Saturday, June 27, 2009

some fog in coastal areas

Coffee of the Day: Kenya AA. Very rich and smooth.
Bird of the Day: piping plover.
Invisi-bird Status: No update since last week. Number actually seen by me: 1. But I think I heard 2 (on the other hand, maybe bird #1 was ventriloquizing).

It was bright and sunny at my house this morning. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. I was puzzled by the forecast on the radio predicting pop-up showers and some fog in coastal areas. It was not until I got to Amesbury that I saw clouds. By Salisbury (the next town) I could see I was headed into a dark gray wall of clouds. As I crossed the Merrimack River on the drawbridge into Newburyport, I could barely see the boats in the harbor. On the beach I could barely see the fishermen at the water line from the boardwalk. Yup, we're having some fog.

Three willets flew over calling pill-will-willet as a I got out of the car. As I walked down the boardwalk to the beach I heard willets, purple martins, song sparrows, yellow warblers, least terns, wait a sec, they're all coming from the same bush. Least terns definitely do not hang out in bushes. Sure enough, there's a brown thrasher doing a marathon impression of just about every bird on the refuge.

The first bird I saw on the beach was one of my invisi-birds. A piping plover flew over my head and landed at the water line where it did its best impression of an insane windup toy turning in every direction. Whatever it was eating, there was plenty of it all over the place. I heard another peep-lo call that sounded like it was coming from just above the wrack line but I never saw the other bird. Eventually, my plover companion flew back to somewhere between the wrack line and the dune and quieted down. The wind had picked up something fierce and the fog was closing in.

There were a fair number of visitors despite the fog. The most common question was "when is the sun going to come out". Man, I wish I knew. The fog played tag with us -- starting to recede, then closing in with a vengeance. One guy said the last time he'd been on the island was 50 years ago. It's a lot different now. Then again, it's different from last week. The beach changes every day. Somebody asked about the whale remains that were uncovered a couple of summers ago. "Under the sand beneath your feet," I replied. Then I got to give my barrier island circulation of sand speech in addition to my piping plover life cycle speech.

One guy came striding down the beach from the north showing no signs of turning back at the boundary. I intercepted him and tried the "are there any questions I can answer for you?" approach first. No response. I switched to the "The beach is closed from here south." He stares thru me and asks "Why?". "Nesting piping plovers. They're endangered and they nest right on the beach." Fortunately, he headed back north. Strange encounter.

The radio functioned just fine for the whole shift and I handed it off to my relief. It's nice when the radios are fully charged.

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