Saturday, May 29, 2010

least terns!

view to the south

Coffee of the Day: Sumatra
Bird of the Day: least tern
Weird Wrack Item of the Day: hmm, nothing unusual - come to think of it the lack of anything unusual is, well, unusual
Coast Guard Assets Sighted: none but Unit 61 gave me a detailed description of a drift buoy that the Coast Guard deployed in the search for the missing woman
Invisi-Bird Status: Refuge beach: 5 pairs, 18 eggs! Sandy Point: 2 pairs. Number actually seen by me: zero.

I was prepared to be way busy today. After all, it's Memorial Day weekend and a gorgeous day. However, after an initial surge of visitor action at the beginning of my shift things were pretty quiet. I did have to intercept one jogger who was oblivious to the boundary. It continues to amaze me how the iPod renders people unable to read.

spectacular sky

Least terns are back and they are showing every sign of setting up housekeeping near the .2 mile marker. When I first arrived I noticed one least tern diving for fish and constantly returning to the same spot at the base of the dune. As the morning wore on I noticed a few more least terns all gravitating to that spot. They'd fly out over the water, dive, catch fish, and return with fish in beak to the area between .1 and .2. I got very excited. This could mean nesting. They were hanging out close to a spot where there has sometimes been a least tern colony in the past. The least tern action continued all morning.

Offshore there was a bird extravaganza in progress: northern gannets, great black backs, herring gulls, double crested cormorants, least terns, common terns, and even a greater shearwater were all fishing like crazy in one spot. This attracted some human fishermen too. I was hoping to see storm petrels and maybe some other types of shearwaters but couldn't identify any in the frenzy. It struck me as hilariously funny to watch a least tern dive into the water just a few feet away from a northern gannet, the size difference is so great. I couldn't tell how the human anglers on the two boats anchored nearby were doing, but the surfcasters on shore were having excellent luck. In my first two hours I saw people land 5 striped bass. All big. All keepers.

Unit 61 came by on his way to search the refuge beach for the body of the woman who got swept away at the mouth of the Merrimack earlier in the week. He told me about recovering the device that the Coast Guard deployed so they could see where the buoy drifted to and get an idea of where the current may have taken her. He described it in detail and drew a picture in the sand. Pretty high tech. We had great conversation about fish (stripers and flounder) and I told him about the least terns. I did not envy his assignment to look for the body.

volunteers putting in the buoys to mark the north boundary

Unit 9 (who used to be 3) came by to give me the latest update on the invisi-birds from the field. Great news: 5 pairs, 18 eggs. They re-nested after the immense high tide the previous week. Yay! Two pairs at Sandy Point too - not sure whether they have eggs. I told her about the least terns too. I put it in my report, but I wanted to make sure as many refuge staff as possible knew about the exciting least tern action as soon as possible in case they start laying eggs soon.

A couple of volunteers came by to put in the buoys to mark the boundary. I'd been wondering if we were going to have those this year. By the time they got there it was almost high tide so they didn't get to run them all the way to the low tide line. I still fantasize about some kind of retractable line that could be deployed at low tide. Maybe I can design a beach going robot to move signs back and forth... or maybe I could design a robot plover warden, after all we're just talking signs (well, talking signs who can chase people and dogs).

I told them about the least terns too. And, of course, we talked about the three deaths in the Merrimack in one week: the young woman who was swept away from the sandbar, the guy who fell in at Cove Marina (apparently he had a heart attack), and the teenage boy who drowned in Lawrence. I hope they find that young woman's body. The Merrimack can take months to give up its dead.

dune (with eastern kingbird perched on mile marker)

OK, I need a cleansing paragraph after all that. How about some eastern kingbird behavior?

Besides sea and shorebirds, the beach attracts a lot of swallows and flycatcher type birds 'cause there are a lot of flying insects. Over the past 3 years I've noticed that eastern kingbirds especially like the area around the .1 mile marker as opposed to anywhere else along the beach near parking lot 1. There are often 2 or more of them there. Last year when there was a piping plover nest near there, I noticed the kingbirds always came back after the plovers chased them away. Today I watched two of them hunt: one from a perch on the mile marker and one from a perch on the area closed sign. They didn't fly around hawking bugs, they waited for them to pass nearby. They'd fly off the perch, do some kind of mid-air flycatching maneuver and then land on the perch again. I'd never really seen them do that before. There's so much more to learn about even very common birds.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

catching up


Coffee of the Day: French Roast Colombian
Bird of the Day: common tern
Weird Wrack Item of the Day: bait covered in flies but ignored by gulls
Coast Guard Asset Sightings: none
Refuge Biological Staff Sightings: 1, the new field tech
Invisi-Bird Status: 2 nests remaining after Wednesday's high tide. Plenty of time to re-nest. Number actually seen by me: zero.

