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Archive for the ‘Rainbow Haven Beach’ Category

It’s been warm today. Balmy to say the least.  Thirteen degrees Celsius is not at all typical for December in Nova Scotia. Odd weather occurences are becoming more frequent than usual this year, already predicted to be the warmest in Canadian history.

But this afternoon, even news of surfers in Fisherman’s Cove came as a bit of a surprise. I wasn’t able to get out to see the action in Eastern Passage, but I did get a few images of the waves in the Cow Bay area towards Rainbow Haven beach.

The whole sea appeared to be in the process of being stirred up by an invisible hand.  Both the number and size of the waves were remarkable.

What was even odder was the number of flies hovering in the air.  (You might be able to spot some in the photos).  Though I didn’t walk down to the shore, I imagine they would have been swarming in even greater numbers near the seaweed that’s been churned up over the past day.

I hope all the surfers had a great time trying to catch the Big One.

Sybil at Eastern Passage Passage managed to capture surfers in the images she took of today’s waves at Fisherman’s Cove.  You can visit her post at Surf’s Up.

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A light dusting of snow sparkles on the boardwalk leading to the seashore. There are no tracks yet. It’s still early.

But despite clear blue skies, it’s no day to be at the beach. A cold December wind has blown in. Is winter finally here?  Christmas is just around the corner.  Perhaps the beach walkers are shopping in the malls these days instead of strolling along the shoreline.

Spray is blowing from the crests of waves at sea.  These spindrifts are considered by mariners to be  indicators of gale force winds.  Just looking at them is enough to make you shiver.

Later in the season, spindrifts of sand and snow will blow from the crests of dunes on the beach.  We’ll slowly drift into winter one snowflake at a time until our snowshovels runneth over. 

If only we could approach the holidays as we approach the seasons: slowly, one sparkle at a time… with no rushing and no deadlines, enjoying each moment and peacefully trusting that everything will come together eventually.

I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays–let them overtake me unexpectedly–waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: ‘Why this is Christmas Day!’

~  Ray Stannard Baker

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According to the Canadian Ice Service, an enormous chunk of ice, 260 sq.km. in size, separated from a glacier in Greenland last week, becoming the most spectacular event to take place in the Arctic in 50 years. The broken piece will eventually fragment and inevitably melt in warmer waters, contributing to rising sea levels worldwide.

The first 6 months of 2010 were the hottest globally on record.  [See Ice Island Breaks Off Glacier at the Weather Network].

It’s dawn and the sandpipers are gathering at low tide along the shoreline in the marsh.  They’re so intent on eating that they take no notice of humans next to them on the trail.  Their gentle piping calls to one another are a fitting accompaniment to the rising sun.

Sandpipers have always seemed to me to be among the most delicate of the shore birds.  Like the endangered plovers, their fleeting movements, whether in flight or along the edge of the water,  never give me a chance to appreciate them for long.  I wonder if they’ll be affected by the oil spill down south when they migrate this fall.  [See BP oil spill could affect Maritime plovers at CBC].

Further along the shore, growing near the strandlines, statice is beginning to bloom.  It seems odd that such a delicate flower chooses to grow here along such a rugged shoreline.   Yet it manages to survive, despite winter’s stormy waters and winds.

When I think of rising sea levels, I wonder how wildlife such as sandpipers and statice will be affected in the years to come.  Will they simply disappear?  Or will they find a way to cling to life beyond the present shoreline?

This is a beautiful planet and not at all fragile.  Earth can withstand significant volcanic eruptions, tectonic cataclysms, and ice ages.  But this canny, intelligent, prolific, and extremely self-centered human creature has proven himself capable of more destruction of life than Mother Nature herself…. We’ve got to be stopped.

~ Michael L. Fischer

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Starfish are common finds at Rainbow Haven beach this summer.  They can also be found clinging to rocks under the bridges along the Salt Marsh Trail.  Starfish rely on a constant intake of moisture for all their life systems, including mobility, and can’t survive out of water for more than a couple of hours.  

