12 Nov Posted on Facebook, beginning November 8, 2020.
Image above: During stormy and windy weather in late October and early November, Sable Island’s wide south beach was flooded by high waves washing over the berm. For details, see November 8, 2020 (below).
This third series of Zoe’s daily Facebook posts from Sable Island will be regularly updated as each new post is published.
Posted on Facebook, November 24, 2020
Sable Aviation flew to the island today. When Greg Stroud (Coordinator, Sable Island National Park Reserve) checked the beach this morning, he found a suitable runway – long enough, firm, and well-oriented for the westerly wind. The Britten-Norman Islander was scheduled to arrive in early afternoon, but a few hours before the flight, the strong wind, gusting to 30 knots (72 km/h), began to push floodwater towards the landing area. Parks Canada personnel, as well as the out-going passengers, dug a trench in the sand to prevent flooding of the runway. With the Parks Canada jeep marking the runway location, the aircraft landed and parked for unloading supplies and boarding departing personnel. It was a very windy day on the beach with a lot of sand blowing about.
Posted on Facebook, November 23, 2020
At Sable Island, it was a breezy day with broken cloud cover. By afternoon, the southeasterly wind was gusting to 29 knots (54 km/h) and the temperature had risen to 11.4°C. With the low-angle sunlight occasionally gleaming on the landscape, the autumn colours of the dune vegetation ranged from the bright greens of fresh pea, poa and yarrow foliage, to the golden-brown tones of juncus and cord grass.
Posted on Facebook, November 22, 2020
As in cats, dogs and many other animals, grooming behaviours in horses help to keep the coat in good condition. When a horse uses its teeth or a hoof to scratch, or rolls on the ground, or rubs itself on driftwood, the activity is called autogrooming. Horses also frequently engage in mutual grooming. The young female in the middle moves over to the grazing mare and nibbles at the base of the mare’s tail. In response, the mare stops eating beach grass and gives the young female a scratch in the same area. The two horses then spend a few minutes grooming each other. Mutual grooming not only serves to manage itches in hard-to-reach places, but it is also an important social behaviour that maintains bonds between individuals.
Posted on Facebook, November 21, 2020
A mild and breezy day on Sable Island, with a high of 12.9°C and southwesterly wind of 29 knots (54 km/h). A dark brown mare and her chestnut yearling are grazing in a field of grasses and beach pea while the other members of the family band are nearby and snoozing in the sunshine. With no driftwood stumps handy to rub on, the young horse must use her teeth to scratch an itch on her chest. The yearling’s winter coat is almost fully developed.
Posted on Facebook, November 20, 2020
Sable Island’s far offshore location makes it an ideal platform for the study of marine pollutants such as plastics. Beach surveys provide information about types and sources of plastic occurring in the surrounding ocean. During these searches, items containing hazardous materials are also found: aerosol cans and plastic jugs that contain various toxic substances, including pesticides, paints, lubricants, solvents, and oils.
This jug held 2 litres of thick, black waste oil. Because it was leaking when found, the oil was drained into beached plastic bottles (always plentiful). All such containers and their contents are taken to the station for appropriate disposal. During surveys in 2019 and 2020, these collections amounted to about 60 litres of oil being removed from the beach. The survey program, led by Sable Island Institute, is conducted as part of a partnering agreement with Parks Canada.
Posted on Facebook, November 19, 2020
At sunrise, patches of white were scattered over the landscape and there were thin skins of ice at the edges of some of the freshwater ponds. The first snow cover for Sable Island was a layer of snow pellets, or graupel. The pellets and the ice didn’t last long, and by mid-morning most were gone except in well-shaded areas. A family band of horses grazes in a field just west of the Sable Island Station, warmed in the sunshine after a chilly night with the temperature dropping to -0.2°C. By afternoon, it was warmer, getting up to 3.4°C. But with a northwesterly wind gusting to 33 knots (61 km/h), the day felt wintery.
Posted on Facebook, November 18, 2020
A cool and mostly overcast day, with a high of 6.7°C, and a northwesterly wind gusting to 22 knots (41 km/h). During the past five days, Sable Island has received 68 mm of rain. The freshwater ponds are full, and there are pools in dune hollows and slacks. The rainfall flooding in this dune slack is 10 to 20 cm deep. The slack looks gloomy in the cloud shadow, but there’s cranberry growing amongst the juncus. Although it’s all presently under water, many of the bright red berries, still on their stems, float at the surface. The dune slacks will be wet, with varying amounts of surface water, for most of autumn and winter.
Posted on Facebook, November 17, 2020
Three of the birds at West Light this afternoon: an endemic, a vagrant, and a rarity. The Ipswich Sparrow is an endemic because it nests only on Sable Island. After the breeding season, most migrate to their wintering grounds on the east coast. The bright yellow Prairie Warbler is regularly seen here in autumn. It is called a vagrant because when it turns up on the island, it is beyond its normal range. The Northern Cardinal (a male, perched on a fence wire) nests in Nova Scotia, but it is a rare bird for Sable.