Tweet on my way home sums up the action: "Cold on the beach. Did not see any piping plovers. Saw a guy catch a teeny striper and a teeny flounder. Over and out."

To Providence. Performance by Grupo Folklorico Nove Ilhas and concert by the Holy Rosary Band Society.


Morning: Ate malasadas and saw Holy Rosary Band Society in Holy Ghost procession. Can never get enough of the Holy Rosary Band.

Evening: Holy Rosary Band Society in concert. Performance by folkloric group from Cranston. Ate Portuguese sweet bread.

Visit to the common tern colony at Bold Point, the colony formerly known as the Providence barge colony. Saw at least 9 individuals, possibly more as it's hard to pick them out when they're hunkered down on the rotting wood structure formerly known as the barge. Witnessed many terns feeding their mates small fish.

Have always wanted to write about this urban tern colony. Nature is not something far away in the wilderness, it's right here under our noses. Someday I will write a series of essays on that topic, but don't hold your breath.


Pilgrimage to Worcester to see the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace. It's in a tiny parking lot next to a tiny Vietnamese temple across the street from Honey Dew Donuts and a car dealer. Yet all that urban bustle drops away the instant you see this magnificent statue. Big crowds, including a school group.

My car got parked in so instead of meeting the Hermit Potter at his studio, I called him to pick me up. We tried a new (to us anyway) coffee shop, Acoustic Java, near the Clark campus. Good cappuccino. Good conversation. Moment of anxiety when his power steering quit in the midst of a u-turn, but we survived.

Visited the Hermit Potter's studio and observed works in progress.

Decided the only possible cuisine choice of the day was Vietnamese. Enjoyed noodles with vegetables and tofu and a jackfruit shake.


Too tired to do anything. Read lots and lots about insect migration.


Back door lock jammed. Entered through rarely used front door. Removed lock from back door. Drove to Ace HW, bought new lock, installed same. All in less than 15 minutes. Now for a relaxing afternoon break. Clearly I have much better lock chops than the vegans at Life Alive (those who saw my series of tweets re Life Alive staff locking themselves out of the office will appreciate it.)

Think I''ll go have my afternoon coffee now.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Google transcends space and time

There is a rift in the space-time continuum around Plum Island!

As is my custom, I searched for Plum Island on Google news this afternoon just to check for anything new. I scanned the results to weed out the New York Plum Island (the one with the scary lab) and almost passed over three hits on the NY Breaking News blog. Then I noticed what they were. These were the hits:

Obsessed Fishing Charters, Merrimack, Plum Island, Massachusetts, Striped Bass ...

NY Breaking News (blog) - ‎1 hour ago‎
Obsessed Fishing Charters 9 Marquand Lane Newburyport, MA 01950 (978) 462-0984 Our daily fishing trips depart from Captains Fishing parties Dock, ...

FSAddon Plum Island

NY Breaking News (blog) - ‎1 hour ago‎ http Plum Islands small airfield (2B2) is situated near Newburyport, some 27 miles north of Boston along the Atlantic coast. ...

Plum Island Shipwreck

NY Breaking News (blog) - ‎3 hours ago‎
December 14, 2002. Drenched is the best description for me after this video. And, a ruined waterlogged camera that will only work for a little longer and ...

OK, I don't know when the charter boat ad was placed, but I do know that the flight simulator add-on for 2B2 was released a couple of years ago, not a mere hour ago. I vividly remember the shipwreck involving the barge bringing the crane to work on the bridge -- in 2002! December of 2002 was only 3 hours ago?!?!? Yikes!

Why a barge aground in Massachusetts in 2002 is breaking news in New York in 2010 is only explainable by Google's ability to manipulate both time and space. Google has evidently given this little corner of Massachusetts to New York and begun to replay the last 8 years in fast forward.

