Gina’s Sable Island Photoblog, April – June 2019

——Image above: A Ruby-throated Hummingbird, June 7th, feeding on dandelions near buildings at the Sable Island Station.

Soon after my return to Sable Island in early April, there was a heavy snowfall that left the island’s landscape gleaming in white, with sculpted drifts and streaks of wind-blown sand and snow mixed in patterns and interesting shapes.

April 9, 2019

Weather summary for this date: 18.8 mm of snow and some freezing rain; sunshine hours 2.5; temperature maximum -0.8°C and minimum -3.2°C; with a peak wind of 32 knots northeasterly (NE 050°).

Drifting snow plugged the road from the Sable Island Station to the north beach. The snow looked like waves, big surf.

Although there was a lot of snow inland, wind and waves had prevented much accumulation on the beach.

April 10, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain; sunshine hours 1.5; temperature maximum 1.8°C and minimum -2.4°C; with a peak wind of 20 knots northwesterly (NW 310°).

A float tied to a post and used as a road marker, at the entrance of the road from the beach to the station. The surface of the snow is mixed with windblown sand.

Along north beach, layers of drifted snow and sand create a shape that looks like a huge gannet’s head (a gannet looking to the right).

A Sable Island horse watches from the top of a north beach dune.

A family band of horses on a dune along north beach, just inland of the snow-sand sculpture of the gannet’s head.

A stone ‘fish tail’ on north beach.

Sand pattern on north beach.

April 12, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain; sunshine hours 12.4; temperature maximum 6.4°C and minimum 1.5°C; with a peak wind of 18 knots westerly (W 270°).

More patterns—nubbly, wet beach sand.

April 14, 2019

Weather summary for this date: rain 5.4 mm; some fog; sunshine hours 7.4; temperature maximum 7.3°C and minimum 3.5°C; with a peak wind of 27 knots westerly (W 270°).

A family band of Sable Island horses trotting over the dunes, just west of the station. There’s a hint of green in the landscape as the first leaves of marram and poa grasses emerge through the cool, damp sand.

April 21, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain; some fog; sunshine hours 2.0; temperature maximum 10.2°C and minimum 5.9°C; with a peak wind of 20 knots southwesterly (SSW 210°).

Big sand grains and small stones washed ashore and sorted into patches on the beach by the high energy waves.

April 22, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain; some fog; sunshine hours 0.1; temperature maximum 10.2°C and minimum 6.5°C; with a peak wind of 19 knots southwesterly (SSW 200°).

Pattern made by a thin flow of water over an area of dry beach sand.

April 26, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain; sunshine hours 7.4; temperature maximum 5.1°C and minimum 0.6°C; with a peak wind of 20 knots northwesterly (NW 310°).

Ducks flying over Pinetree Pond East.

A chunk of polystyrene (about 20 x 20 cm across) caught up in the vegetation. It had blown inland after being washed ashore on the beach.

An aquatic plant abundant in the freshwater pond, Pinetree East.

May 1, 2019

Weather summary for this date: trace of rain; sunshine hours 10.6; temperature maximum 6.4°C and minimum 2.0°C; with a peak wind of 27 knots westerly (W 270°).

On north beach, the sandblasted sole of a beached shoe shows its sandy undertones.

Grey Seals resting on north beach.

A view of the sunset from the north beach, 7:00 pm, altocumulus clouds with cirrus above.

May 3, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain; sunshine hours 11.1; temperature maximum 8.2°C and minimum 1.8°C; with a peak wind of 18 knots westerly (WNW 300°).

New spring grass is brightest and greenest around a pile of horse manure.

A Grey Seal’s scapula. The scapula (also known as the shoulder bone, shoulder blade, wing bone or blade bone), is the bone that connects the upper arm bone (humerus) with the collar bone (clavicle).

Some connected vertebrae, a section of a Grey Seal’s spinal column—weathered by waves, winds and sand.

Sand patterns made by wind and water.

Heavy mineral sands sorted into colour patterns by the swashing back and forth of the waves.

May 5, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain; some fog; sunshine hours 6.9; temperature maximum 9.5°C and minimum 1.7°C; with a peak wind of 10 knots easterly (E 080°).

