Saturday, June 18, 2011

rainy day, a new nest, chicks are hatching

Shift: Friday AM, South

Coffee of the Day: Panama
Bird of the Day: piping plover
Invisi-bird Status: Refuge beach: 19 pairs, 18 nests, 11 chicks. Number actually seen by me: 2.
(Note -- numbers are unofficial - got them from conversation with biological staff on the beach).
Weird Wrack Item of the Day: an umbrella attached to a lobster trap.
Refuge Biological Staff Sighted: 1.

On my way to the refuge, I noticed people camping at the Plum Island Aerodrome, aka my favorite historic airport. Turns out there's a jet rally there this weekend. See flyer (pun intended). These are model jets in case you were picturing much larger and louder aircraft. :-)

The tide was out when I got there, providing plenty of interesting tide pool creatures for a Mass Audubon tide pool program -- a much smaller group,not all kids, and not from Sudbury this week. A group of Moms with small children began assembling. Most of them were the same as the ones who were there last week. One of the kids remembered me - the little girl who didn't want her periwinkles to be lonely in the bucket. I heard the kids telling each other to be careful not to cross the boundary into the nesting area so they wouldn't bother the baby birds. Maybe I had some effect last week after all :-)

The tide was coming in so I had to keep moving back from the water line. I could see and feel weather coming from the southwest. Sure enough it started to rain lightly. When it didn't stop immediately, some of the Moms started packing to leave. For some reason several people -- kids and Moms -- seemed to have misplaced their shoes. I found a dip net belonging to one of the kids and reunited that with its owner. I found a shoe and located its owner, but failed to help a woman whose flip flops had disappeared.

Besides the "families scrambling for belongings on the incoming tide" frenzy on shore, the turn of the tide brought a feeding frenzy of seabirds just offshore. Herring gulls, great black backs, least terns, common terns, and double crested cormorants dove frantically after small fish. This went on for close to an hour.

The rain stopped shortly after most of the families with little kids left. With only a few people to watch, I did manage to watch birds. Three black-bellied plovers -- 2 in breeding plumage, 1 not -- foraged along the water line, moving up as the tide came in. Two piping plovers joined them. One of them was doing the foot trembling thing to stir up the intertidal zone organisms.  That aggrieved killdeer (I'm sure it was the same one) was making a lot of noise again. An eastern kingbird was catching flies in the wrack. It was also tyrannizing an American robin.

I'm still getting as many questions about the Hooksett discs, of which there are still tons around despite cleanup efforts, as about the piping plovers - even from locals, whom you would think would would've heard about the whole flood thing...

Biological staff was checking out a new nest just north of parking lot 7, so I hung around until he finished so I could chat with him. He described a nest with 2 eggs and active parents near the edge of the dune -- a pretty steep area for the birds to walk, but far enough from the high tide line to be immune to washover if we get anymore storm tides.

The rain picked up again as I was leaving.

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