Welcome to the machine.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

some pix from yesterday

Rosa Rugosa
American Goldfinch
View from the road (with brown thrasher)

North Pool
Song Sparrows at North Pool Overlook
Snowy Egret at Salt Pannes

Saturday, May 15, 2010

peeps in the wind

Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Yrgacheffe (however you spell that)
Bird of the Day: black-bellied plover
Weird Wrack Item of the Day: glove on a stick -- sans thumb
Coast Guard Assets Sighted: none
Invisi-bird Status: On the refuge: 3 pairs with nest, 2 pairs still doing test scrapes, 1 singleton lookin' for love in all the wrong places. At Sandy Point: 1 pair that had a nest but now doesn't -- just scrapes.

It was so windy today that every time I got up my chair blew over. Fortunately I remained resolutely seated with coffee cup securely in hand until every drop of Ethiopian Yrgacheffe was consumed. The other hand was on my hat most of the time. See that picture above? That's not fog, heat haze, or camera shake obscuring those black-bellied plovers and dunlins. Nope. It's windblown sand.

I let go of my hat to hold the camera steady for that shot. You know what happened next, don' t you?

I eventually zipped the hat, the coffee cup, and anything else that might become airborne into the back pack.

I talked to a grand total of 2 visitors, grew a sand dune in my left ear, watched a guy catch two stripers while his companion caught none, and saw my first two common terns of the season. As always, there was one seagoing purple martin. Seriously, what do they find to eat skimming over the ocean? Seagoing insects?

I treated myself to lemon-orange pancakes at Mad Martha's before heading home to remove the sand from my ear, clothing, and equipment.

Friday, May 14, 2010

attractive mill pond

"Attractive" Mill Pond
The web site for the East Mill in North Andover advertises "spectacular brick & beam space set around an attractive mill pond. " I don't know how attractive the pond is to humans, what with all the wrecked office furniture in it since the flood, but it sure is attractive to birds and turtles. I birded there for awhile yesterday. The usual suspects, Canada geese, American robins, European starlings, and common grackles were all over the place.
Canada Goose

Last Saturday when Nancy and I went there for pizza at Stachey's, there were two families of Canada Geese with goslings. Yesterday, no goslings were in evidence. There was, however, a domestic goose hanging out with the crowd.

Domestic Goose

Turtles were sunning themselves on every available surface, logs, rocks, old tires. Barn swallows, tree swallows, and a couple of northern rough-winged swallows swooped over the pond catching flies. I heard a killdeer somewhere in the distance but didn't see it. A flock of 4 solitary sandpipers landed on the mud near the old tire full of turtles. That was the surprise bird of the day.
Solitary Sandpipers with Turtles on Tire

The tire was very attractive to turtles. Every time I looked at it, there were more of them. At one point there were 6 turtles perched on the tire and at least one swimming next to it. The solitary sandpipers were very active, moving from mud to water back to mud. While on the wooded side of the pond trying to photograph the sandpipers, I heard a yellow warbler but did not see it. And I never did find the killdeer I kept hearing. I think it was actually across the pond near the parking lot.

Turtles on Tire

Solitary Sandpiper

I'm not used to the new camera yet, so the exposures are a little off. The shadows on those sandpipers make them look darker than they appeared in real life.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More Great Literature of the Merrimack Valley: Whittier part 1

Long time readers may remember that I am very fond of the works of John Greenleaf Whittier (see "a winter idyll" for one of my reflections on Snowbound). One of the things I've gleaned from reading a lot of 19th century stuff is that once upon a time the Merrimack Valley was a place strongly connected to the larger world both in terms of the locals' involvement in the action and passion of their times and in the prominent visitors who came here. Plus there was and possibly still is, some kind of spiritual pull here. One of my favorite lines from Whittier is:

The heavens are glassed in Merrimack, --
What more could Jordan render back?
-- from Chapel of the Hermits
I even thought of creating a blog called "Glassed in Merrimack" or "Mirrored in Merrimack" but decided the reference was too obscure. So, anyway, the wonderful Harriett Spofford poem I posted last week got me back into thinking about all those great connections. The following passage from John G. Whittier, the poet of freedom by William Sloane Kennedy, published in 1892, really puts Whittier in the context of the Merrimack:

Past Haverhill winds the placid Merrimack, now made classic by the genius of Whittier. Born amid the snows and springs of the White Mountains ; taking tribute of many crystal streams as it flows south; its mountain brawling hushed by a plunge through the deeps of beautiful Winnepesaukee; sliding through the grassy meadows of Concord studded with elms ; fretting and chafing among the rapids of Suncook and Hookset; turning successively the wheels of the huge mills of Manchester, Nashua, Lowell, and Lawrence ; passing by Haverhill, Newbury, Amesbury, the mouth of the winding and narrow Powow, the silver Quasycung, and the bough-hung Artichoke, and at its mouth separating the towns of Newburyport and Salisbury,—it finally falls into the sea at Ipswich Bay.

