Monday, April 30, 2007

Where the dunes used to be

Where the dunes used to be
Originally uploaded by Captain_Peleg.
I didn't get an "after" picture of the boardwalk at Lot 1 but I did get this picture of the "dunes" at the south end of the refuge. I think I found part of the Lot 1 boardwalk at Sandy Point. There are no stairs from the boardwalk to the beach at Lot 1 and there is a whole lot of lumber at Sandy Point. I thought one of of the planks I found might be part of my brother's house but he didn't recognize it in the picture.

I spent a lot of time answering questions about the storm damage rather than the piping plovers today. I tried to explain a little about the longshore current and how it carries the sand, but mostly I just told people the piping plovers hadn't nested yet so didn't lose their nests to the storm. As per usual, a few people are already asking for an exact date when the beach will be open. Being busy chasing people who didn't see the sign, trying to build a stick fence from the sign to the water line as the tide went out, and greeting a total of 21 visitors, I didn't end up with a whole long list of birds. So this isn't a very birdy entry.

And speaking of the longshore current, Unit 3 reported that the Teddy I photographed on the beach at Lot 1 has made it to mile marker 3.8. Stay tuned for further updates on how long it takes Teddy to reach Sandy Point.

Friday, April 27, 2007

monk parakeets and daffodils in rhode island (belatedly)

The monk parakeets of Narragansett Terrace in East Providence, RI are rebuilding their stick nest on the same electric pole that power company removed it from. We stopped by to check out the rebuilding on our way to Blithewold (Bristol, RI) to see the daffodils last Sunday. I can't figure out how to post the video here so you'll have to make do with a still photo. And yes, we did see daffodils.

It's about time we had something resembling spring. Of course, now several days later when I get around to posting this, it's pouring rain again.

Still hoping to get in a full shift of watching the invisibirds tomorrow.

Friday, April 20, 2007

way beyond symbolic fencing

This article from Atlantic City describes a Corps of Engineers project to create piping plover habitat in New Jersey. Clam shells and a pool... sounds like life's a beach. Sounds like some good ideas. This is the first I've heard that they don't like to get their feet wet though. They do feed more along the wrack line than in the water, but they most definitely get their feet wet when they do that foot trembling thing, which is even called "plovering" it's so characteristic of their behavior.

high water

The good news is the sun came out. The bad news is there's not a lot of beach left. Had a message on my voice mail this afternoon that tomorrow's shift is canceled -- lack of beach and lack of signs. No word on exactly how much of the contents of the Goffstown dump has made it down the Merrimack to Plum Island yet. Yep, that was some storm. Not quite up to last year's epic flood disaster, but pretty darn close. What with road closures and detours and fact that my neighbors' kids vandalized my downspout I feel like I've got water on the brain. That could explain that exploding feeling in my head. Hmm...

And it has nothing to do with birds or beaches or protection thereof, but just in time for tonight's Red Sox/Yankees game, a Red Sox Mr. Potato Head arrived on my back steps courtesy of Charla.

The Promised Symbolic Fencing Pix

As promised, here are the pictures of the rope fence with floats as it appeared last weekend during my shift.

The long view and a closeup. And yes, I do know that nobody else blogs about symbolic fencing this much. :-)

And while I'm at it, here is how the boardwalk at Lot 1, loaded with birders, looked last weekend -- before the storm. Those steps to the beach? Not there anymore. So here's the Before picture. I'll try to provide an After picture on Saturday.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Teddy Bear on the Beach

Teddy Bear on the Beach
Originally uploaded by Captain_Peleg.
Poor teddy has lain on the beach for a week and there's a big nor'easter coming tomorrow. I wonder where teddy will end up?

Before the Storm

Radio and TV have been hyping tomorrow's alleged northeast storm heavily, predicting 20 foot waves. The waves are not that high today, but boy is it ever windy. I lost count of the number of times my hat blew off. Fortunately it didn't land in the ocean. The gulls, all three usual species (ringbilled gull, herring gull, and great black back), keep flying into the wind and getting blown back. They must enjoy it.

I'm at the north boundary this week (I did south last week). I got here at 8:30 because I had to wait for Plum Island Coffee Roasters to brew the coffee -- they opened late. The French roast Sumatra was worth it.

A big flock of long-tailed ducks floats way offshore. A few of them come in close enough to get a look at. Every once in awhile when the wind dies down for a second I can hear them calling. Several long lines of migrating cormorants stream by straight north. Two birders with big scopes tell me they've seen a red necked grebe, but try as I might I can't locate between the waves. The increasingly large waves -- the tide is going out but the waves are getting bigger as the wind shifts around. An organized group of birders shows up and as if on cue two northern gannets come in really close to shore.

