St Ann’s Provincial Park along the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, was just springing into life after a cold winter when we visited earlier this year. It was a brief stop for a picnic lunch on our way from the Cape Breton Highlands National Park to the Louisbourg area on the east coast. The park lies on the northern shore of the stretch of water known as North Gut, and has a short trail leading to a look-off where there are views over the saltmarsh and St Ann’s Bay. We did not have time to venture very far down the trail but, even by the car park, there was plenty to enjoy.
Bright green ferns of various types were uncurling their fronds. The compacted fern buds are called fiddleheads. Particular varieties in some localities are a feature on menus at this time of the year (we tried some and they were delicious). Golden mosses covered the ground, while bladed marsh plants were breaking through the winter’s debris on the water margin. Delicate white blossoms quivered on trees of the woodland edge. The greatest delight was catching sight of a snake making its way through the leaf litter. I am not certain what sort but it might possibly be a Maritime Garter Snake.
I’ve been recording the changes that come with season and weather as I walk along the Cerne Valley Trail in Dorset, England. The horse chestnut tree by the stile in these photographs is a convenient marker to illustrate the transition from bare branches of winter to full foliage in summer. Already, by September, the leaves are turning brown getting ready to fall. It is not only the tree that shows the changes but the ground cover vegetation, and the crops in the fields.
It is cold today. I wanted to think of a time and place where it was much warmer. I thought back to the holiday I spent in Queensland, Australia, several years ago. It is a wet tropical region and the vegetation is luxurious in the Daintree Rainforest. We did explore the wild as best we could but there was nothing to beat visits to Cairns Botanic Gardens where we could enjoy the wonderful plants without so many of the attendant dangers. Here is a gallery of some of the amazing and beautiful natural plant patterns, colours and textures that I photographed among the vegetation in these fabulous gardens.
Just before the Pennard Pill watercourse takes a dramatic swing to loop around the giant sand dune to get to the shore at Threecliff (Three Cliffs) Bay on the Gower Peninsula, the right hand or west bank is composed of rough stones and then transitions into a salt marsh. [The area lies on the opposite side of the river to a more substantial and higher shingle bank that can be reached via a set of concrete stepping stones].
The low shingle surface of the right bank is relatively stable. Despite regular tidal inundations of brackish water, life clings to the limestone. Last August it was particularly attractive, covered with bright patches of yellow and black lichens, and ground-hugging clumps of partially red-stemmed plants with clusters of small pink flowers. I will have to find out what these plants are the next time I visit. I didn’t take close-ups. I had thought they might be Sea Heath (Frankenia laevis) but apparently that does not grow in this area – although it likes the same kind of habitat. I think Sea Sandwort was also present. However, the numerous flowering stems of Sea Lavender I did recognise; and these plants were found equally spread in stony ground and on the wetter salt marsh area.
You don’t exactly have to keep your nose to the ground to see them but you do have to be a keen observer to notice all the different tracks and trails left on the soft wet sediments of the beach at low tide. Larger marks left by people and vehicles are the first ones you see. Bird footprints are every where. The birds are feeding on all sorts of invertebrate seashore creatures like worms, small crustacea and molluscs – all of which leave holes, burrows and furrows as they move in and out of the sand and across the surface. Some of the pictures shown here simply aim to give the general context for the area of Whiteford Sands that I was walking across. If you look closely the other images, you will see not only the ripples in the sand but also the intricate network of traces left by the virtually invisible organisms that inhabit this ecosystem. The larger furrows in photos 1, 12 and 13 are made by the common winkle (Littorina littorea Linnaeus). I cannot name each animal that is responsible for each of the other types of trace. However, I am sure that there will be some specialists out there who could, especially those researchers concerned with the interpretation of trace fossils (the ichnologists).
The photographs in this post illustrate the way that vast quantities of wind- and wave-borne sand at Whiteford Sands on the Gower Peninsula move around the shore over time. I have taken one fixed object, a piece of ancient timber with an unmistakable shape that projects from the early to post Holocene deposits of peat and clay, and taken shots of it on every visit to the beach over the past ten years or so. The following images show how the sand level changes periodically to reveal or conceal the underlying layers with the surface scattering of rocks that were dumped by the melting ice during the last glacial event. Beaches like Whiteford are incredibly dynamic. Click on any image in the gallery below to view as a slideshow in chronological order.