It is about seventeen miles from Haverhill, down the river, to Newburyport; and about half way down lies Amesbury, at the junction of the Powow with the main stream. Amesbury was the home of Whittier for twenty-five years ; and he still owns his house there, and keeps in it a study, with a few books and pictures and an open fire, as a place of retreat, and for the sake of many precious memories. A horse-railroad connects Amesbury with Newburyport, the birthplace of William Lloyd Garrison. As you go down, you look across at the wide and far-reaching salt meadows of Hampton, emerald green in summer, and purple and brown in autumn. About half way from Amesbury to the sea, your horse-car trundles across Deer Island,—wild, rugged, and picturesque, its huge one-handed pines gripping the weather-stained granite with knotty fingers, their branches the resting-place of hawks and crows, eagles and herons. The only house on the island is the home of Whittier's friend, Harriet Prescott Spofford. Off the mouth of the river, Plum Island lies " like a whale aground." Off to the northeast are discernible the Isles of Shoals, whose fair Calypso (Celia Thaxter) is said to have been introduced to the world of letters by Whittier. On the rocks of Appledore he has often sat, of an evening, to watch the goldlamps kindled in the lighthouses of Portsmouth and White Island. Indeed, this whole sea-region—Hampton beaches, Rivermouth Rocks, Plum Island, the Isles of Shoals—has been sung by Whittier in his classic ballads.

The Quasycung referred to above and also in the Harriet Spofford poem is the Parker River. Deer Island is still sort of picturesque, though not wild and rugged, and is a great place to watch bald eagles in the winter. They congregate there by the Chain Bridge. Harriet Spofford's house is still there. However, to my knowledge there's no historic signage identifying it as such.

Loads of these landmarks are featured in Whittier's poems, most especially Plum Island in The Prophecy of Samuel Sewall.


I came across this description of Plum Island while searching Google Books for public domain literature about the island.

"But perhaps one of the most recreative in every sense of the word—of the hundreds of gems which geographers have styled islands and which dot the waters of New England's seaboard, is Plum Island. This island is connected with the mainland at Newburyport. so that in reality it is not an island at all, simply a peninsula. The atmosphere is particularly healthful, cool and invigorating, and is guaranteed to soothe the weary and send to slumber the nervous and careworn. Two hotels care for the guests, besides numerous cottages, and it is reached by ferry from Black Rock and electric cars from Newburyport. The electric car line circles the island."

-- The Summer Vacation: Descriptive of the Shore Resorts of New England,
New England Magazine,
March 1906

I love the use of the word "recreative" the adjectival form of recreate. It packs so much into one word. The 1913 Webster's dictionary defines it as:
"Tending to recreate or refresh; recreating; giving new vigor or animation; reinvigorating; giving relief after labor or pain; amusing; diverting."
It is indeed all of those things.

Another interesting thing is that the writer considers it a peninsula connected to the mainland at Newburyport. As far as I know the northern tip of Plum Island (the Newburyport part) was not connected to the mainland. Nowadays the island is connected to the mainland by a bridge, built, as near as I can tell, in 1973. However, according to state and local records a bridge was built over the Plum Island River in 1807 in Newbury. See the History of Plum Island on the Newbury 375th web site. A good 45 minutes of research failed to reveal what happened to the bridge between 1807 and 1973, but I'm pretty sure the bridge was in the same place as it is now when I went there in the 1950s.

The electric trolleys referred to accessed the island from the Plum Island Turnpike over the bridge. MVRTA buses have replaced the trolleys and there is currently no ferry.

If there was another connection to the mainland on the Newburyport end, it will take me a little more research to find it. I guess a 1906 map would help.

