Saturday, June 11, 2011

way busy at the south boundary

Coffee of the Day: Boatyard Brew (both choices today were blends, not specific origins)
Bird of the Day: Willet
Invisi-bird Status: Refuge beach: 17 pairs, 11 nests, 7 chicks. Sandy Point: 6 pairs, 5 nests, 4 chicks. Newbury town beach: 1 pair, 1 nest. Number actually seen by me: zero.
Weird Wrack Item of the Day: either the chair legs or the dead skate.

looking north
Traffic coming off I-495 onto 110 in Amesbury was so heavy that it seemed more like a Saturday than a Friday.  That set the tone for the day -- busy and crowded. As I waited in line at PI Coffee Roasters, the guy in front of me asked how the plovers were doing. I was overjoyed to tell him we have 17 pairs on the refuge and 7 chicks have hatched already. He was excited to hear it.

Once I got my coffee and made it to the refuge, I picked up my new name tag (finally), which has the blue goose logo on it (this figures later in our story). Gatehouse pointed out that south would be very important today. Boy was he ever right.

The drive south featured birders stopping abruptly in the S-curves, suicidal mourning doves, common terns diving in the salt pannes,  gray catbirds all over the place (way more than I've seen all season so far), 2 willets behaving strangely perching on the town marker (it's not really big enough for 2 willets) and others perched on top of shrubs, and a pair of wild turkeys in the field by the Pines Trail. Imagine the list if I'd actually been able to stop to bird.

looking south
As soon as I arrived at the boundary, a group of mothers with kids all roughly in the 3 to 6 age group began to arrive. I pointed out the boundary and explained why that side of the beach is closed. Kids ran in there anyway. I explained again and gave the mothers pamphlets about the piping plover. More and more and more of these families arrived. Kids all over the place -- including the closed area.  I need to practice explaining to 3 and 4 year olds -- I managed to get through to the 5 1/2 and 6 year olds with the "very special birds are having their babies and we don't want to disturb them" pitch.

After chasing kids for a bit, I decided to place wood along the boundary  from the sign down to the water line so the kids could have a more concrete boundary. I felt like I was playing pickup sticks. I dragged logs and sticks from way up in the wrack. It took so long to drag big pieces of driftwood to lay end to end along the boundary that I figured the tide would be back in before I finished laying them down. I kept having to stop to speak to kids or other visitors, so never managed to reach all the way to the waterline.

Many of the kids were staying on the correct side of the beach and having a great beach day. Kids building a fort from driftwood and rocks, other kids playing in tide pools with toy trucks and other non-digital toys, a little girl collecting live periwinkles in a bucket and when she leaves the bucket she worries that they'll be alone -- do snails bond with people?  The only Internet-enabled device I saw was one iPhone belonging to one of the mothers. The kids were playing in the real world.
A peeved killdeer was making a racket near the wrack line. Some of the kids wanted to know if it was piping plover.  I told them they're cousins. Since they couldn't see the plovers, one of the boys wanted to know if the plovers are real birds. Didn't know how to answer that. What is a real bird to a 5 year old? Gulls are real because they're big and obnoxious and highly visible.

a real bird

As I was telling one of the little boys more about piping plovers at his mother's request, I noticed he was not really listening. Suddenly he asked if the logo on my new name tag was a pyramid. "No, it's a goose." He looks at me like "yeah,right".  I reply "I know. It's a weird looking goose." That didn't seem to satisfy him so I'm not sure how much credibility I have on piping plovers if I can't tell the difference between a pyramid and a goose. :-)

There was another huge group from Sudbury Odyssey School with Mass Audubon escorts. It was funny to watch so many kids exclaim about the purple sand as soon as they got onto the beach. Wow! Purple sand! I remembered that last week the field trip people went ga-ga over a dead skate so I pointed out a dead skate in the wrack but they were not as interested this time. It was dead low tide so they had perfect conditions for finding crabs and starfish and all kinds of tidepool creatures. Nobody asked about the Hooksett disks this week but I'm still finding them in the wrack.
Kids who pick up their lunch trash and plastic water bottles rock. Kids who leave plastic water bottles all over the Sandy Point parking lot do not rock. That said, it is awesome to see kids outdoors in the real world noticing the real world. Saturday is National Go Outdoors Day, so I hope those Sudbury Odyssey kids got enough taste of the awesomeness of nature that they go outdoors on their own -- and pick up their trash. :-)

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