Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘beach’

The end of summer may be on the horizon, but there’s still some time left to cram some sparkle into the last week of August.  There are still opportunities to pick berries, squish sand between your toes and enjoy starlit nights outdoors.

As a child, golden rod flowers reminded me that my grasshopper and butterfly-catching days were coming to an end.  They still prompt me to make the most of the summer’s last days.

Yesterday my grandson and I picked blackberries in patches overlooking the ocean in the morning.  In the afternoon, we let the waves crash into us at the beach.  After nightfall, we explored a woodland path with flashlights.  It was both exhilarating and exhausting.  The best summer days are like that.

Some blackberries still haven’t ripened.

It could have been better.  I could have had the sense to not get my legs all scratched up by the blackberry brambles before I went into the stinging salt water.  That’s minor.  Scrapes, scratches and bug bites are all part of the outdoor summer experience.  But it could have also been worse.  Just before putting down my foot, I spotted a large, active wasps’ nest on the ground beneath an apple tree where we were attracted by some low hanging fruit.

Recently we tented in the yard, thrilled to witness the flight of bats from behind the screened door after sundown.   We didn’t see any bats last night, though we did get to see a shooting star.  The best summers are a series of moments such as these, strung together on a necklace that sparkles around our necks until the following June when we begin to gather gems for a new one.

A painted lady butterfly basks in the summer sunshine

Stalk butterflies, visit the beach or simply take in the wonders of the night sky, but do make the most of these last days of summer.  Cramming has never been so enjoyable.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

There’s no better place to enjoy Midsummer than along the shoreline.  With the sounds of stones rolling under the wash of the waves in the background, willets forage in the waters at Silver Sands Beach.  Once a beautiful sand beach, the shore is now mostly stones.  Sand was trucked away decades ago to make cement for buildings and a runway, under the premise that the sands would return with the waves.  They never did.

Beach peas grow in profusion among the stones above the strandlines.  Their purple and green are a refreshing sight among the greys of the rocks.

A green crab, dried orange by the sun, lays in a tangle of seaweed in the sand.  Eventually, the sun will turn its carcass white.

Periwinkles covered with elaborate apparel are also present in great number. 

Dried pink amphipods are washed ashore.  They too will turn lighter in the sunlight.

Though you can’t tell by the image, the stones are warm to the touch.  To me, Midsummer means feeling the warmth of the sun in a way that touches you to your core.  There’s no better place to feel this than on the beach.  What does Midsummer mean to you?

Read Full Post »

You’re alone, walking along the shoreline and enjoying the sunshine and the warm sand between your toes, when suddenly you see it:  a bottle with a piece of paper in it, lying on the sparkling beach.  You open the cork and read the contents and there it is… a message for the ages… words of wisdom that promise to give your mundane world new meaning and passion…  or perhaps a connection to another kindred soul on the planet.  Ah… if only it would happen like this. 

If such life-changing messages are to be found, they’re not lying there on a sunny shore, waiting to be chanced upon.  There’s a price to be paid for their discovery.  More likely, they’re to be found on a rainy day among plastic bottles and broken lobster traps in a heap of storm debris.

They may be enmeshed in a mass of wet seaweed, recently thrown up on the shore by crashing waves.  It may be winter when the sky is grey and oppressive, and you’d much rather be indoors than outside with the cold wind biting at your face and fingers.

If the message carried within the bottle is truly magnificent, you can bet the glass vessel is  lying close to the edge of the water, destined to be pulled out to sea again if you don’t act quickly enough to pick it up.

Anyone who has ever valued wisdom or soulful connections with others knows that these are treasures you have to find for yourself.  Neither can be passed from one person to the next.  Likewise, the person who finds the bottle on the shore is the one destined to acquire its contents. 

‘I always believed the sea could bring surprises and joy.’  So said Hsiao Wei-chen of Taiwan, who recently found a message in a bottle thrown into the sea 3,000 nautical miles away by container ship seaman Oliver Hickman.  His note wished the finder health and happiness and also said the world is full of fun, love and beauty.  Apparently, Hickman makes it a regular practice to throw bottled messages into the sea.  For more on the story, see Times Live.

The world is indeed full of fun, love and beauty.  It’s also full of wonder.  You just have to get out there and discover it for yourself.