The symbolic fencing fairy (actually Unit 3 and the new guy) has gifted us with not only rope and signs to mark the boundary but floats and an anchor so the rope stays in place at low tide. I tell Unit 3 it must be working because every single set of footprints I saw when I got here ends at the rope. Nobody sneaked in early in the morning. Of course none of this will stand up to the expected storm if it really does have 20 foot waves. We talk circulation of sand -- one of my favorite topics -- and how the beach changes subtly from week to week and dramatically after major storms. Unit 3 says the forlorn-looking teddy bear that washed up last week is still in almost the same spot it was last weekend. We agree that will change tomorrow.

Running out of time before the laundromat closes... must summarize:
Only spoke to 6 visitors (not counting the large group of birders to whom I said hello). Didn't see any piping plovers. Wasn't unbearably cold until the last 45 minutes. Teddy pic posted separately. Flickr being temperamental so unable to upload pix of cool new symbolic fencing. Will try again later.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Travelin' Shoes

Unit 3 has nailed it with her rendering of the arriving piping plover still wearing its travelin' shoes. And despite the cold and wind, I picked the exact right day for my first plover warden shift of the season. A little less than an hour after I arrived at the south refuge boundary and did the obligatory radio check a flock of 13 pale shorebirds landed on the beach just south of Emerson Rocks and began feeding along the waterline -- working their way south from there.

It took them about 25 minutes to get close enough for a positive ID with my binoculars. Yes, they were PIPING PLOVERs -- well 11 of them were, the other two were sanderlings. The flock stayed close together until about 11:30 then spread out. All in all I watched them feed almost nonstop for 2 1/2 hours.

I saw 11 invisi-birds! 11 of them at one time. I was grinning like an idiot while watching them. They even got close enough for a photo op.

They could be a migrating flock just passing through on their way to some other beach or they could be the ones who are going to stay and nest here. When I told Gatehouse about them, he thought they might be still migrating. As I mentioned they ate nonstop for over 2 hours, so they could have been refueling for the next leg of the trip. Anyway, I couldn't get enough of watching them do that foot trembling thing and then stabbing the bill into the sand to catch what they stirred up. Not that I could see a single prey item that they caught. I think they swallow them right in the sand. Maybe along with the sand. I don't know.

I only had 5 visitors -- other nutcases out on the beach in the freezing cold. Two of them asked how many pairs we have nesting on the refuge this year. I explained that they were still arriving and hadn't paired off yet, let alone nested. They mate for a season and don't arrive already partnered. I did not see any mating or territorial behavior at all. Just eating. Lots and lots and lots of eating. Bad day to be a tiny sand-dwelling marine invertebrate or whatever.

At one point I was all alone on the beach with the piping plovers and a flock of snow geese flew over. They were magnificent! So gorgeous. A flock of brant hung out for most of the morning too, moving back and forth from Bar Head to Emerson Rocks and back. A few common eiders hung around Emerson Rocks the whole time too. A lone bank swallow put in an appearance for awhile and then went back to the drumlin to the south. Considering the wind, this was a very birdy shift.

When I finally tore myself away and drove back to the Gatehouse to turn in my radio and report, I had to keep stopping for wondrous sightings of kestrels and a merlin. Merlins are so darn small it's amazing. Can raptors be considered cute?

The coolest sighting of the drive back was after I'd turned in the radio and the report and was sitting in my car talking to Ned on my cell phone about the 11 invisi-birds. An adult male northern harrier -- the "gray ghost" form -- flew right in front of my car and over the dune across from the gatehouse. I interrupted Ned to tell him what I'd just seen and he said he had the 1947 Peterson's that I gave him (back when his Mom died several years ago) in his hand. He asked what page it was on. He found it and completely understood why I thought it was soooooo gorgeous.

Great birds preceded by French Roast Colombian and followed by Ethiopian Yrgacheffe at Plum Island Coffee Roasters. What better way to spend a vacation day?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

as the plover world turns

Wish I'd thought of that as a title about 10 years ago!

The news as the plover world turns:

From the Great Lakes: Alice Van Zoeren has the best job in the world. Color me jealous. I haven't figured out a way to make a living off of piping plovers yet.

From the Hamptons: Residents expect a whole flock of problems again. There's just not enough room on the beach for driving, fishing, private property, and oh yeah, piping plover nests.

And on Cape Cod: They're putting up symbolic fencing today. With lots of pictures. Looks like they have better rope and better posts than we do. Is it possible to have symbolic fencing envy? I also like the ads that Google thinks are relevant to "symbolic fencing" and "piping plover".

Meanwhile, here on the edge of the universe it's cold and rainy with occasional sleet.