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Sunday 30 October 2022

At the estuary

This autumn, my husband and I have been visiting various beaches and waterways of the Prince Edward Island which we haven’t explored before. Many of our usual haunts haven’t been cleared since Fiona blew through. Recently we went west to Alaska, passing the Brae River along the way. The river flows into Brae Harbour on the southwest coast of the island on the Northumberland Strait.

We were happy to see so many birds on the Brae River and the surrounding estuary as the tide was falling so we stopped for some photos.

The grasses in the estuary are golden this time of year 

and since there weren’t many leaves on the trees to change colour this autumn because of Fiona, 

the colour of the grasses and the surrounding vegetation were a treat. We took lots of photos.

However, we didn’t totally neglect the birds. A Kingfisher,

Greater Yellowlegs

and the small Bonaparte’s Gulls held our attention too. 

In the distance we could see ducks and herons.

We continued on to Alaska where we explored and had lunch. On the way back, a few hours later, we stopped at the estuary again. As we left the car, a huge flock of Starlings took off from the wire where they were sitting. Minutes later we watched a murmuration across the sky as somehow the starlings moved as one. 

I was so excited to watch them, I neglected to take video. 

On the water, a cormorant dived for a meal and then spread his wings to dry. 

In the distance, the herons, gulls and ducks went about their business.

The overcast day gave a silver sheen to the water. 

Looking across to the trees in the distance, a Bald Eagle sat watching the scene too. Had the starlings reacted to its presence?

We observed the setting for a number of minutes before we left for home. That time in nature was priceless! 


Thursday 27 October 2022

West to the Shores

After our picnic at Kildare Capes, as mentioned in my last post, my husband and I continued along the northwest coast to Tignish Shores. This beach is one we like to visit to watch Northern Gannets in the spring diving for food off-shore. It is a great place for a walk and we always meet locals as they enjoy their daily walk on this iron-rich sand. 

The beach is just east of a boat basin and part of the wind farm on the northwest coast is visible in the distance. The decorative lighthouse in the nearby park is visible from the beach as well.

The sand dunes in this area were devastated by Fiona 

and the marsh behind the dunes shows how far the storm surge moved inland. 

On that beautiful autumn day, the breeze was enough to provide some fun for the gulls as they sailed above us over the length of beach. Some Buonaparte’s Gulls haven’t migrated south yet. As is usually the case, gulls landed at the mouth of the stream which crosses the beach and empties into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

Today they have company as a tractor moves sand around the area of the stream.

While we don’t know for sure, we can speculate that a shift of sand as a result of Fiona necessitated human intervention. A tractor moving sand on a beach is an unusual sight on the island.

A nice surprise was the presence of some migratory birds which stop by the island on their way south for the winter. Most are gone by mid September. However, this day a Sanderling fed along the beach 

as did a White-rumped Sandpiper. 

I watched the birds as I walked both ways on the beach, wondering how they would manage to fly south alone and wished they’d join forces for what lies ahead. 

Meanwhile in the water just off shore, three Red-throated Loons floated around 

as a seal swam nearby. 

                          Can you see the seal’s head?

There was something else in the water but I couldn’t manage a photo. 

Island beaches are a source of wonder!

Sunday 23 October 2022

Another day at the beach

We hadn’t been to Northport in a few years but it is a place we like to visit. On a beautiful autumn day, with a cooling breeze, we headed west to walk the beach and have a picnic.

Northport is in western Prince Edward Island on the north coast. It is predominantly a fishing area, but as is common on PEI, farming is part of life in the area as well. 

We walked on the beach and explored this part of west Prince County which didn’t experience the same fury of Fiona as did the east coast of the island. However, there was wind damage to some trees along the shoreline but this area, inside a sandbar, didn’t appear to have the storm surge like more exposed places.

There is always interesting driftwood along this shoreline, large trees which have come to rest on the beach where they are weathered by sun and sea.

Further along, another tree is determined to live in spite of its precarious position hanging across the beach. It continues to grow and the trunks are beginning to grow vertically from their horizontal positions.

The roots spread into the bank, providing enough nutrients to keep the tree alive.

From the point, you can see the oyster beds in the bay which the Double-crested Cormorants use as perches.

Meanwhile, in the opposite direction, near a cottage on the bay, gulls enjoyed lobster shells left for them to share. A Great Black-backed Gull, called out, while the darker young Iceland Gull picked the shells. Herring Gulls appeared to be enjoying the shells too. 