Many collectors dry starfish, pinning them while still wet in order to preserve their symmetry.  I shudder to think that the dried starfish I purchased years ago in Florida met with such a grisly end.  These days, I choose to fling the starfish I find on the beach back into the water.  Recently, I found a dried starfish flattened on a cement barricade near the parking lot.  It looked like it had been pounded flat while wet.  I know it’s just a starfish, but it seemed like such a waste of life. 

Over the years, I’ve seen children take buckets full of starfish and living molluscs away from the beach.  Unless they had a salt water tank at home ready to receive these wild creatures, why would parents allow this?   When and where do we acquire or lose our reverence for living things? 

 Awe is a big part of reverence.  Though often present in childhood, sometimes, as we grow older, it becomes difficult to keep that sense of awe alive.  Familiarity with a natural environment can also make us take it for granted.   In its practice,  reverence reveals to the world that we humbly acknowledge the presence and needs of other human beings and living creatures besides ourselves.

Litter at the beach is another sign that reverence is lacking.  People come to the beach to be refreshed by nature but don’t realize their role in maintaining this setting for others to enjoy.  Even worse, they don’t care about the living creatures that make their permanent home at the beach.  Homeowners living nearby also get extremely frustrated by the excess of litter.

Despite the presence of park signs advising owners to keep a rein on pets, dogs are frequently seen off leash.  It’s not just people who are intimidated by dogs running wild.  Piping plovers, ground nesting birds, no longer make their home on this beach due to loss of undisturbed habitat. 

As our beaches become more crowded during the summer season, it’s even more important for everyone to practice reverence towards one another and the natural environment.  We’re not alone.  Let’s not act as if we were. 

If a man loses his reverence for any part of life, he will lose his reverence for all of life.
~ Albert Schweitzer

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Jellyfish are not an uncommon sight along Nova Scotia’s seashores in July.  Yet, their translucent colors tend to blend in well with the reddish brown seaweed on the beach and are easy to miss if you’re not watching where you step.

By the time they’re washed ashore, jellyfish have lost most of their magnificent bodily form.  My best guess for the one shone beached above is that it is a Lion’s Mane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata).  In the drawing at left, I’ve attempted to show what it may have looked like while floating in the ocean.

Jellyfish are not fish at all, but rather marine animals without backbones that reveal a radial symmetry.  They possess tentacles with stinging cells that allow them to capture their prey:  zooplankton and small fish.  Larger jellyfish will also eat smaller ones.

Leatherback sea turtles are attracted to our waters in search of jellyfish during the summer months.  Seabirds and large fish also eat jellyfish.

Lion’s Mane jellyfish enjoy our cooler waters and tend to not venture into warmer Atlantic seas.  They vary greatly in size.  The largest ever, with a diameter of 7-1/2 feet, was washed ashore in Massachussetts towards the southern tip of its range.

Though its sting is not fatal, this type of jellyfish and others, if found ashore or swimming nearby, should not be touched.  Their stings can still cause severe pain with reactions dependent on the size, age and health of the victim.  Sea turtles and their other predators don’t seem to be affected by them.

Below, a seagull dines on crab near the spot where the jellyfish was sighted at Rainbow Haven Beach.

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July 2nd 2010.  One dawn.  One fantillion colors.  How could just one sunrise possibly exude such a varied palette of yellows, oranges, pinks, purples and blues?  Just another of nature’s wonders that will likely remain a mystery for the ages.

I’ll tell you how the sun rose a ribbon at a time.
~ Emily Dickenson

All photos were taken at sunrise near and in Rainbow Haven provincial park in Cow Bay, Nova Scotia.  The beach will be filled with people today, each one enjoying the sand and the surf, none of them ever realizing what a spectacle took place here this morning.

There is more day to dawn.
~ Henry David Thoreau

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Canada Day began this morning with a clear moon in a sky filled with blue.  By the time I reached Cow Bay Road, the sun was already rising over Lawrencetown. 

Once I arrived at Rainbow Haven, grey clouds were beginning to crowd out some of the blue sky.  Along with the water, they reflected the dawn beautifully.

