Looking at the weather the past few days – windy, rainy, temperatures in the minuses – it’s hard to believe that last Sunday was a bright if brisk day with a promise of spring in the air. Just to remind ourselves I thought I’d post a video and a few pictures of the stroll we took along the beach just beyond the Protected sand dunes at St. Peter’s Harbour Nature reserve.
The beach front, wetlands and dunes along a stretch of St. Peter’s Harbour on the North Shore was in the MacEwan family for over 200 years. In 2012 it was donated to the National Conservancy of Canada in 2012 in memory of Errol MacEwan, Clarence McEwan and wife Alice. It added 11 hectares to the 138 hectares that had previously been given protective status in the immediate area.
The Dunes are a natural barrier against the tides, storms and winds of the Gulf of St Laurent, protecting the wetlands, and settlements along the North Shore. But because the dunes are made up of eroding sandstone moulded by those very winds and tides they are extremely fragile. But nature has created a stabilizer for the shifting sands – Marram grass. Rather than downward marram grass spreads its roots out and they bind with the soil. In 18th century Scotland the grass was pulled up and used as thatch which led to entire coastal villages being washed away. A law was introduced in 1759 criminalizing the pulling up of marram grass. Since then it has been introduced in many coastal areas in the world that are under threat of erosion including here on the Island where a programme of planting by volunteers has been introduced at the dunes along the North Shore.
The area is also home to the osprey, bald eagles, black-bellied plovers and sanderlings. Other bird species found here include semi-palmated plovers, greater yellowlegs, ruddy turnstone and semi-palmated sandpiper. But more particularly to the piping plover, a tiny beach bird that nests on the beach in the summer and, like many Islanders, winters in the Southern US and the Bahamas. It is estimated that there are only 6,000 of the little dune coloured birds left in the world so great care is taken when they are nesting. The chicks are flightless for a month after they are hatched. This means that they are at high risk of being trampled on by beach goers or motorized vehicles such as sand buggies. Off-leash dogs, foxes, wolves, crows and eagles are also major predators. A programme is in place to educate beach visitors on protecting this little endangered species.
This was our first visit to the beach at St. Peter’s Harbour and as the video and photos indicate that there were very few people strolling or playing on the beach. That was to be expected given the time and the current situation but I’ve been told by friends that even in peak season, like many of our beaches, it is never crowded. This year we’re planning on explore more of this broad expanses of sand and tide.
My blog buddy Mitchel, he who is constantly on the move, corrected me. The creature we found on the sand is indeed a unicorn not a dog. How could I be so foolish.
The word for May 9th is:
Beach /bēCH/ /bitʃ/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1. A pebbly or sandy shore, especially by the ocean between high- and low-water marks.
2.1 To run or haul up (a boat or ship) on to a beach
2.2 To land (a fish) on a beach
2.3 To become stranded out of the water (a sea creature e.g. whale)
2.4 To cause (someone) to suffer a loss.
Mid 16th century (denoting shingle on the seashore): perhaps related to Old English bæce, bece ‘brook’ (an element that survives in place names such as Wisbech and Sandbach), assuming an intermediate sense ‘pebbly river valley’.