Saturday, May 23, AM shift
Coffee of the Day: Bolivian. Piping hot. Nice.
Invisi-bird Status: 9 pairs, 6 nests on refuge. Possible 6 nests at Sandy Point (not sure on that). Number actually seen by me: 2.
Coast Guard Asset Sightings: 1 boat -- a long range interceptor I think.
Bird of the Day: tie between common grackle and dunlin.
The tide is coming in. It's cold. Fishermen are landing big stripers. The beach is covered with flying ants. Dozens of common grackles are vigorously pursuing the flying ants. There's often one or two common grackles on the beach but this is the first time I've seen such numbers. They are really chowing down on those ants.
Stripers are biting like crazy, many of them keepers. A woman who already has a 28 inch striper in her cooler reels in a 30 inch one. Another guy lands a keeper. More fisherpeople arrive. And whatever bait fish the stripers are chasing are now also attracting least terns. Two groups of 4 leasties each are fishing up a storm. These are the first least terns I've seen here this year. I hope we have a least tern colony this year. Proximity to nesting least terns actually increases the piping plovers' chances of successful nesting.
The least terns don't seem interested in the flying ants, but one of the grackles is interesed in the bait fish. I've seen purple martins catch fish before but this is the first time I've seen a common grackle with a fish. You see something new every day. Boy are there a lot of grackles.
A huge mixed flock of shorebirds has assembled on the beach just to the south. Dunlin, black-bellied plovers, semipalmated plovers, sanderlings, semipalmated sandpipers, ruddy turnstones, and other shorebirds too far away to identify are all hanging out together. Two piping plovers are foraging between the wrack line and the water. It looks like they're sharing in the flying ant bounty too. Dozens of dunlin are doing the sewing machine type motion picking things out of the wet sand. I don't know if they're getting in on the flying ant fiesta.
Out on the water, a lobster boat has been sitting there at anchor for sometime but nobody seems to be raising or lowering traps or anything. A Coast Guard asset, one of those low orange interceptor boats, checks it out and leaves. It must be OK.
I was expecting a jam packed holiday weekend beach crowd. It's so cold that there haven't been very many visitors. The most interesting question I got was whether we have sea turtles nesting here. Nope. If they showed up here, they'd be really lost. I still can't wrap my mind around how cold it is when yesterday was a summer scorcher.
Unit 3 stops by with a new volunteer. They say they heard there were a lot of flying ants but they don't see any. I tell them mass quantities of grackles have been eating them. Very efficient grackles I guess.
Later when I go to Plum Crazy for lunch -- I'm hooked on their veggie burgers -- I notice I've got a couple of flying ants in my camera case.