Tuesday, May 17, 2011

saturday's shift -- with least terns

Actually got to do a shift on Saturday, as it was not raining and I did not have other commitments (I hate it when I have another commitment on the only day it doesn't rain and then it rains on a day when I'm scheduled.)

Coffee of the Day: French Roast Sumatra
Bird of the Day: piping plover
Invisi-bird Status: Refuge beach: 9 pairs, 5 nests. Sandy Point: 3 pairs, 2 nests. Newbury town beach 1 pair with nest. Number actually seen by me: 1
Wierd Wrack Item of the Day: part of CD jewel case

My pictures don't really show how high the waves were and no photo can show the undertow sucking the sand out to sea, but you can kinda get the idea that it was a high high tide on a gray blustery day.  One of the fishermen commented on how the sand was getting sucked out even as a front end loader on the town beach was trying to build up the dune. Humans seem perpetually at two with the sea.

The same guy had told me awhile back about finding a message in a bottle on Plum Island. Now he told me the followup story. He called the number on the note and discovered it was a girl in Essex. She'd thrown it in off Essex 4 months before. It took 4 months to get from Essex to Newbury.
Double-crested cormorants by the hundreds were streaming northward. Each flock was bigger than the next. It was cool to watch. A common loon flew over my head, surprising me. Long-tailed ducks, red-breasted mergansers, and a couple of common eiders bobbed on the waves just offshore. Gulls were mostly resting on the sand, not flying in the wind. A couple of laughing gulls flew by, which was pretty cool.

Shortly after I'd seen the laughing gulls, a large group of birders from Amherst arrived. I told them they'd just missed laughing gulls, but there were still plenty of species to see. I got to tell them about the piping plover life cycle, so felt like I was a worthwhile person.

The oddest bird I saw was a rock pigeon who foraged in the wrack and then walked up into the dunes. Not exactly pigeon habitat.
Rock Pigeon
My day was finally made when a single piping plover flew by with a peep call and landed along the water line. I watched it feed for about 40 minutes before it took off. I was smiling the whole time.  Naturally, shortly after the plover disappeared, one of the birdathon teams showed up. I didn't tell them they'd just missed it. I figured they'd see some of them at Sandy Point anyway. (Several teams did, according to the posted results.)As I was packing up to leave, two least terns flew over my head calling kip-kip-kip. My first of the season.

I know it's the biggest weekend in birding and real birders were ticking off tons of colorful warblers dripping from the trees at Hellcat, but for me one piping plover and two least terns beat a tree full of warblers. I smiled all the way home.

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