The tide was very low, so the blue mussel bed on the beach was exposed.  From a distance, the bed looks like just a large patch of gravel on the sand, but is actually teaming with life.

Crabs, barnacles, periwinkles, dogwhelks, sea stars, blue mussels and moon snails all reside there.  They hide between and beneath the smoothly worn stones, while lying in wait for their prey or to avoid becoming prey themselves.  Rock crabs are especially talented at wedging themselves in the crevices with only their claws exposed.

Several small sea stars were present in the tidepools this morning.  They seem to be more common this year, both here and farther back in the marsh.   These purple starfish prey on the blue mussels by prying them open and inserting their stomachs inside the shells in order to feast on the contents directly.  Who would suspect these elegant creatures to have such gruesome feeding habits?

Beautiful weather on Canada Day always attracts crowds of sun seekers to Rainbow Haven beach.  Although the afternoon sun does put a sparkle on the sand and water, seeing the early morning sun at the shore puts a sparkle on my whole day. 

Happy Canada Day!

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There’s nothing like the sound of boards under your feet while taking a stroll.  Your footsteps make enough noise to add a rhythm to your excursion while not being so loud as to interfere with being able to hear the subtle sounds of nature.  And, most importantly, you don’t have to worry about getting sand or small gravel in your shoes.

There are many boardwalks and wooden bridges in Nova Scotia, meandering through wetlands, creating paths to beaches through sand dunes and along the shoreline.  Weathered boardwalks offer smooth walking surfaces in soft grey colors.  They unobstrusively blend into their surroundings better than pavement or even gravel, and their ramps offer closer access to wild areas for folks in wheelchairs and parents pushing strollers.

At Rainbow Haven beach, the raised boardwalks provide shelter and convenient hiding places for foxes wishing to keep a low profile.  Coffee drinkers too, as evidenced by the paper Tim’s cup balanced on the rafters.

A thin layer of frost can make the boardwalk slippery in colder weather.  Though it’s sparkly in the sunshine, the combination of fine salt spray and freezing temperatures create a surface that can be surprisingly slick.


The boardwalk in Eastern Passage is popular with folks of all ages seeking exercise in a natural setting.  It can get quite crowded on warm summer afternoons and evenings.

At Rainbow Haven park, a crow rests at dawn on the lookout at the end of the widest walkway.  

This boardwalk is sure to see thousands of feet trample its boards this summer on their way to and from the beach.

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They come in a series of seven.
And the seventh wave is big enough…
…to take us both out
beyond the point of return.
~ Papillon   (Henri Charrière)

Walking along the seashore, it’s obvious that not all waves possess the same strength.  Some trickle onto the shore while others crash and extend a farther reach onto the sand.  Many have wondered if there’s some kind of pattern to the frequency of the stronger waves.  

Wave height and strength are determined by a number of factors:

  • the force of the wind (the stronger the wind, the larger the wave)
  • the distance over which the water is affected by the wind (the longer the distance, the larger the wave)
  • tidal action (incoming high tides into a small inlet from a larger expanse of water can cause especially large waves)
  • seismic activity beneath the ocean floor (these can sometimes cause huge waves to occur)
  • the depth of the water (waves cannot sustain their height once they reach shallow water)

The magic of the seventh wave continues to elude shoreline visitors across cultures.  Surfers are especially keen wave watchers, always on the look-out for the perfect wave to catch.  Some may have been able to find small patterns in the course of a single day on a specific beach but this usually involves a series of fewer or more than seven waves.  Though experts say there’s no way to predict the frequency of stronger waves, the French story of an island prisoner in Papillon details a swim to freedom enabled by the seventh wave.  

The waves have pounded the earth’s shorelines for millennia and will continue to do so long after we’re gone.  Wave patterns are altered from hour to hour, day to day and year to year.  Despite ongoing changes, the mystery and power of the seventh wave will likely endure.

