Saturday, August 7, 2010

changing seasons on the refuge

The first thing I notice on entering the refuge is that Jean's iconic drawing of the hungry man-eating greenhead has been replaced by the iconic tree swallow without health insurance. Why are the swallows worried about health insurance? 'Cause they are so thick in the air and on the road that inattentive drivers might easily hit them. Watch out for swallows swirling in Brownian motion all around you. The photo doesn't do it justice. You have to experience it firsthand. Swallows are the sky, the air, the entire environment. They're not in it, they are it.

For today's entry I thought I'd show you one of the non-beach parts of the refuge, the Pines Trail. While the beach is full of sunbathers, surfers, trespassers, and fisherfolk, and the birders are all at Sandy Point looking for the scissor-tailed flycatcher, the Pines Trail offers:
  • a nice view of the osprey nest platform -- complete with ospreys who haven't left yet
  • great egrets fishing in the marsh
  • a peregrine falcon flying directly over my head
  • pines
  • beach plums
  • bayberries
  • a talented mockingbird who does eastern towhee, black-capped chickadee, American goldfinch, and tree swallow in succession then repeats

A walk all the way around the trail reveals beach plums in various states of ripeness. It seems like the ones on the north and west (or northwest) sides of the trail are riper than the ones to the south and east. The easternmost plum bushes had the least ripe plums. I never noticed that before.

Plum Island gets its name from the beach plum, Prunus maritima, not from the purple sand.

Sometimes people confuse Prunus maritima with Rosa rugosa, the beach rose. Both make great jam. I can sort of see how the plum could look like a rose hip when it's still in the red stage before it turns deep purple.

It really is a whole 'nother season now.


Hilke Breder said...

I was on Plum Island a couple of days ago and you are right, the Tree Swallows almost darkened the sky! I love visiting that area although it's an almost 3 hr drive for me. At Sandy Point I took a pic of a Marbled Godwit. Beyond the bend in the shoreline I could see two birders intent on looking. I am sure they saw the Scissor-tailed FC, but for me it was too far.

A New England Life said...

I would love to see all those swallows! We were just down that way yesterday (Newburyport) but didn't make it out to the refuge. Sure wish we had!!!