Monday, November 5, 2012

Chadwick Mill

I've been branching out a little from my plan to explore a tiny piece of segment 3 of the Bay Circuit Trail every day to exploring a tiny piece of North Andover or Boxford every day. Today's goal was the Chadwick Mill site in Boxford. I drove right past the trail head on Main Street across from Anvil Farm. Once I reversed direction, I had no trouble spotting the dirt road to Hovey's Pond.  Today's hike was tiny even compared to my "tiny piece" goal -- basically a 1 mile loop -- which is good because it was getting late in the afternoon and the clouds were closing in.

Hovey's Pond
There's parking in a dirt lot at Hovey's Pond along with an information kiosk that's kind of in disrepair.

Tons of milkweed pods on both sides of the dirt road had just opened and the seeds were blowing in the wind.

Which Way?
The trail markers at the junction of the dirt road from Hovey's Pond with Main Street were a little confusing. I had to consult my Boxford Trail Guide to make sure which way led to the mill.

Must Be This Way
The marker across the street was unambiguous. The trail is not actually shaped like an oak leaf. That's the BTA/BOLT logo.

Looks Millish to Me
After a short walk along a really easy trail near the stream, I spotted stone walls. This must be the place.

Chadwick Mill
Sure enough, there on the other side of the stone wall is an old mill stone and an obvious sluice way. I'd have thought that after Superstorm Sandy there would've been more of a flow of water over the falls. Maybe there was such flow last week.

Mill Stone
A flock of dark-eyed juncos surrounded me as I took various photos of the mill remains. They sound so merry when they're all chipping in the bushes. A few robins and a blue jay showed up too.

Bird Silhouette
 The path back toward Hovey's Pond afforded nice vistas of Anvil Farm.

Anvil Farm with Gathering Clouds
It was too late in the day to explore the Anvil Farm trail, so it was back to the car for me after my grist mill explorations.


Friday, November 2, 2012

more on the wood sandpiper

Steve Arena posted a link to his wood sandpiper pix on massbird.
Seth Kellogg blogged about it, as did John Shamgochian.
Tom Auer posted video of the wood sandpiper on Flickr.

I'm sure lots of other folks posted photos or video, but I missed them.

I couldn't find any info on whether it is still being seen in Jamestown today.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

coverage of the Jamestown wood sandpiper

Jamestown, Rhode Island had an unusual avian visitor, a wood sandpiper. I had half a plan to try for it on Sunday before Superstorm Sandy, figuring I could combine rarity chasing with checking out the pre-storm big waves at Beavertail. The plan didn't come together for various storm-prep reasons but I just had to do a roundup of the press coverage:
Bird watchers descend on Rhode Island for rare sighting -- Hindustan Times
Visitors flock to see rare bird -- Providence Eyewitness News
Birders flock to island for rare find-- Jamestown Press
Birders flock to Jamestown to see rare sandpiper -- Providence Journal
Rare Bird Attracts Crowds to Jamestown-- EcoRI News

The only news organization outside of Rhode Island that picked up the story was the Hindustan Times!

And yes, 3 of the five headlines said "flock". When is the media going to stop this flocking madness?

Friday, October 26, 2012

before the storm

As you might expect, the Boston media are on Plum Island covering preparation for Hurricane Sandy.  The beach scraping is underway. Also underway is the "we better go say goodbye to Plum Island" panic. Here's a sampling of the coverage as of tonight's news shows:

Victoria Block on WHDH -- I love that Alex Hasapis of Plum Island Airport is wearing his UFO cap as he talks about the tie-downs. For those unfamiliar with it, UFO stands for United Flying Octogenarians.

Eileen Curran on NECN -- This features Peter Judge from MEMA recommending basic precautions like bringing your lawn furniture inside. Note, this clip is from earlier this morning, when the beach scraping permit had not yet been issued.