As for the hotels, there is currently only one hotel on the island. The hotel was "discovered" by Travel & Leisure magazine last year.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Unlike May weather, May fishing always fantastic » Sports », Gloucester, MA

Unlike May weather, May fishing always fantastic » Sports », Gloucester, MA

Posted using ShareThis

More Great Literature of the Merrimack Valley: Whittier part 2: The Prophecy of Samuel Sewall

Samuel Sewall was one of the judges involved in the Salem Witch Trials, for which he later apologized. He was also an early abolitionist. The prophecy that Whittier refers to is Sewall's Phaenomena quaedam Apocalyptica ad aspectum Novi Orbis configurata. Or, some few lines towards a description of the New Heaven (1697), which has an extremely lyrical section about Plum Island that makes it seem like that's the new paradise.


John Greenleaf Whittier

Up and down the village streets
Strange are the forms my fancy meets,
For the thoughts and things of to-day are hid,
And through the veil of a closed lid
The ancient worthies I see again:
I hear the tap of the elder's cane,
And his awful periwig I see,
And the silver buckles of shoe and knee.
Stately and slow, with thoughtful air,
His black cap hiding his whitened hair,
Walks the Judge of the great Assize,
Samuel Sewall the good and wise.

His face with lines of firmness wrought,
He wears the look of a man unbought,
Who swears to his hurt and changes not;
Yet, touched and softened nevertheless
With the grace of Christian gentleness,
The face that a child would climb to kiss !
True and tender and brave and just,
That man might honor and woman trust.

* * *

I see, far southward, this quiet day,
The hills of Newbury rolling away,
With the many tints of the season gay,
Dreamily blending in autumn mist
Crimson and gold and amethyst.
Long and low, with dwarf trees crowned,
Plum Island lies, like a whale aground,
A stone's toss over the narrow sound.
Inland, as far as the eye can go,
The hills curve round like a bended bow;
A silver arrow from out them sprung,
I see the shine of the Quasycung;
And, round and round, over valley and hill,
Old roads winding, as old roads will,
Here to a ferry, and there to a mill;
And glimpses of chimneys and gabled eaves,
Through green elm arches and maple leaves,
Old homesteads sacred to all that can
Gladden or sadden the heart of man,
Over whose thresholds of oak and stone
Life and Death have come and gone !
There pictured tiles in the fireplace show,

Great beams sag from the ceiling low,
The dresser glitters with polished wares,
The long clock ticks on the foot-worn stairs,
And the low, broad chimney shows the crack
By the earthquake made a century back.
Up from their midst springs the village spire
With the crest of its cock in the sun afire;
Beyond are orchards and planting lands,
And great salt marshes and glimmering sands,
And, where north and south the coast-lines run,
The blink of the sea in breeze and sun !

I see it all like a chart unrolled,
But my thoughts are full of the past and old;
I hear the tales of my boyhood told,
And the shadows and shapes of early days
Flit dimly by in the veiling haze,
With measured movement and rhythmic chime
Weaving like shuttles my web of rhyme.
I think of the old man wise and good
Who once on yon misty hillsides stood,
(A poet who never measured rhyme,
A seer unknown to his dull-eared time,)
And, propped on his staff of age, looked down,
With his boyhood's love, on his native town,
Where, written, as if on its hills and plains,
His burden of prophecy yet remains,
For the voices of wood and wave and wind
To read in the ear of the musing mind: —

"As long as Plum Island, to guard the coast
As God appointed, shall keep its post;
As long as a salmon shall haunt the deep
Of Merrimac River, or sturgeon leap;
As long as pickerel swift and slim,
Or red-backed perch, in Crane Pond swim;
As long as the annual sea-fowl know
Their time to come and their time to go;
As long as cattle shall roam at will
The green, grass meadows by Turkey Hill;
As long as sheep shall look from the side
Of Oldtown Hill on marishes wide,
And Parker River, and salt-sea tide;
As long as a wandering pigeon shall search
The fields below from his white-oak perch,
When the barley-harvest is ripe an'd shorn,
And the dry husks fall from the standing corn;
As long as Nature shall not grow old,
Nor drop her work from her doting hold,
And her care for the Indian corn forget,
And the yellow rows in pairs to set; —

So long shall Christians here be born,
Grow up and ripen as God's sweet corn ! —
By the beak of bird, by the breath of frost,
Shall never a holy ear be lost,
But, husked by Death in the Planter's sight,
Be sown again in the fields of light!"
The Island still is purple with plums,
Up the river the salmon comes,
The sturgeon leaps, and the wild-fowl feeds
On hillside berries and marish seeds, —
All the beautiful signs remain,
From spring-time sowing to autumn rain

The good man's vision returns again!
And let us hope, as well we can,
That the Silent Angel who garners man
May find some grain as of old he found
In the human cornfield ripe and sound,
And the Lord of the Harvest deign to own
The precious seed by the fathers sown!

