Wednesday, July 16, 2008

first greenhead bite of the season, weird questions, flycatching behavior

Now for the narrative of Saturday's shift:

The greenheads are out in force right on schedule. I came prepared with light-colored clothing and bug repellent. I still managed to get my first bite of the season on my right calf. The darn bug crawled inside my pants leg despite the repellent and the fact they were the lightest khakis I have. Sigh.

There weren't as many people on the beach as I would have expected on a perfect July day. The greenheads may have something to do with that. I talked with about 12 people, saw 1 Coast Guard asset -- a helicopter, and saw 1 piping plover. Not my finest writing skills here. Sometimes it's hard to write about the same types of events over and over again and make it interesting. Oh, almost forgot the all important Coffee of the Day. That was French Roast Colombian. In other news, I skipped breakfast at the Fish Tale because it was jampacked at 7:30 in the morning. The place was crammed with tourists inside and out so I wouldn't have heard any good fish stories or flying stories anyway.

So, the visitors:

A couple, clearly not from here, walked up to me and asked why on earth the beach was closed with signs AND a guard, were there land mines? Seriously. They thought the only possible reason for beach closure was some sort of danger to the beach-goers and the first thing that came to mind was land mines. So who is going to start their invasion of the USA at Plum Island? Canada? Unless maybe terrorists were confusing us with other, more sinister, Plum Island. I told them it was a nesting area for piping plovers and least terns and started to launch into my spiel but they interrupted me and asked "Do they eat flies?" When I said yes, they said "Good" and walked away.

Somebody else asked me where the whale was. The long dead one. It's still buried on the beach right where it was. The sand covered it back up again. Sand moves out to sea in the winter and comes back in the summer... I started on my sand circulation speech... They were far more interested in the buried remains of the long dead whale than in the piping plovers or least terns.

Then of course there was the ritual "Have you seen anybody catching flounder today?" "No. I saw one guy catch a little skate. No flounder." "Are the people on the boats out there catching flounder?" "I'll check with my superpowered binoculars. Nope. Nobody except that blue lobster boat over there seems to be pulling in anything at all. Everybody's just standing there on the decks with their fishing rods."

About the most exciting thing I did was ask Unit 62 what happened with the sailboat that ran aground during my last shift (Friday, July 4). He said the boat was pretty beat up. As I predicted, both the Coast Guard and the tow boat were required to get the thing off the beach. I gathered from 62 that it took quite an effort. Guess, those folks' summer is a bummer. I'll bet some rich people are unhappy right now.

With all the greenheads and other kinds of flies around there was plenty of food for swallows and gulls. The swallows carpet the beach flying about a foot off the ground and just gobble up flies as they go. Ring-billed gulls hawk the flies like kingbirds do. The herring gulls and great black backs did not seem interested in the flies. A great black back landed on the beach with a fish near some herring gulls. They tried to rob him. Not a good idea. The great black back swallowed the fish and then chomped down on the nearest herring gull -- twice. Once on the tail and then on the wing. They struggled for awhile with the great black back hanging onto the herring gull's wing until it lost interest and let go. I half expected to see it eat the herring gull. Ugly scene.

Stay tuned for more musings on gulls catching flies sometime between now and Saturday.

Meanwhile, if you want to know what I did with the rest of last Saturday, you can read Musings of Captain_Peleg, my mostly non-bird-related blog.

1 comment:

Marty said...

LOL at the rather clueless tourists ... I can see being confused by the beach being closed off for birds (many people really don't get it until it's explained to them) - but land mines? When they see police surrounding a restaurant, do they assume bio-weapon attack, too?