We stopped by the wharf where four men were fishing with a rod and reel, landing small fish for supper. 

There was a lot of activity in the boat basin as well. 

Off shore, on a sand bar stands the old lighthouse, now privately owned.

Since it was windy, we drove further along the coast to find a sheltered spot to have lunch. We decided on the yard in front of Christ Church, nestled among the trees. After a quinoa salad and hot tea, we explored the area, visiting the cemetery which has been in use since 1850.

Some of the evergreens surrounding the cemetery were covered in vines which were dressed in their autumn colour. A path through the trees led to the Kildare Capes, an area we will explore further another day.  

After lunch, we headed further up the coast, but that’s another story.


Wednesday 19 October 2022

The north shore

We were slow to return to our excursions around the island after Fiona. Trees are down everywhere and trails are slowly being cleared. Two weeks post storm, we returned to the boardwalk and later to beaches where we love to walk and have picnics. My husband and I will enjoy autumn as much as we can since we will be limited by the weather soon enough.

On one recent outing we went to the north central shore, first to the New London Lighthouse which I have featured numerous times on this blog. The old sentinel made it through another storm unfazed by the look of it. 

Not the beach and sand dunes however. In June this year, you can see the extent of the beach across the channel.

Post Fiona, the dunes are greatly reduced and the sand washed out to sea. It will be a slow return.

Closer to the lighthouse, the storm surge destroyed the Marram Grass and dumped sandstones over the area.

We walked the beach towards the cliffs where our daughter fishes for bass. We had never been to this area before and on such an autumn day, it was the perfect time to check it out.

The red sandstone stood out against the natural blues. 

The faded October grass and wildflowers at the edge of a farmer’s field cling to the red soil as long as possible, hanging over the edge as more soil washes or falls away.

A lone tree nearby shows the direction of the prevailing wind and withstood the wind speeds brought by Fiona.

A sea stack, difficult to see in its entirety from the path, is beginning to become a sea arch. If you look closely, you can see two glimpses of sea blue through the sandstone.

Anglers park along the cliffs and take a path down to the shoreline below  It is too treacherous for these old legs to attempt such a walk. We will return when our daughter is fishing there one day.

The wind was cold requiring gloves and a hat so we decided to have our picnic in a more sheltered area. On our way to North Rustico, we passed a flock of mallards enjoying the day at French River. I hadn’t seen mallards in some time, so it was a treat to watch them for several minutes 

and meet a new friend too.

The gazebo at North Rustico has a view of the harbour and is a great place to have lunch. Our turkey soup hit the spot, warming us to our toes.  

Our excursions will continue as long as possible this autumn and a hot picnic lunch will be on the menu.

Sunday 16 October 2022

At the salt marsh

Every time we go for a walk to the boardwalk in Summerside, we always begin at the gazebo overlooking the salt marsh. 

The view across the bay is tempered by the weather.

This area is frequented by numerous bird species from Black-capped Chickadees in the trees bordering the marsh to Great Blue Herons which wade in the water feeding on fish and frogs.

We were anxious to see how the area and indeed all of the boardwalk fared from Fiona when she blew through over three weeks ago. When the area was finally reopened, we didn’t know what to expect as far as damage there was concerned but it surprised us nonetheless. 

The area was devastated by the wind and especially the storm surge. 

However, while the environment was devastated, the animals were there!

Waves had crashed over the rock revetments along the shoreline dropping seaweed by the boardwalk 

and everywhere in between.

Some trees had succumbed to the winds and evidence of the damage is along the boardwalk. 

The more significant change, we felt, was in the salt marsh which is our favourite area. This section of trail always changes with the weather and the seasons anyway, depending on the amount of rain we have or high tides and wind conditions. The small boundary of seaweed and sand between the marsh and the sea was destroyed, with the tumultuous salt water advancing up the stream, depositing the seaweed almost fifty metres from the shoreline. 

Bulrushes and grasses were flattened. The change was dramatic. 

It has been interesting to hear environmentalists speak of the destruction on the island from Fiona, urging patience as dunes will recover over time. Watching the salt marsh over the last few weeks, I can see how this would be so. In those few weeks, the boundary of seaweed and sand is returning to the mouth of the salt marsh.

It will be interesting to see how the bulrushes and grasses return to the marsh with so much seaweed now as the substrate.

We are witnesses to both the fury and restorative possibilities of nature.