Friday, July 3, 2009

bird baths in the road and other anomalies

Coffee of the Day: Kenya AA. Nice deep flavor.
Bird of the Day: unidentified species of plastic penguin.
Invisi-bird Status: no update posted in the box since 6/18. Number actually seen by me: zero.
Strange wrack item of the day: tie between television and roses.

Everything is topsy turvy today: It's Friday and I'm South. Penguins are floating down the Merrimack on an ice floe and there's a television in the wrack. Strange daze indeed.

The south boundary is just north of Lot 7 right now. Despite the outdated note in the lockbox saying that Lot 7 was not open and plover wardens should hoof it from the Sandy Point lot, I ascertained that Lot 7 was indeed open and the reserved plover warden spot was there. And it's not raining, though when I arrived it was very very dark. It lightened later when the sun peeked through the clouds looking blindingly white and strange. After awhile we even got blue sky.

The first thing I saw when I got to the beach was a big old Magnavox television. I walked over and looked at it, shaking my head in bewilderment. Many people who arrived via the Lot 7 boardwalk had the same reaction. I can barely imagine where that washed up from.

There's not much bird activity and not much human activity for most of the morning. Human activity picked up as the tide was going out and I found myself wearing a trail to the water line to intercept people who didn't see the sign. I kept moving my chair closer to the water line but that left a gap behind me, so I just kept walking back and forth. Most of the visitors were nice and cooperative. One family even came over to ask what piping plovers look like, where they nest, etc., so I got to do my schtick. One couple in full hiking gear came barreling towards the boundary and were very surprised when I told them the beach was closed for nesting. They were quite disappointed. I'd been pointing other people looking for a long walk toward Sandy Point and told them about the trail that goes up over Bar Head but these two were not interested. They wanted to know where else they could hike on the beach and all I could suggest was to hike north from Lot 1 -- not exactly a wilderness hike.

Bird activity stayed pretty quiet on the beach. There were a few eastern kingbirds catching flies in the wrack and a couple of Bonaparte's gulls. That was about it except for some very distant sanderlings and cormorants.

Shortly before the end of my shift, I was so frustrated with the lack of rope and signage that I commenced building a Steve Mangione style stick fence. As I walked along the wrack line looking for suitable sticks I started to find white roses in the wrack. I started to wonder if they had been part of some kind of memorial service for the missing boater from the latest north jetty tragedy. I don't know. I suppose there could be lots of reasons people throw cultivated white roses into the sea or the Merrimack. As I'm writing this, I just checked the Daily News again and discovered that there's an update on the story now that the boat has been recovered.

Enough digression about the jetty of death. Back to birds.

The most interesting bird activity of the day was all on the drive back to the Gatehouse from Lot 7. The dirt road is full of puddles. Each puddle seemed to be functioning as a bird bath, with a different species in each puddle: gray catbird, eastern kingbird, brown thrasher, common grackle, American goldfinch, American robin, several species of sparrow. All in the middle of the road. Oh, and suicidal mourning doves too -- although they didn't seem to be bathing, just hanging out in the middle of the road. It was quite a show. Needless to say it took me a long time to get back to the Gatehouse.

On the way back into town, I stopped to photograph the penguins who have been hanging out on an ice floe in the Merrimack. Earlier this morning, the ice floe was visible and they were not so deep in the grass. They kind of remind me of when I visited the Falklands and saw penguins marching across a grassy slope down to the water. Except of course, these rare Merrimack River penguins are made of plastic.

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