Posted on Facebook, November 16, 2020
On Sable Island, the area of south beach called the Sandy Plain was a flat and featureless expanse of bare sand until about twenty-five years ago. Then embryo dunes began to form as small patches of marram grass and other plants trapped windblown sand. As the grass thrived and more sand accumulated, the new dunes increased in width and height, and in number. For years, this area was known as “The Hummocks”. The process continues. With today’s strong southeasterly wind, gusting to 36 knots (67 km/h), sand was blown across the outer beach and into the hummocks, and every large and small vegetated dune was catching new sand as it streamed along with the wind.
Posted on Facebook, November 15, 2020
It has been a cool and breezy autumn day on Sable Island, with broken cloud and occasional showers (snow pellets in the morning), and a maximum of 8.5°C. A view from a high dune overlooking the north beach: with the strong northwesterly wind, 31 knots (57 km/h), lines of surf are rushing ashore. On the inside slope of the same dune, in a sheltered, south-facing field of marram, horses graze and rest as waves of sunshine and shadows flow across the landscape.
Posted on Facebook, November 14, 2020
A question! During beach surveys on Sable Island, some puzzling items have been found, for example, these bags. Since last year, eight have washed ashore, some very worn and faded, and others, such as one beached a few days ago, looking newer. They are all about 70 cm long and 30 cm wide (but their dimensions are not precisely the same), and the fabric is woven polypropylene. Although some bags were tied closed, they were empty. When first found, they were thought to be homemade duffel bags or children’s backpacks, perhaps made from bags that had originally contained seed or animal feed. But in materials and stitching, they resemble the large metre bags used in erosion control or to hold clean-up debris. Does anyone recognize these bags?
Posted on Facebook, November 13, 2020
Driftwood is everywhere on Sable Island. Some of the large pieces of lumber, logs, branches, stumps, and broken trees that wash ashore, stay on the beach. Others end up inland when they are carried by floodwater flowing through breaks in the dune line. And occasionally, big ribs of old shipwrecks emerge from eroding slopes where sand is blown away by the wind. All these wooden shapes provide rubbing and scratching posts for the horses. Strands and tangles of horse hair are caught in the cracks, and the most rubbed-upon surfaces are polished. A young male enjoys a neck massage until an older member of the group moves in for a scratch.
Posted on Facebook, November 12, 2020
A soggy but mild day on Sable Island with about 14 mm of rain and a maximum temperature of 14.9°C. The wind was again southwesterly and gusting to 27 knots. During stormier weather, the high dunes, steep slopes, and hollows provide shelter from the wind for the horses. There’s no protection from the rain, but in these shelter areas, the horses can be less exposed to blowing sand and chilling effect of the wind. Even though it was overcast and gloomy all day, the rain brightened the fall colours of the island’s plants, such as Seaside Goldenrod.
Posted on Facebook, November 11, 2020
November 11, 2020, Remembrance Day. On Sable Island the temperature was between 12 and 13°C with 100% humidity and fog or mist for most of the day. There was a very brief burst of rain in the morning, and the southwesterly wind peaked at 27 knots (50 km/h). Wave height in the Sable area was less than 2 m, and there wasn’t much surf along the north beach. It was peaceful.
Posted on Facebook, November 10, 2020
The day began in thick fog, but by afternoon the fog had dissipated, and the sky was mostly clear. The temperature was between about 10 and 12°C, with a southwesterly breeze of 19 knots (35 km/h). While Grey Seals in the surf watched a person conducting a survey along the beach, a Sable Island stallion rested on a windy dune slope, perhaps contemplating the landscape or a few groups of horses in the distance.
Posted on Facebook, November 9, 2020
On May 1, the SSCV Thialf arrived in the Sable Island area to begin removal of the topsides and underwater support structures of the offshore platforms, the final stage in the decommissioning of the Sable Offshore Energy Project. In a view from the beach on July 2, the huge Thialf (the second largest crane vessel in the world) towered over the Thebaud platform, 10 km southwest of the island. Early this morning, having completed the removal of the last platform, Venture, the Thialf was towed by the offshore supply vessel Atlantic Kestrel, and headed for Chedabucto Bay. It could be seen from the Sable Island Station as it passed the island (with MSC’s anemometer in the foreground). So ends an era. The offshore energy industry has been a presence here for many decades, and it has been a part of the Sable Island community.
Posted on Facebook, November 8, 2020
During the past few weeks of stormy and windy weather, Sable Island’s wide south beach areas known as Wallace Flats and the Sandy Plain were flooded by high waves washing over the berm. When not under water, the beach is used as a landing strip for the fixed-wing aircraft. So, some flights had to be cancelled and others were made by helicopter. Eventually the flooding retreats, frequently draining off through a “river”, a cut that forms across the berm and allows floodwater to flow back into the ocean. Sometimes the river is broad and rushing like wild rapids, or, like the river today, it is more of a shallow but steady stream. The dark patches on the beach are accumulations of heavy mineral sands.
Zoe Lucas, Sable Island Institute
November 8 – 24, 2020