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Posts Tagged ‘Rainbow Haven Beach’

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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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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raft

A raft sits vacant in the marsh area behind Rainbow Haven Beach.  It’s been covered with cormorants every time I’ve been by in the past couple of weeks.  Do the shore birds know that Hurricane Bill is on its way?

marsh behind rainbow haven beach

Herons, ducks and seagulls were still visible in the marsh this morning.  I wonder how long they’ll wait before they take cover from the heavy winds and rains.  The tide was lower than usual when I ventured out around 6am.  Hurricane Bill’s arrival coincides with a ‘spring tide.’  These extremely high and low tides occur when the earth, sun and moon are in a line.

boardwalk

This boardwalk at Rainbow Haven Beach has been rebuilt since Hurricane Juan hit the area in 2003.  Back then, the boardwalks were rolled back by the wind like the lids of sardine cans.  This one is much larger and more ruggedly constructed.

waves

All provincial parks in the area closed yesterday at 5pm and will remain so until after the hurricane has passed.   Still, there were a couple of people tenting at the edge of the park last night in anticipation of the increased surf today.  The waters around Cow Bay are very popular with surfers during hurricane season.  Waves off the shore today are expected to be as high as 35 feet.  The media is warning people to stay away from coastal areas.  Visibility is very poor due to the mist and fog.

waves 2

Because the leaves are still on the trees, they won’t fare well during the storm.  Tree breakage and power outages are inevitable.  When Hurricane Juan hit, we lost most of the large trees on our property and were without power for five days.

Although it’s still likely to be a few hours before the storm comes down with full force, winds were already quite strong, and rain, though sporadic, was already coming down hard and fast this morning.  Hopefully the wild animals will have the sense to tuck themselves away into sheltered areas.  The trees can only stand and wait.

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water

The provincial park at  Rainbow Haven Beach can attract thousands of visitors on a hot summer day.   The large sandy shore is beautiful and the cool water can be refreshing in the heat.  A network of boardwalks leads to different sections of the beach, allowing visitors to walk among the grassed sand dunes without having to disturb the ecosystem.

rainbow haven 1

Parking lots fill quickly, so vehicles line the sides of nearby roads, where they are often ticketed if wheels are found touching the pavement.  Lifeguards, washrooms, change rooms with an outdoor shower and a canteen are all available throughout the summer months.  Volleyball is a popular activity on the beach, attracting many young people.  The numerous plastic toys that are left behind indicate the large number of children who are kept busy playing in the sand.

rainbow haven 2

Over the years I’ve noticed a decline in bird and marine life along this shore.  Intensive human activity, even if it’s limited to single season, has an effect on wildlife that cannot be denied.

Plovers no longer nest in the grassed areas, which is probably just as well, since many dog owners ignore the signs that instruct them to keep their pets on a leash.  Sensitive sandpipers have moved further into the quieter watershed area behind the beach.  Seashells have become more scarce over the years, as have the crabs and sea stars that were once common tidepool residents.  Only seagulls remain, if they are present at all, lured by the garbage left behind by visitors.

statice

Wild Statice grows in the park.  Sometimes called Sea Lavender, it will be a bright purple once it’s in full bloom.  This plant is often used in both dried and fresh floral arrangements.  It is illegal to remove plants or animals from a provincial park.

Managing parklands in a way that allows people to enjoy nature while minimizing the negative effect on the ecosystem is an ongoing challenge.  If you visit this beach, take care to leave with only your memories.  Let only your footprints remain behind on the sand.

For all posts about Rainbow Haven Beach see here.

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Although winter isn’t over yet, today’s calm and sunny weather looks ideal for beachcombing.  Winter storms often seaweed-and-shellswash natural treasure in the form of seashells onto the beaches.  Some common finds at local beaches are shown at left:  a Green Sea Urchin, Blue Mussels, Sea Biscuits (a type of Sand Dollar), a small Surf Clam,  Irish Moss seaweed and a small starfish. 

There’s a large bed of Blue Mussels at nearby Rainbow Haven Beach that’s revealed only at low tide.  The tidepools are ideal places for finding some of the creatures that prey on the mussels, such as   Dogwhelks and Northern Moon Shells.  Sometimes, a Rock Crab that’s managed to hide from the hungry seagulls can also be found. 

 Many of the rocks in the mussel bed are covered with algae, making them very slippery to walk on.  Periwinkles feed on the algae and are also numerous in some spots.

moonandmermaidspurseThe carnivorous Northern Moon Shell is shown at left along with a Mermaid’s Purse, which is an egg case for a skate, a type of ray.  The hooked ends of these egg cases cling to seaweed but are sometimes loosened by the currents and washed ashore.  The moon shells are very beautiful but have become less common finds in recent years. 

Whenever I find shells with live animals still inside them, I’ll throw them back into the water.   It’s such a shame to find a pile of live molluscs dying in the parking lot, picked off the beach by children but discarded by parents prior to getting into their vehicles at the end of the day.  It might seem like a small thing, but in the summer, when so many people frequent the beaches, this thoughtless act is repeated enough times to have an effect on the fragile ecosystem.  Though live molluscs are a wonder to find, in this instance I think it would be less cruel to just love them and leave them.

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Seal

This seal was laying on the ice today at Rainbow Haven Beach, just near the bridge.  I’m guessing it’s a Harbor Seal  (Phoca vitulina).  I don’t know how long he or she has been there and whether or not a rescue of some kind is needed.  Hopefully the rising tides will allow it to get back to the ocean okay.

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