Saturday, November 22, 2008

news round up

The folks in Ontario are still talking about their piping plover success this past nesting season. Breeding success two years in a row after an absence of nearly 50 years is pretty darn good news. Sticking with the Great Lakes population, some news from Michigan of the failure of the nests at Aronson Island.

Meanwhile on the Atlantic coast, I got a kick out of this column by Paul Mayer of New Smyrna Beach, Florida on birding, migration, and human snowbirds. I like to think of piping plovers as part of the reason for human migration to Florida in the winter to stimulate the economy. Piping plovers as economic stimulus. Yeah! Oh, and piping plovers are one of the attractions at the Great Wass Island Nature Conservancy Preserve in Maine too. And piping plovers were on the agenda a the Georgia’s Colonial Coast Birding & Nature Festival back in October, too. I'm sensing a definite emergence of the "piping plovers are the cutest things on the planet" meme here. I'm lovin' the idea of the cutest things on the planet as economic stimulus too. Get out your binoculars and scopes and go forth and stimulate the economy!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Autumn in the Dunes

Autumn in the Dunes
Originally uploaded by Captain_Peleg
A couple of times this week I made short birding trips to Plum Island in hope of seeing snow buntings or a snowy owl or one of the other regular winter visitors.

On Sunday, mainly what I saw besides Canada geese was plenty of yellow-rumped warblers and dark-eyed juncos. It was breezy and cold, temperature in the high 40s. An artist was painting en plein air at the North Pool Overlook. I commented that it was far too nice a day to be inside. She smiled and agreed. Later, I thought only in New England is a day this cold "too nice to be indoors".

I've been reading "Walking the Wrack Line" by Barbara Hurd and noticing stuff on the beach even more than usual. On Sunday, the wind had been blowing steadily and most of the wrack was covered in ridges of windblown sand. The sand ridges looked like an illustration on waves from a high school physics text. There was a lobster trap so full of sand it was impossible to lift it. It had plastic soda bottles trapped inside along with some bladder wrack and mussel shells. A bottle trap?

Further up the beach I found a tangle of wire with a pine cone attached to the end. It's wound around some salt marsh straw, fairly neatly coiled. At first I thought it was nylon fishing line shining in the sun but it was aluminum wire. It was probably rolled into that coil before it picked up the straw. Not sure about the pine cone though. It looked like it had been tied on deliberately. OK, who fishes with aluminum wire and what fish take pine cone bait?

The next lobster trap was not buried in sand at all, probably a more recent wash-up, encrusted with barnacles and with mussels who are themselves encrusted with barnacles. Must've been on the bottom awhile. It's not as mangled as some of the wire traps I usually find though. Sometimes after a storm the lobster traps come ashore all twisted and broken and tangled with each other and their lines. When we were at the New Bedford Working Waterfront Festival n September I commented on a manufacturer's display of brand new, modern, high tech, wire lobster traps that "Gee, they don't look like that when they wash up on Plum Island."

The light on the autumn leaves and the rose hips and winterberries and invasive bittersweet was awesome on Sunday when I took this photo.

On Tuesday, after voting and getting a flu shot, my PI trip was a little shorter. The most memorable thing on the beach was hordes and hordes upon hordes of black-bellied plovers. This must be the peak of their migration. I can't remember the last time I saw this many black-bellied plovers. Two sanderlings weaving in and out among them look ridiculously small and hyper compared to the black-bellieds.

The light on Tuesday was softer and hazier making the huge raft of scoters off Emerson Rocks impossible to identify, but I intuited that they were all black scoters. It's a logical guess.

Took not a single picture on Tuesday.

Stayed up late Tuesday night to listen to President-elect Obama's acceptance speech. I am happy to be an American.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Maine had a better year than they thought

Meant to post this last week but very busy with non-bird-related activities.

Maine Audubon is reporting a good year for piping plovers. Maine Audubon is reporting a bittersweet year for piping plovers. Same numbers. Different headlines. It's the age old problem of number of nesting pairs versus number of chicks fledged. The press often fixates on the number of nesting pairs. The number that counts is chicks fledged. Anyway, Maine had more chicks fledged than they anticipated and that is very good news.

The news from the Great Lakes piping plover population is good too.

That's all for now. Must go birding while I have the chance.