Inside Plum Island, a poem by Harriet Prescott Spofford


Harriet Prescott Spofford

We floated in the idle breeze,
With all our sails a-shiver;
The shining tide came softly through,
And filled Plum Island River.

The shining tide stole softly up
Across the wide green splendor,
Creek swelling creek till all in one
The marshes made surrender.

And clear the flood of silver swung
Between the brimming edges,
And now the depths were dark, and now
The boat slid o'er the sedges.

And here a yellow sand-spit foamed
Amid the great sea meadows,
And here the slumberous waters gloomed
Lucid in emerald shadows.

While, in their friendly multitude
Encamped along our quarter,
The host of hay-cocks seemed to float
With doubles in the water.

Around the sunny distance rose
A blue and hazy highland,
And winding down our winding way
The sand-hills of Plum Island,

The windy dunes that hid the sea
For many a dreary acre,
And muffled all its thundering fall
Along the wild South Breaker.

We crept by Oldtown's marshy mouth,
By reedy Rowley drifted,
But far away the Ipswich bar
Its white caps tossed and shifted.

Sometimes we heard a bittern boom,
Sometimes a piping plover,
Sometimes there came the lonesome cry
Of white gulls flying over.

Sometimes, a sudden fount of light,
A sturgeon splashed, and fleeting
Behind the sheltering thatch we heard
Oars in the rowlocks beating.

But all the rest was silence, save
The rippling in the rushes,
The gentle gale that struck the sail
In fitful swells and gushes.

Silence and summer and the sun,
Waking a wizard legion,
Wove as we went their ancient spells
In this enchanted region.

No spectral care could part the veil
Of mist and sunbeams shredded,
That everywhere behind us closed
The labyrinth we threaded.

Beneath our keel the great sky arched
Its liquid light and azure;
We swung between two heavens, ensphered,
Within their charmed embrasure.

Deep in that watery firmament,
With flickering lustres splendid,
Poised in his perfect flight, we saw
The painted hawk suspended,

And there, the while the boat-side leaned,
With youth and laughter laden,
We saw the red fin of the perch,
We saw the swift manhaden.

Outside, the hollow sea might cry,
The wailing wind give warning;
No whisper saddened us, shut in
With sunshine and the morning.

Oh, far, far off the weary world
With all its tumult waited,
Forever here with drooping sails
Would we have hung belated!

Yet, when the flaw came ruffling down,
And round us curled and sallied,
We skimmed with bubbles on our track,
As glad as when we dallied.

Broadly the bare brown Hundreds rose,
The herds their hollows keeping,
And clouds of wings about her mast
From Swallowbanks were sweeping.

While evermore the Bluff before
Grew greenly on our vision,
Lifting beneath its waving boughs
Its grassy slopes Elysian.

There, all day long, the summer sea
Creams murmuring up the shingle;
There, all day long, the airs of earth
With airs of heaven mingle.

Bulging we went our happy way,
Singing old songs, nor noted
Another voice that with us sang,
As wing and wing we floated.

Till hushed, we listened, while the air
With music still was beating,
Voice answering tuneful voice, again
The words we sang repeating.

A flight of fluting echoes, sent
With elfin carol o'er us, —
More sweet than bird-song in the prime
Bang out the sea-blown chorus.

Behind those dunes the storms had heaped
In all fantastic fashion,
Who syllabled our songs in strains
Remote from human passion?

What tones were those that caught our own,
Filtered through light and distance,
And tossed them gayly to and fro
With such a sweet insistence ?

What shoal of sea-sprites, to the sun
Along the margin flocking,
Dripping with salt dews from the deeps,
Made this melodious mocking?

We laughed, — a hundred voices rose
In airiest, fairiest laughter;
We sang, — a hundred voices quired
And sang the whole song after.

One standing eager in the prow
Blew out his bugle cheerly,
And far and wide their horns replied
More silverly and clearly.

And falling down the falling tide,
Slow and more slowly going,
Flown far, flown far, flown faint and fine,
We heard their horns still blowing.

Then, with the last delicious note
To other skies alluring,
Down ran the sails; beneath the Bluff
The boat lay at her mooring.

