Friday, July 22, 2011

greenheads under the heat dome

Coffee of the Day: Tanzania
Bird of the Day: gray catbird
Invisi-Bird Status: last update was July 18. Number actually seen by me: zero.
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: the entire concept of the wrack line is apparently weird on fresh water beaches-- check out this story about Sauble Beach in Canada
Refuge Biological Staff Sighted: 0
Coast Guard Assets Sighted: 0
Number of Greenhead Bites: 1

The greenheads are out in force! I was lucky to escape with only one bite. They swarmed into my car every time I opened the door or even a window, as is their habit. There are three, count them, three signs at the gatehouse warning people that it's greenhead season and there are no refunds.

Part of the reason I came away with only one bite is that I wasn't out there that long. It was a catch-22 kind of day. The beach is open to Lot 6, but the Lot 6 boardwalk is still being repaired and Lot 6 itself is still closed. The assigned plover warden parking space is at Lot 6, but with the heat, I decided to see if there was an open space at Lot 7, figuring I'd walk to the boundary from there. Alas, there were no empty spaces. I tried to radio Gatehouse to discuss this, but I got no response. Back at Lot 6, I tried the radio again. No luck. As I was turning around to drive back to the gate, I saw Jody drive by in one of the refuge vehicles. I turned around again and followed him to Sandy Point where I tried to call him on the radio. Nothing. OK, radio no work today. Jody eventually got it to sort of work but speculated that there was a problem with the repeater. Grrr.

Since I would have had to park at Lot 6, walk along the road to Lot 7 then up the beach to the boundary, and back down the beach to Lot 7 and up the road to Lot 6 at high noon in 100 degree heat, I decided to go home. Grr.
Greenhead-Actual Size
If it weren't a hundred degrees and greenhead season, I might not have minded the walk. But greenheads are attracted to sweaty flesh. So, does this count as burn out? Or is it just #heatdome out?

Up Close with that Green Head
The folks at the visitor center gave me a bottle of Poland Spring water and listened to my tale of woe .
And, of course, when I got home I listened to On Point. Subject: the heat dome or #heatdome. What is a heat dome anyway?   Google News  returns 2,232 hits on heat dome and 4 on greenheads. Think Tom Ashbrook will ever do a show on greenheads?  Maybe on the effect of the heat dome on greenheads? 

Oh well, Minnesota is currently the hottest place on planet earth, but they don't have greenheads. So there.

Insert photo of whale vertebra for no reason. Somehow I don't think they have those in Minnesota either.

Random Whale Vertebra

At least there are not three feet of snow on the ground. At least I'm not in Tulsa, where golfers use a least tern colony as a driving range. I totally expect Birdchick to pick up the driving range story for her podcast.

Monday, July 18, 2011

PRNWR Photo Day Camp Pix up on Faceboook

Matt posted some photos from the kids' photo day camp on the Parker River NWR Facebook page: Photo Camp 2011 Day 1

latest plover numbers

This just in. Official piping plover numbers from Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.

Refuge Beach: 18 chicks, 14 fledglings, no nests remaining.
Town Beach: 1 fledged
Sandy Point: 7 chicks, 10 fledglings

Saturday, July 16, 2011

nice day

Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Bird of the Day: ring-billed gull
Invisi-bird Status: I don't have updated numbers for this week but I do know from talking to biological staff that one of the chicks that hatched on the town beach survived to fledge. Also, chicks from the two nests just north of the one that got predated are 25+ days old so should be fledged. He was on his way to check them out when I talked to him. Number actually seen by me: 0
Weird Wrack Item of the Day: a bed sheet
Refuge Biological Staff Sighted: 1
Coast Guard Assets Sighted: 1 boat

The nesting season is just flying by.  Piping plover chicks are fledging. Least terns are running around. The shorebird migration is already starting. Semipalmated sandpipers are on the move. I think the willets are already gone. And so on and so on ... Yup, it's mid-July.
North -- With Footprints and ATV Tracks
The weather was gorgeous. The tide was coming in. The greenheads were pretty much leaving me alone (light colored clothing, people). I met some readers of this blog and some visiting surfers. One of the surfers runs a surf shop in North Hampton, NH and his friend was visiting from Puerto Rico having her first cold water surfing experience. There were some good waves for them.
I met refuge biological staff as he was starting out on the ATV to check on the nests. The beach at parking lots 6 & 7 will open on Saturday (I started writing this on Friday). I saw Frank and some of the interns working on the boardwalk at lot 6.

Clam Tracks
Ring-billed gulls were putting on a show of behaviors, chasing each other, calling, catching flies in the wrack, and generally ignoring the humans around them. They were quite entertaining. One of the ways know I'm not really a "birder" is that I find ring-billed gulls endlessly fascinating. I would rather watch them chase the great blacks and herring gulls, catch flies, and practice fly catching than strain my neck trying to identify confusing fall warblers. Not that I don't enjoy warblers or identification challenges, it's just that gull and shorebird behaviors fascinate me.