Newburyport Daily News -- Fear of another "perfect storm". -- Mentions clearing Plum Island storm drains and removing dune walkovers.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

news roundup

 It's been awhile since I did a news roundup of the greater Parker River NWR/Merrimack River news-o-sphere, so here you go:
  • A sailboat ran aground last night on the refuge beach between Lot 1 and Lot 2 -- a way, wicked shallow spot that most locals familiar with the area know about and avoid. Fortunately, a fisherman with a drive-on night fishing permit spotted it and rescued the crew: Sailboat Crew Rescued off Plum Island.
  • Scientists from Marine Biological Labs have been studying the decay of the Great Marsh for close to 10 years now in the Plum Island Estuary. Apparently nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizer are the culprits. Daily News of Newburyport has the story here: Scientists: Fertilizers killing salt marshes. NPR picked up the story too: Scientists Solve Mystery of  Disappearing Salt Marshes.
  • Parker River NWR summer intern De'Andre Brown blogged about his experience on the USFWS Open Spaces blog: Acting, Naturally.
  • National Parks Traveler had a feature on piping plovers: Creature Feature.
In news unrelated to piping plovers or the Parker River NWR but definitely shorebird-related, folks at the Nantucket Birding Festival spotted a Gray-tailed Tattler: Extremely rare bird spotted during birding festival.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Working Waterfront Festival -- Part 2

Mini Tugs
Sunday was still overcast with some rain, though the sun did come out eventually just as the festival was ending. None of that seemed to dampen enthusiasm. There were plenty of people making the rounds of the performance tents, the foodways tent (aka cooking demo tent),  the food tent (that's where you eat the food, not where they do the competitive cooking), and the booths.
Toot Toot
We took a closer look at the mini tugs that had caught our imagination yesterday. I kept trying to think of practical reasons why people would need to build such tiny tugboats: moving small barges in tight harbors, small lakes, canals ... Nope. When I talked with the builder of Atlantic Hunter, he told me it was "a guy thing" just for fun. It is amazing what you can do with plywood and epoxy. Several of the mini tug makers talked about the Waterford, NY Tugboat Roundup so we started planning a NY state vacation for next fall :)

One of the things I like about the festival is that the performers and authors mingle informally with the attendees and with each other. Over the years we've seen how they influence each other. The Johnson Girls sang a sea shanty they had learned from the Northern Neck Singers at a previous festival. The fisher poets all seem to ping off each other. As we walked from the mini tugs at State Pier over to Pier 3, I spotted a couple of the non-fiction authors chatting on board the Richard & Arnold.  That totally summarized the festival atmosphere for me.

Surf Clams
One of the boats open for visitors was a clammer with surf clams on display as well as closeup looks at their dredge. The Foodways area included several species of fish on ice in case you don't know what they look like before they hit your plate.

Yellowtail Flounder on Ice
While we were eating, I spotted Scott Brown making the rounds. His trademark barn coat fit right in with the general style of dress.

Thank goodness Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren came on different days.

We made the rounds of the craft and non-profit booths then over to the main tent in time to hear the Johnson Girls, who seem to get better every time they come to the festival.

Johnson Girls
Our main goal for Sunday was, of course, to hear Ana Vinagre, New Bedford's and hence America's most renowned fado singer. They always save the headliner for last in the main tent. Of course the seafood throwdown and the finale of the fisherpoetry contest were also scheduled for that last slot at their respective tents. Our choice was clear! Ana Vinagre!

Standing Room Only for the Seafood Throwdown
There was standing room only at the Foodways tent for the seafood throwdown and an occasional cheer for one of the chefs drifted over to the main stage. Ana Vinagre was phenomenal -- and she sang Barco Negro especially for us as her daughter had told her about our conversation yesterday. Wow, Ana sang a request AND the sun came out. What a finale!

Ana Vinagre

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New Bedford Working Waterfront Festival -- Part 1

Music, fisher poets, Coast Guard assets, boats, books ...
Working Waterfront Festival

That's almost a haiku.

This is the 9th year of New Bedford Working Waterfront Festival. I don't remember if we went to the first one, but we've certainly made a habit of attending over those years.  This year's seemed a little smaller to me than some of the previous ones, but the festival organizers say the attendance was about the same -- excellent despite the gray weather. 

Actually, I think you can travel globally without leaving New Bedford at this festival.
The rain held off on Saturday but the skies were quite gray and it was definitely cold. Fortunately we had our sweatshirts from previous years' festivals. We timed our arrival for the Something Fishy fisherpoetry session featuring Bob Quinn, Dawn Clifton-Tripp, Charlotte Enoksen, Dave Densmore, Jon Campbell, Mary Garvey, and Moe Bowstern on the Steamship Stage at noon. On the shuttle from the garage to the pier, we met a couple from Newport whose daughter does some of the graphic design for Moe Bowstern's zine. They'd never been to the festival before. They came specifically to hear Moe. We told them we're huge fans of Moe's work.