Wikipedia entry for Harriet Prescott Spofford

Sunday, May 9, 2010

rainy Saturday

Coffee of the Day: Sumatra
Bird of the Day: snowy egret (maybe we should call it rainy egret)
Weird Wrack Item of the Day: nothing in particular
Coast Guard Assets Sighted: none
Invisi-bird Status: no new information. I asked Big Steve at the Gatehouse if he had any new info but he only knew about the rumored ones at Sandy Point -- my pair near the .1 mile marker were news to him.

On Saturday thunderstorms and other exciting weather forms did a good job of keeping people, including scheduled plover wardens, off the beach. Nevertheless, when, from my perch at the counter of The Fish Tale, I saw clearing to the east (briefly) I headed out to the island. As referenced above, I chatted with Steve for a bit, then went off to see what birds I could see without getting too wet. I'm told there were a lot of warbler species along the Hellcat trail but the heavens opened up when I got there so I skipped warblers and went for drive-by species. Of which there were way more snowy egrets and song sparrows than any of my recent visits.

The rain made it hard to get good egret pictures but conversely made it much easier to get good bluet pictures. The bluets look so much more blue in the rain.

Non-sequitur regarding the conversations at The Fish Tale: I was disappointed that nobody was talking about the early arrival of the stripers. The major topic of conversation among the breakfast crowd was the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

eastern kingbirds, dark eyed junco, egret roost, penguin

First of Year Eastern Kingbird

I hung out at the refuge for several hours yesterday afternoon/evening. I wasn't really birding, just sort of being there. Eastern kingbirds were all over the place. It seemed like there was at least one every 100 yards along the unpaved part of the road.

My most unusual sighting of the day was a dark-eyed junco hanging around parking lot 5. It was very friendly. I walked up the boardwalk to the platform overlooking the ocean and sat there for hours watching long-tailed ducks, black scoters, surf scoters, and a common loon diving. The junco was at the bottom of the boardwalk when I went back to the car. Again it was remarkably unafraid of me. Why hasn't it migrated with the rest of its kind?

At the Salt Pannes

Also ubiquitous and very loud were the greater yellowlegs. Several greater and two lesser yellowlegs were very active around the salt pannes. All were constantly calling; they even drowned out the sound of the few willets.

I passed the Salisbury egret roost on the way home and caught glimpses of 24 great egrets and 2 snowy egrets through the Phragmites, which were at least a foot taller than I am, I've heard there's a way to access the spot without trespassing on the carnival ride storage place, but I've never gotten the exact location of said spot. So, lacking 7 -league boots, I took the best shot I could from the road with my hand held camera.

A Glimpse of Great Egrets through the Phragmites.

Gratuitous Penguin (on one of the carnival rides)

Monday, May 3, 2010

some pictures of Sandy Point

Close up of some nicely arranged rocks at Sandy Point
Belated entry for Friday:
Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Harrar
Bird of the Day: Sharp-shinned hawk
Weird Wrack Item of the Day: identifiable slimy squishy thing
Coast Guard Assets: none spotted
Invisi-Bird Status: Hmm, sighted both refuge biological staff and state park people out there looking for nests.

I spent a long afternoon hanging out on the refuge just taking in the scene. I couldn't look up without seeing a sharp-shinned hawk. At one point, I got out of my car at the Pines Trail and a sharpie flew right over my head -- naked eye id distance for sure. Later on I found out the hawk watch people at Lot 1 observed a major movement of sharpies that day.

It's always interesting to see how much of the stuff that washes down the Merrimack after a flood gets into the longshore current and ends up on Sandy Point. I took way more pictures of wooden beams with rusty hardware sticking out of them than I'm posting here. Beams with hardware are one thing, but logs with hardware? Whatever those things are sticking out of this log, they make it look a pig.

Log looking like a pig
Quite a hunk of driftwood!

I think this is part of a boardwalk or a staircase.

I have no idea what this next thing is. At first I thought it was some kind of segmented worm. Then I thought it was some form of excrement. Or maybe a very wet cigar? I hereby designate it weird wrack item of the month.
What is this weird segmented thing in the wrack?

This nest is right next to the outhouse at the edge of the Sandy Point Parking lot.

Nest with blue stripe

Art installation?

Bluets along the Sandy Point road

The Pow-Wow Oak

Lowell group pushes to save historic oak

The State of the Merrimack

Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce and Merrimack River Watershed Council on the state of the Merrimack: