Wednesday, June 27, 2007

brief hiatus

Had to cancel last Saturday's shift due to a family (the out-laws, not La Familia Loca) situation. I plan to be out on the beach this coming Saturday if at all possible but it's touch and go. I'm negotiating to take next week off from work at Gray Cubicle World so I can catch up with my life -- cleaning, shopping, laundry, and I sincerely hope birding. Meanwhile, I have to be satisfied with watching redwinged blackbirds harassing the leucistic redtailed hawk in the parking lot at Gray Cubicle World, great blue herons flying to and from the rookery at I-93 and I-495, and the seemingly enormous numbers of brown headed cowbirds that have appeared alongside Rt. 62 in Bedford.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

news from the cape

Three piping plover chicks were found dead. It's amazing the plover monitors found the bodies so they can do a necropsy. They couldn't have been there long without being eaten by a gull or a crow or other scavenger. It will be interesting to see what they died of.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

piping plover with float

piping plover with float
Originally uploaded by Captain_Peleg
I took this picture last Saturday (6/9) during my rain-shortened plover warden shift. It was raining at the time, which adds a certain atmosphere to the shot of the giant float and the tiny lone plover. This lone adult plover hung around the same general area for about 2 hours. Other shorebirds came and went in pairs or small groups: sanderlings, dunlin, black-bellied plovers. The black-bellieds were very vociferous for some reason but the piping plover never uttered a peep. There's some puns in there some place. And no there were no killdeer.

The most interesting sound I heard was a cricket.. At least I thought it was a cricket. It was awfully loud and nearby -- not exactly snowy tree cricket habitat. Then I spotted a catbird perched on the 6.0 mile marker. The sound was coming from the catbird! I've heard catbirds do willet, least tern, common tern, yellow warbler, and purple finch and I've heard mockingbirds do car alarms but I've never heard any mimic do an insect. Curioser and curioser. I must be in Wonderland with Alice.

A visitor came along with a huge wheeled cart full of diving gear and wanted to know if he could walk on the beach to get to Emerson Rocks. Hmm, I knew what to say to fishermen but I had to double check with Gatehouse on divers. Gatehouse didn't know but 61 overheard and answered that the guy would have to go into the water outside the closed area and swim over (or walk in the water) to Emerson rocks. The diver told me the next piping plover he sees is going on his plate. I told him there's not enough meat on them for a meal. I didn't mention that according to those who study such matters they don't taste like chicken.

The next visitor more than made up for the dive guy. A visiting birder from Tennessee thanked me for what I do and told me it's important. This is only the third time in recorded history of my 10 years on the beach that anyone who was not a USFWS employee thanked me. I was able to answer his questions about Sandy Point and he told me he's just gotten a great photo of a great black back catching a little skate.

All the while the fog turned to mist turned to rain so slowly I didn't realize I was soaked to the skin until I started to shiver. I called it a day.

The status on our little stretch of beach as far as I know it from the report that was in the plover warden backpack on 6/9 was 3 nests on the refuge out of 7 or 8 pairs. The others have been running around making scrapes but there were no other known nests. There' s still one nest at Sandy Point -- three were lost to flooding earlier. There are also two nests on the Newbury town beach. I have no update for today (6/16) because I'm not at the beach -- prior commitment to girlfriend and family.

bird list from my shift on 6/9

All birds were seen from beach. Did not record any birds I saw on the way too from the south end. Sorry they're not in ornithological order. I wrote them down in the order in which I saw them.

cedar waxwing 2
American goldfinch 6
song sparrow 1
black-bellied plover 3
piping plover 1
dunlin 2
Bonaparte's gull 3
sanderling 2
ringbilled gull 1
great black back gull 4
common grackle 2
American robin 1
gray catbird 2
double crested cormorant 24
eastern kingbird 1
mallard 3
herring gull 3
bank swallow 2
tree swallow 4

Friday, June 15, 2007

draw your own conclusion but i'm hopping mad

I just read this article about a Ralph Lauren fragrance launch in East Hampton and I am seeing red. Range Rovers on the beach? Driving 30 mph past piping plover nests? Without the requisite permits? Ignoring the plover stewards? You won't catch me buying, wearing, or even going near a single Ralph Lauren item of clothing, home goods, fragrances, or anything else. Ever. What the hell is so important about a "fragrance launch" that they can't respect the law? And what's so urgent about a fragrance launch that they have to drive 30 mph on the beach? The Hamptons sound like a truly frightening place.

BTW, dear readers, I know I owe you an entry for last Saturday's rain-soaked plover warden shift. The press of affairs both in and out of gray cubicles has gotten in the way of my true calling. Fear not, there will be an entry for last weekend tomorrow. Then we'll see about this weekend, since I'm not actually on the schedule and have a lot on my plate (metaphorically).

Friday, June 8, 2007

define luck

Thanks to Scott Hecker for this Boston Globe article about the beach closure at Sandy Neck Park in Barnstable on Cape Cod. Interestingly, the preview of this story that was up on last night had a gorgeous photo of an adult piping plover and two chicks. The version in the link doesn't have the photo. Somehow I think a Globe editor realized that the extreme cuteness of the two PIPL chicks would undercut the angle that the hatching of piping plover chicks is unlucky break for Barnstable. From my point of view, it's a lucky break for the piping plovers that the Endangered Species Act still has enough teeth to get the beach closed to protect the chicks. 1700 off-road vehicles versus 4 piping plover chicks is pretty long odds. The chicks need all the help they can get.

The Cape Cod Times has a few photos with their story on the beach closure. Oh, and check out the comments section too. The plover haters are already out in force.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping my plover warden shift does not get rained out tomorrow because I could use a dose of wearing myself out talking to people about piping plovers. At least then I feel like I'm making a difference. There are those of us who truly would notice if the piping plover vanished from Atlantic coast beaches and would be saddened by it. Extinction is forever.

Parting thought, what is Sandy Neck beach like when all 1700 offroad vehicles are on the beach at once?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

virtual birding

I'm not on the plover warden schedule for today because I had originally planned that this would be the weekend I'd be just back from Texas and tired. Hah! That was last weekend and somehow I made it to the beach and made it to the family gathering for Andrea's Sweet 16th. How can Andrea be 16? Wasn't I just picking her up at preschool yesterday? Aiiiieeee! Anyway, I'm taking it easy today.

So, as per usual, I searched for "piping plover" on Google News. I found a Canadian article that referenced the 2006 International Piping Plover Breeding Census, which I didn't realize had been published yet. I know it was supposed to be out in "the spring" but spring passed me by here -- funny how the weather makes me lose track of calendar time. For some reason I can't find it on the USFWS piping plover site. However, there is a copy of the preliminary 2006 population estimate. I think my Google skills need some improvement. I'm sure the legendary Tom Wetmore can put his cursor on the published version within seconds.

Hey, Unit 11, if you are reading this, do you know where I can find the 2006 census online?