Foggy north beach—a common late afternoon scene in spring.

Fragments from the cartilaginous skeleton of a basking shark.

May 7, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain; sunshine hours 12.6; temperature maximum 8.4°C and minimum 1.9°C; with a peak wind of 16 knots southwesterly (SW 230°).

Another piece of the skeleton of a basking shark, but this is cartilage that has been hardened by calcium salts. In some parts of the shark’s body, cartilage is not strong enough to provide support. Calcified cartilaginous structures resemble bone, but are more lightweight.

May 10, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain; sunshine hours 10.1; temperature maximum 7.2°C and minimum 3.2°C; with a peak wind of 19 knots northerly (N 010°).

Well-decomposed and falling apart, a basking shark corpse rolls in the surf on north beach. Bits and pieces of the shark’s cartilaginous skeleton had been washing ashore for a week or two. Adult basking sharks are 6-8 m in length. This is the second-largest living shark species in the world’s oceans, but it feeds on very small marine animals such as zooplankton.

May 15, 2019

Weather summary for this date: rain 8.2 mm; some fog; sunshine hours 7.6; temperature maximum 9.0°C and minimum 4.7°C; with a peak wind of 33 knots southwesterly (SW 230°).

Horses walking eastward across the south beach, heading to the freshwater ponds in the West Light area.

A straggler following along. This yearling still has its thick winter coat.

On their way to the freshwater ponds, the horses often stop to rub on an old post, leaving strands of mane hair behind.

New branches of shrubs, and leaves of iris and juncus grow up though piles of wind-blown sand. Some leaves are discoloured by being repeatedly buried and exposed as they develop.

Two Black Ducks and a Herring Gull on a slope at the south side of Mummichog Pond. Both species nest on Sable Island.

The same two Black Ducks at the edge of the pond.

A yellowlegs standing on a mat of last summer’s bulrush.

A Palm Warbler, in search of snacks, about to investigate a pile of horse manure.

A Yellow-rumped Warbler—a male in breeding plumage—poking about along the edge of a pond.

May 18, 2019

Weather summary for this date: rain 15.2 mm; some fog; sunshine hours 1.7; temperature maximum 9.2°C and minimum 3.5°C; with a peak wind of 36 knots northwesterly (NW 320°).

Chestnut stallion walking on north beach and about to head up onto the dune to graze. His mane is filled with long mats and tangles.

A fragment of a tern’s wing washed ashore on the beach.

May 19, 2019

Weather summary for this date: trace of rain; sunshine hours 13.8; temperature maximum 9.3°C and minimum 3.5°C; with a peak wind of 32 knots northwesterly (NW 320°).

Sanderlings flying along the edge of the south beach surf.

May 20, 2019

Weather summary for this date: rain 15.4 mm; sunshine hours 0.0; temperature maximum 9.0°C and minimum 5.2°C; with a peak wind of 24 knots southwesterly (SW 230°).

Gulls feeding on the remains of the basking shark, occasionally caught as a wave rushes up over the carcass.

May 23, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain; sunshine hours 13.2; temperature maximum 9.3°C and minimum 3.7°C; with a peak wind of 28 knots northwesterly (NW 320°).

A flock of terns on north beach. They are from the large nesting colony near the Sable Island Station.

A Harbour Seal and her pup. After a year of wear in the environment, the mother’s coat is a dull, sandy colour. However, after the pupping period, she will go through the annual moult, and the worn, discoloured hair will be replaced by a silvery coat, similar to her pup’s.

May 25, 2019

Weather summary for this date: rain 0.6 mm; sunshine hours 13.2; temperature maximum 8.8°C and minimum 4.1°C; with a peak wind of 23 knots northerly (NNE 030°).

A small moth—Red-fronted Emerald—found on the step at MSC’s air chemistry building. This species is common on the island.

Waves splashing over the beach berm crest, carrying loads of churned up sand.

A stallion showing brief irritation with two young members of his band.

Band mates engaged in mutual grooming. The horses are beginning to shed their winter coats.

A scruffy yearling still in his winter coat and using his teeth to scratch and rub an itchy spot on his back.