Receive by email or subscribe in a reader

Read Full Post »

It’s always a good time to go down to the ocean and see what you can find.  Ice and wind only make the rocks look more interesting.

Even if it’s raining, the walk down to the sea is always worthwhile because you never know what treasures are waiting to be discovered on the shore.  You don’t have to pick them up to enjoy them.  Just leave them where you find them for others to discover too.

Unless you find a stranded starfish of course.  It’s always good to pick them up and throw them back in the water.

There are so many stones, worn down and rounded by years of pounding surf.  Do we humans inevitably become like this too?  Worn down and rounded by years of worldly concerns pounding on our fragile bodies?  Look at that white stone among all the grey ones.  I wonder how it got in with the others…

The best trips to the shore are often ones when I can come ‘home with a smooth round stone as small as a world and as large as alone.’  What do you find when you visit the shore?

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea
~ ee cummings

Receive by email or subscribe in a reader

Read Full Post »

It’s not unusual to find tangled seaweeds and seagrasses on Nova Scotia’s beaches.  Irish moss, sugar kelp, rockweed and eelgrass are all common finds.  Loosened from their strongholds, they are often washed onto the beaches by the waves at high tide, appearing either individually or with others in the strandline.

On this small stone beach in Cow Bay, there is often a narrow strip of seaweed.  However, what I found this week was far from ordinary.  A massive heap of seaweed consisting mostly of the brown variety lay in a distinct mound on the shore.  The heap appeared a few feet high in some spots.  Thrown onto the beach during our recent stormy weather, this is the thickest stack of seaweed I’ve ever seen over my years of visiting our local beaches. 

Though seaweed is growing in popularity as a health food in the western world, and has traditionally been used by gardeners for fertilizing the soil, this mound will likely be on the beach for some time.  As it’s so thick, the seaweed probably won’t have a chance to dry out during low tide.  Despite the cold weather, kelp flies were swarming around the already rotting mass when I took these photos on Wednesday.

Seaweed scattered along Conrad Beach near Lawrencetown in November

Last month, Em of Diabetes Dialogue, offered some excellent information pertaining to the health benefits of seaweed:

“As I understand it, all seaweeds are edible, but they must be gathered from pollution free waters. http://www.ryandrum.com will give you good information and Dr. Ryan Drum, PhD is a professional person who is well acquainted with both coasts.

The Maine Sea Vegetables link on my post will also be helpful for you, as what grows in the Bay of Fundy likely grows on Nova Scotia’s eastern shore, at least to some degree.

Ryan says that not all seaweeds taste good, in the sense that some are very strong textures. The ones eaten by Native Americans, Europeans and Asians tend to be versions of the same species. Interesting, eh?

But, as I understand it, barring any natural or man-made pollution, you should be safe in collecting fresh seaweed — now, navigating the coastal rocks is another matter!

Ryan explains how to “harvest” and not kill the plant, which is critical as, evidently from about the 1980s onward, commercial businesses have been using Norwegian mechanical harvesters, all over the world, to indiscriminately “rape” the ocean. Whole species have “disappeared” and are at or near extinction just in order to show up as “organic” and “regular” fertilizer or be used in Caribbean natural-Viagra drinks (these species were over-harvested by hand). How incredibly maddening!

Dr. Drum says we need to demand laws to stop all this over-harvesting and to encourage marine farming of seaweed, as is done in parts of Japan, on strings or on matted net.

Why can’t business use the less-invasive technology, first?! I hate to think how much damage these companies have wrought, unabated. So Drum says that Maine is threatening a 5 year moratorium on all seaweed harvesting, which would be devastating to the responsible hand harvesters, who in a year probably don’t take as much as a mechanized harvester does in a day or so.

Anyway, as your estuary and possibly coastal area, seems quiet, maybe you can learn more and safely harvest your own.

As far as health is concerned, the more I read, the more I see that this primal plant, which has supported all Life, from it’s inception, is truly the most nourishing plant we could use everyday.”

For more information on using seaweed for fertilizing gardens, see Anne’s post on Winter Gardening at Nova Scotia Island Journal.

Read Full Post »

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.

Receive by email or subscribe in a reader

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: