Sunday, July 20, 2008

ships music pirates

Fish Tale too crowded for breakfast before shift. A flashing sign near the bridge reads "Beerfest Saturday 7/19". This weekend is some kind of maritime festival in Salisbury.

Journey unimpeded by drawbridge.

Coffee of the day Mexican (hints of chocolate -- very tasty -- and yes, despite 95 degrees and climbing temperatures, I drank it hot.). I even had someone in line at the coffee shop ask me how the plovers are doing. The t-shirt with the plover family and "Life's a Beach for the Piping Plover" caption on the back kind of make me conspicuous...

The numbers from Friday's census:
Piping Plover: Adult Pairs: Refuge 4, Sandy Point 2, Total 6; Nests Incubated: Refuge 1, Sandy Point 0, Total 1; Nests Hatched: Refuge 3, Sandy Point 2, Total 5; Chicks <25>: Refuge: 3, Sandy Point 3, Total 6; Chicks => 25 days: Refuge 6, Sandy Point 4, Total 10.
Least Terns: Adult Pairs: ~30; Colonies 2; Chicks 8.

The big news is that the piping plover nest at 0.45 has hatched. There was a prominent notice taped inside the door of the lockbox telling plover wardens to be especially vigilant for chicks from 0.45 getting within 2/10 of a mile of the north boundary. Though I was extra vigilant, I didn't see any chicks or any invisibirds at all. There were so many gulls roosting on the beach between there and the boundary that any plover chick venturing anywhere near would have become breakfast pretty quickly.

We're talking major gull hangout. I stopped counting them because more and more kept arriving and none were leaving for hours. All 4 usual suspects were there: great black back, herring, ring-billed, and Bonaparte's. The Bonaparte's actually arrived late to the party and fed at the water's edge instead of loafing like everybody else. Except for the Bonaparte's everybody was facing into the wind at the best angle for maximum cooling. Nobody was chasing greenheads even though they were plentiful.

And one point during the shift as I was facing the water and talking to someone I saw (using my unusually well developed peripheral vision) someone walking purposefully toward the boundary behind me. A woman walked right up to the boundary and dumped a package of crackers -- Saltines I think -- into the closed area to feed the gulls. Hordes of ringbills rose up from the loafing area and descended onto the crackers. Meanwhile, the woman disappeared into a crowd of people so I didn't get a chance to say anything. Gulls kept joining the feeding frenzy until nary a cracker crumb was visible.

It's bad enough when people don't clean up after themselves and leave food scraps on the beach to attract predators. It's a whole 'nother thing to deliberately dump food on the beach to attract predators. One of the major things all you readers can do to help save the piping plover is to not leave food on the beach, whether it's here on the Atlantic coast beaches or in the piping plover's other nesting areas in the Great Lakes. Please don't feed the gulls. Please clean up after your picnics. It's a small thing to ask and it can make a difference.

Beyond the gull-feeding, the shift was pretty uneventful. Visitors were very cooperative except for one teeange boy. The greenheads were not able to fly into the wind so I only got one bite and a couple of nibbles during lulls. I'm not sure if the wind was from Bertha or Cristobal, who are both out there in the Atlantic making trouble. The waves were getting big. Oh, and I actually did see somebody catch a flounder -- too bad nobody asked me that this week. A group of Chinese guys were all fishing together and when the guy in the middle caught the flounder there were many excited Chinese sentences in which the only word I understood was "flounder". It was just like being at work except with "flounder" replacing something like "SS7" or "H.323".

I stopped off at the Fish Tale for lunch figuring it would be much less crowded nearer to closing time. It was. Also, on the way into the parking lot I noticed a flashing sign I hadn't seen on the way up this morning:


Didn't see any of the above.

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