Mollusks fascinate me too. I am always amazed at the epic journeys that periwinkles make from one rock to another at low tide. This time I noticed the "tracks" left behind by tiny white clams - very different from snails like periwinkles.
More Clam Tracks
Strange things, besides the Hooksett discs, wash up on the beach, especially at Sandy Point, but this is the first time I have ever seen a bed sheet. At first, I thought someone had left behind a beach blanket, but when I checked it out, it had clearly washed up and was clearly not a blanket. And, yes, there are still tons and tons of those stupid little plastic discs all over the place despite multiple cleanup efforts.
A Bed Sheet in the Wrack

The greenheads were out in force along the road and in the parking lot, but I continued to be able to escape their harassment.  There were two Mass Audubon vehicles in the parking lot when I left, but I did not see any Mass Audubon field trip while I was on the beach. I figure they were at the Sandy Point beach looking at the least tern colony, rather than tide pooling. This just in as I write this on Saturday, posted on Mass Audubon's Joppa Flats Facebook page:
"Green heads have landed! Sorry to say they chased us off Sandy Point today while on a collecting trip in the tide pools. Don't want to be bothered but still want the beach? Come to Joppa Tuesday through Sunday for live tide pool animal tanks from 9am - 2pm Free for all!"

Sunday, July 10, 2011

low tide

Shift: AM South
Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Bird of the Day: common tern
Invisi-Bird Status: I don't have updated numbers for this week but I do know from talking to biological staff that the nest near the south boundary (the one I was so excited about a couple of weeks ago) got predated.
Weird Wrack Item of the Day: half a pair of glasses (right half - just in case you see somebody walking around with the left half)
Refuge Biological Staff Sighted: 1
Coast Guard Assets Sighted: 0.
Periwinkle among the Barnacles
The tide was out. It was busy. There were already three people well into the closed area when I got there. I put my coffee down, called Gatehouse, and went after them. I hate chasing trespassers before coffee. Anyway, they claimed they didn't know the beach was closed other than at the boardwalks from the refuge parking lots. Fortunately, they left when I asked them to.  I commenced trying to mark the boundary with driftwood (there was no rope)  and got about halfway to the waterline before I gave up. My coffee was still hot so I enjoyed it and was well-caffeinated by the time I had to chase an out of control toddler running wild in the closed area.  Succeeded in yelling loud enough to get the mother's attention. Once the mother rounded the kid up, I explained the danger to plovers as well as to the kid. I am not a lifeguard.


Too busy to do much birding, but did watch large numbers of common terns flying around with small fish in their bills. Other observations included a killdeer actually acting like a shorebird -- foraging at the water line -- and a great black back that stole a bag of Lay's potato chips, opened it, and ate them. The great black back had to fight off several herring gulls to maintain control of the potato chips. This is not the first time I've seen a gull steal unopened bagged snacks and open them. Both herring gulls and great black backs do it. How they know there is food in the bag is beyond me.

When things calmed down a little, I had a few minutes to take photos in the tide pools.

Kelp with Barnacles
At least I think it's kelp.

Unidentified Moth in the Sand

Feather Looking Like a Moth

Barnacles and Perwinkles
Shells Covered by Incoming Tide

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

updated plover numbers

Latest official piping plover numbers on Plum Island:
  • Refuge beach: 17 pairs, 4 nests, 19 chicks, 5 fledged
  • Sandy Point: 5 pairs, 8 chicks,  3 fledged
  • Town beach: 1 pair, 3 chicks

Stuff in the Merrimack

Time for another Stuff in the Merrimack post:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July Already

Shift:  AM, South
Coffee of the Day: French Roast
Bird of the Day: little gull
Invisi-bird Status: Refuge Beach: 18 pairs, 9 nests, 22 chicks, Sandy Point: 5 pair, 1 nest, 12 chicks,  Town Beach: 1 pair, 2 chicks. Number actually seen by me: 0.
Weird Wrack Item of the Day: a 15 foot piece of black plastic tubing.
Refuge Biological Staff Sighted: 0.
Coast Guard Assets Sighted: 1.
Gorgeous day. No toddlers throwing tantrums, no rain, polite visitors.

looking north
I was busy most of the time so didn't get to do a whole lot of birding. The usual suspects were all there: great black backs, herring gulls, ring-billed gulls, Bonaparte's gulls, laughing gull, common terns, least terns, double crested cormorant, northern gannet, and eastern kingbird.
looking south
There was a huge feeding frenzy involving all of the above species except the kingbirds just offshore to the south in the general vicinity of the channel marker. Boats started to converge on the same spot by mid-morning. Bait fish fleeing for their lives before bigger fish create quite the bird show.

weird wrack item of the week
So there was this piece of tubing or pipe or hose all tangled up in the wrack. What I could see of it was about 15 feet but one end was buried in the sand so it could have been even longer. I can't even guess what it's for or where it came from.
there's a little gull in there somewhere
Whenever I had a free moment, I scanned the flock of gulls for the little gull that Tom Wetmore reported earlier in the morning. A couple of times I thought I saw it, but wasn't 100% sure.  I took several pictures of the flock, but couldn't pick it out of the photos either.
some fisherman is missing a glove