birds of prey

Too bad that fish didn’t have an eye in the sky. She would have seen the osprey coming. Solve this action riddle for the osprey.

I grabbed that big fish with a splash,
And gulped it down in a flash.
It slid down my throat so yummy.
Now the fish fills up my tummy.
You know that I am not jesting,
The fish inside is …

The osprey often sees deer in this area. Look for deer signs as you walk to the next stop:

  • tracks
  • dark brown, teardrop-shaped droppings the size of a peanut
  • tree bark that is frayed or marked up (where a male deer has rubbed the velvet off its antlers)
  • plant tips that have been shredded (deer munching)

Eels & Indigenous Rights

In 1993, Donald Marshall Jr. went fishing for eels near Pomquet Nova Scotia without a licence to uphold Indigenous rights to fish. Ultimately, his case went to the Supreme Court of Canada, which affirmed that Indigenous peoples have a right to earn a “moderate livelihood” through commercial fishing in Atlantic Canada, citing the treaties of 1760 and 1761 with the Mi’kmaq. Later, the court issued a clarification that reinforced the federal government’s power to regulate the fishery overall.

8. Fish Munch

Walk about 60 m and take the path on the left, going down the bank, leading to the water’s edge (about 55 m).
[This stop is not accessible.]

Quick Riddle: I look a little nutty hanging up in a tree with a cap on. Who am I? …Acorn

Now search for food that the fish eat (that’s what in turn gives the osprey its food):

  1. Use your scooper to collect mud and debris from the bottom of the river.
  2. Search for little creatures in the mud.
  3. Return your catch to the water at the end.

Here are some things to look for as you scoop…

Take a picture of the coolest thing you scoop up and upload it at the end if you choose.

Oops, the osprey has to hurry to its nest. Solve its action riddle:

My nest has two white eggs,
Which I cushion under my legs.
So that my population does not reduce,
More young I must …

Earthworks

All creatures, including the butterfly and eel, constantly take in energy, either directly from the sun or through eating other creatures. All creatures constantly use up food energy in their daily lives. A butterfly uses energy when it flies to a flower, digests food or cleans itself. This transfer and use of energy is called:

Learn about the Earthworks

9. The Final Riddle

Stay here.

You’ve encountered many creatures and solved Brother Nature’s action riddles. Figure out what they have in common and use this as a clue to his final riddle:

Created or destroyed I cannot be,
Only transformed you see.
I’m none other than …

Now see if you can create an energy poem in your Adventure Journal. Here are the creatures that have been featured in the riddles: butterfly, hawk, dragonfly, flower, fish, frog. Write them in a list of who eats whom. Then put the action riddle word for each creature next to its name. Use the creatures and the action words for the poem along with any extra words you need.

Find the hidden plaque on your return. It’s near the bridge around the guardrail. Use your pencil to make a rubbing of it’s mystery creature in your Adventure Journal.

The plaque symbol is:

G

Login/Register

Please login if you would like to record your trail completion, provide feedback or upload photos to the trail gallery.

Login if you’d like to upload a photo to share in the Adventure Gallery

This is a 32 km trail in all and connects to the Beechville-Timberlea trail, which adds another 13 km. Check out the St. Margaret’s Bay Area Rails to Trails Association and get involved in their events. Also, visit the nearby Jerry Lawrence Provincial Park, located nearby on Route 3. It is an award-winning park for accessibility and includes wheelchair-accessible trails and fishing piers.

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