Sunset, 7:30 pm, altocumulus clouds with cirrus above.

May 27, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain or fog; sunshine hours 11.2; temperature maximum 10.2°C and minimum 4.8°C; with a peak wind of 12 knots northeasterly (NE 050°).

Two bands of horses grazing just southwest of the West Light tower and the lightkeeper’s house, now known as the BIO House (Bedford Institute of Oceanography). Although the light is no longer operational, the house serves as a field station for researchers studying the island’s seals.

May 28, 2019

Weather summary for this date: rain 2.4 mm; some fog; sunshine hours 5.9; temperature maximum 9.3°C and minimum 4.8°C; with a peak wind of 11 knots northwesterly (NW 320°).

A chestnut stallion grazing marram grass and beach pea. He is just beginning to shed. The winter coats of some Sable horses can be very curly, especially on the legs.

June 7, 2019

Weather summary for this date: rain 13.2 mm; some fog; sunshine hours 7.7; temperature maximum 12.4°C and minimum 5.8°C; with a peak wind of 17 knots southwesterly (SW 230°).

This Ruby-throated Hummingbird (male) was first observed on June 5th, and for about ten days it was seen almost daily darting back and forth between patches of dandelions near buildings at the Sable Island Station.

June 11, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain or fog; sunshine hours 12.3; temperature maximum 14.0°C and minimum 7.8°C; with a peak wind of 20 knots southeasterly (SE 140°).

A Harbour Seal and her pup resting on the beach, snoozing and smiling.

June 15, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain; some fog; sunshine hours 10.8; temperature maximum 13.5°C and minimum 8.8°C; with a peak wind of 17 knots westerly (WSW 250°).

A Sable Island horse stands on a sandy slope, and appears to be checking out the various pieces of plastic debris washed ashore.

June 23, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain or fog; sunshine hours 9.9; temperature maximum 15.2°C and minimum 10.0°C; with a peak wind of 24 knots westerly (W 260°).

Beach grass on a dune along the north beach with the surrounding ocean looking almost tropical in colour.

Eroding slopes of vegetated dunes. Clumps of vegetation–roots and stems—slide down the slope and in the right conditions will find a purchase in the sandy hollows and develop into patches of vegetation that will eventually become new dunes.

Sphinx moths (also called hawk moths) are the largest moth commonly seen on the island.

June 25, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain or fog; sunshine hours 12.4; temperature maximum 15.4°C and minimum 4.2°C; with a peak wind of 9 knots northwesterly (NW 320°).

Sable Island horses—all males—leaving a waterhole hollow and heading to the beach.

Males chasing each other about in the freshwater ponds area.

Two males take a break after splashing through the shallow freshwater pond.

A Herring Gull, a Sable Island horse, and a Double-crested Cormorant, all at Mummichog Pond (just west of West Light).

Radiation fog (or ground fog) over the low-lying shrub and cranberry terrain just west of the station. This type of fog is formed by the cooling of the land after sunset when there’s no wind and the night sky is clear. The cooling ground cools the adjacent air to the dew point, and a shallow layer of fog develops.

June 26, 2019

Weather summary for this date: no rain or fog; sunshine hours 12.7; temperature maximum 14.8°C and minimum 4.0°C; with a peak wind of 12 knots southeasterly (SE 130°).

It’s about 7:30 pm, and in the distance (upper left of the photo) the small charter aircraft—a Britten-Norman Islander operated by Sable Aviation—has just taken off and is flying past the Sable Island Station. The light on the post is along a path near the accommodations building used by personnel with the Meteorological Service of Canada. During summer the post is a favourite hangout for june beetles, mobs of them.

My regular tour ended on June 26th, and I would have left Sable on the aircraft in the above photo. However, I agreed to a tour extension of four weeks, and my photoblog for that month will be posted here later.

 

Gina Little’s Sable Island PhotoBlog, April – June 2019
Prepared for the Sable Island Institute

Also, see Gina’s PhotoBlogs for April-July, 2017 , October 2017 – January 2018, April-June, 2018, and October 2018 – January 2019, and her contributor’s profile.

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