Every ripple on the ocean
Every leaf on every tree
Every sand dune in the desert
Every power we never see
There is a deeper wave than this
                      . . .
I say love is the seventh wave.
~ Sting

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beyond the beachThere’s more to the beach than the sandy shore.  At Rainbow Haven park in Cow Bay, boardwalks and gravel trails offer an opportunity to explore the coastal ecosystem beyond the sand and surf.

Coastal erosion is a worldwide problem.  Over time, tidal action and storms can eat into the beach, wear down rocks and eventually draw the sand out to sea.  This is less a problem at Rainbow Haven than at nearby Silver Sands beach.

Increasing human activity during the summer months has made this popular beach less friendly to birds like piping plovers and sandpipers that nested in the dune grasses in years past.  Year round, walkers often ignore signs to leash dogs, which also contributes to the problem. 

sand dune grasses

Just beyond the beach lie rolling fields of tall grass growing in the sand dunes.  Foxes make their homes in the small hills.  They survive by hunting small mammals and birds in the local area.  I’ve often seen hare and seagull carcasses in the dunes surrounding their holes.  Sparrows make their nests in the bushy areas surrounding the spruce trees.

asters at rainbow haven

Purple asters can be found at this time of year, growing among the grasses.  Strawberries thrive in some sandier spots in the early summer. 

rainbow haven fields

Many of the spruce trees gave up the ghost in recent years, likely due to trauma experienced during Hurricane Juan’s visit in 2003.  Their grey skeletons remain erect on the landscape.

spruce at rainbow haven

The top branches of some of the surviving spruce trees are heavily laden with cones this year.  White spruce are especially tolerant of salt spray and are not uncommon in coastal areas. 

cormorants congregating

Farther beyond the grassed area, across the road that leads into the park, a body of salt water is frequently visited by ducks, gulls and herons.  Cormorants can usually be found congregating on a dock in a spot visited by seals last winter.  Canada geese will sometimes stop here during migration.  Rising and falling with the tides, this water is connected to the salt marsh  where many of the shore birds now make their home.  

Autumn’s quieter days are a good time to explore the ecosystem beyond the shore.  Just be sure to stay on the trails.

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caterpillar traffic

Traffic along the boardwalks and pathways leading to and from the seashore is slow enough for caterpillar crossings these days.

beckoning waters

It may be October, but the beach is still open to visitors despite the absence of tourists and high temperatures.  Sparkling waters beckon beyond the sand dunes.

rainbow haven beach

On such a quiet morning, it’s hard to imagine this beach covered with human flesh baking in the summer sun just a couple of months ago.  The scene is peaceful and quiet, except for the roar of the waves.

sand sea and sky

The sand, sea and sky all work together to create a vista that’s refreshing and uplifting.  The sea breezes still feel soothing on the face and the sand is still warm on the feet.    

warm feet

irish moss at rainbow haven beach

Waves continue to make their deliveries of Irish moss onto the shore.  Also known as carrageenan, this sea moss is raked along some beaches in Nova Scotia.  It’s used as a thickening agent in many foods, including coffee cream and ice cream.

playing in the sand

Hot temperatures aren’t a prerequisite for children to enjoy playing in the sand.  Their needs are simpler than ours.  Wherever did we get the notion that beaches are only to be enjoyed in the summer time?

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sunrise

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze.
Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears.

~ Sheldon Harnick, Zorba

sun flower

 Seagulls seemed oblivious to the last hours of summer trickling away yesterday afternoon.  While a few people walked along  the shore at Rainbow Haven Beach, some were laid out on blankets, looking to catch the last few rays of summer sunshine.  Summer always seems too short, but this one was especially brief.  

As my grandson threw pebbles into the waves and we collected shells in the strandlines, it seemed like I had just engaged in the same activities with his father a moment ago.  Seasons change and generations pass in the blink of an eye.  The natural world carries on.

gulls on beach

The sunshine and warm breezes wait for nobody.  Sparkling waters and sand can only be enjoyed in the moment.  I doubt if anyone who had been on the beach yesterday afternoon regretted having made time in their day for just one more walk on the summer sand.

waves on beach

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