Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Prince Edward Island: Among the Dunes

Prince Edward Island is Canada's smallest province, and the only completely insular one.  We reached it by crossing from Nova Scotia, on the Wood Island Ferry out of Canso, on the night of June 6, 2012.  After a night in a B&B in the southeastern corner of the island, we set off for our main goal, Charlottetown, the provincial capital, with one natural history detour to see the dune systems in the Greenwich Prince Edward Island National Park on the northern coast.

The trail to the dunes leads to a boardwalk running out through the dunes to the shore.

 At its end is a fine sandy beach, facing the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca)
A binocular scan over the sea turned up a White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca), one of a group of ocean-going diving ducks.

The way out and back provided a good opportunity to sample the local flora, much of it in flower.

Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
One of the more attractive flowers of the area belonged to the Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), a highly soil-tolerant member of the rose family (Rosaceae) widespread in eastern North America.  The flowers last only about a week, so the timing of our visit was just right to see them.

Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense)
Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense)
Some of the plants in flower here were the same as the ones growing along the Bog Trail in Cape Breton, the subject of my last post.  Rhodora (Rhododendron canadense) seemed to do as well among the dunes as around the bog.

Cotton Sedge (Eriophorum sp)
Here, too, were the tasseled white heads of Cotton Sedges (or cottongrasses) (Eriophorum sp.).

Alder (Alnus sp.)
I found a variety of shrubs and small trees growing around the boardwalk. Alders (Alnus sp.) still bore their catkins...

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
...while young leaves of Red Maple (Acer rubrum) displayed colours that would not be visible again, once they have matured, until the autumn.

A few shrubs still held the dessicated remains of berries from the previous season.

Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)
White sprays of flowers adorned Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) bushes, reminding me of childhood summers berry-picking with my grandmother.

Thick stands of fern filled much of the understory under the shrub layer...

Yellow Goat's-Beard (Tragopogon pratensis)
Yellow Goat's-Beard (Tragopogon pratensis)
...and herbaceous flowers dotted the trail edge.  Yellow Goat's-Beard (Tragopogon pratensis) is an alien from Europe, as are so many of our roadside flowers.

Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)
From the boardwalk, I also had a chance to take portraits of a few common birds: a Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)...

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)
... a Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas), one of the wood warblers (Parulidae)...

Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)
and a Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia).

Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
I have Red Squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) in my back yard at home, but I couldn't pass up this fellow as he explored the boughs of a spruce tree. I suppose that if I am to see a mammal in Canada's smallest province, it ought to be a small one.

No comments:

Post a Comment