Saturday, April 4, 2009


Originally uploaded by Captain_Peleg
A fierce west wind, flying coffee cups, trespassers, dogs, and everything but the kitchen sink - except birds - marked my first plover warden shift of the season today. Ah, spring on Plum Island.

Coffee of the day is Papua New Guinea. Not that I tasted all that much of it. First mistake: I set the coffee cup down on top of the car while I got my beach chair out of the trunk. A gust of wind sent the coffee cup flying across parking lot 1 dripping a trail of Papua New Guinea. The same wind blew my hat off. That flew even further than the coffee. I picked up the cup and discovered there was still some coffee in it. So far so good. The hat was getting away from me. I ran after it and caught up with it without losing more coffee.

On the beach everything but birds is flying around: oak leaves, trash, a balloon, a whiffle ball, my hat. Ack, my hat. I catch the hat, set up my chair, put the coffee cup with its remaining coffee in the cupholder, take a couple of sips, and survey my surroundings. A pair of great black backs are riding the wind. Black plastic letters from a sign are skimming across the sand. What the?

I get up to pick up the flying things. The wind picks up big time. My chair flies across the sand and launches the coffee cup seaward/. It lands upside down in the sand. All remaining coffee seeps into the sand. Wind blows sand into the cup. So much for delicious dark roast this morning.

A couple of guys taking a walk on the beach ask me where the beach closure starts and whether I am there to guard it. Right here. Yes. One of them announces "I'm just going to walk over there and turn around just so I can say I was in there." Both of them proceed to walk right in front of me and into the closed area. They stop, turn around, and laugh. When they come back they ask again why I'm here. I tell them I am here to talk to people about piping plovers and the beach closure and to protect the plovers. I offer to answer any questions they have about the plovers. "Are they extinct?" "Extinct? No, I wouldn't be here protecting them if they were extinct." Endangered, federally threatened, but not extinct.

The rest of the day's visitors are more sane, cooperative, and interested. When Unit 3 and Gatehouse came with the pickup truck to fetch the wind-damaged sign, Some visitors who saw Gatehouse letting air out of the truck tires wanted to know if it was stuck. Not yet. Another challenging question for the day. An ornithology class on a field trip from UNH wasn't having much luck finding birds. With this wind, everything is hunkered down. A group of surfers paddled around on their boards off the town beach. They didn't seem to be catching any waves.

By the time my relief arrived, I was jonesing for coffee. As I was handing off to him, two women with dogs boldly entered the refuge and came walking toward us. No dogs on the refuge. Period. I wave my arms and yell: "No dogs!" I wave the radio and yell "No dogs!" as I start toward them. Eventually they realize I mean it and they turn back.

Yup, first shift of the season yields spilled coffee, first nut jobs of the season, first dogs of the season, and no invisi-birds.

I went back to Plum Island Coffee Roasters and got a second cup of Papua New Guinea. It tasted good.


kate said...

thanks for following the NEAq shorebird blog! I have more leeway if I follow you not with my NEAq account but with my private account. But I'll add this to both my blog rolls!

Have fun as a plover warden this season! Someday I hope to be able to volunteer up there, I volunteer now and again at Crane's but I have a very little one so it may be a few years until I can join you guys....

birdsonthebrain said...

I just came across your blog, not sure why it's taken me so long! I'm full of questions for you, but I'll start by asking you what you went to school for and how you became a Plover Warden?

love your blog, now I can read it and pretend I'm at Plum Island on the days when I'm stuck here at home!