Moe Bowstern
We parked ourselves at the Steamship Stage as it turned out that all the performers we specifically wanted to see on Saturday were scheduled there.  Old favorites Moe Bowstern, Dave Densmore, and Bob Quinn lived up to expectations. 

Dave Densmore
Bob Quinn reading Fog

Novelist Dawn Clifton-Tripp was new to us. Don't know how we've missed her. The passages she read from her novels were so vivid and evocative of southeastern Massachusetts that I could picture her characters in the coastal landscape. 

Dawn Clifton-Tripp

Jon Campbell, who
led the Something Fishy session, was up next with a set of his songs. I had promised myself I wouldn't ask for the Ballad of the Beth Noel if he took requests, but I did, and he gamely tried it but forgot a lot of the words -- it does have a lot of words. It's not something he performs often.

Jon Campbell
One of our three favorite Providence bands, Sharks Come Cruisin' , did a wonderful show at 2:00PM. We first discovered them at the Working Waterfront Festival a few years ago. They rock traditional songs. "Sea shanty punk" is one phrase often used to describe them. Their rendition of Spanish Ladies, their signature tune, totally rocked the tent.

Sharks Come Cruisin'

Two more poetry/narrative/story panel sessions followed: 

  • Regulate My Life Away with Moe Bowstern, Jon Campbell, Dave Densmore, and Dave Dutra, which dealt with the impact of regulation on the lives of the fishermen 
  • Storms and Close Calls with Abigail Calkin, Dave Densmore, Cindy Follet-Gildemond and I forget who else, which was riveting with stories of near fatal injuries, collisions at sea, and a riveting survival story about a captain who gets caught in the lines when he tries to rescue a trapped deckhand.

Model Boats
When we were checking out the model boats, Nancy got talking with the translator for the Portuguese model maker. She turned out to be Ana and Jose Vinagre's daughter so they got talking about fado while I wandered among the tiny boats.
The farmer's market had lots of gorgeous produce and I could not resist buying us some juicy local peaches.

At one point I spotted Barney Frank waiting for Elizabeth Warren to arrive, so I wandered over to say hi (he and Mom go way back). I missed meeting Elizabeth Warren, but she was all over the festival for an hour or more. Cafe Arpeggio had good coffee and scones (pumpkin, blueberry, and cranberry -- all local fruit).

We saw the mini tugs and decided that Sunday's agenda had to include finding out what they're all about.

Mini Tugs Atlantic Hunter and Toot Toot
We talked with the Ernestina people, gawked at the Coast Guard vessels, and thoroughly browsed the book tent before we called it a day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

best ever year for number of PIPL pairs

This calls for a celebration:
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge had a record year for number of nesting piping plovers in 2012. 

27 pairs fledged 39 chicks. Not only is that excellent "productivity", but that's also a record number of nesting pairs. The previous high for nesting pairs was 21 in 1995 according to biological staff.  I remember when I thought 19 nesting pairs was awesome. 

This is all the more amazing given the June 3 storm with the enormous high tide that wiped out nests and killed some chicks. 

Another amazing thing is that those extremely late chicks I was worrying about at the north end of the beach actually fledged.

This news definitely calls for a celebratory coffee at PICR.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

rough meadows revisited

Professor Chandler's Long Walk Trail
After my first visit, I couldn't wait to explore more of the trails at Rough Meadows and I couldn't wait to take Nancy there.  So we took a long walk on Professor Chandler's Long Walk a few days later.  When I said the trail was named after Alfred D. Chandler who had bequeathed the land, Nancy immediately said Strategy and Structure. Now there's an AmCiv reference if ever there were one! I checked and confirmed to Nancy that it was indeed the Strategy and Structure Chandler.

Yellow and Pink

The meadows and the marsh were looking even more spectacular than on my first visit.  The glory that is autumn in the Great Marsh was making itself visible all over the place.

The Great Marsh
It's amazing how many colors there are in the meadows. It's not just the flowers. The grasses, glasswort, everything changes color.

Shades of Pink
Shades of Gold and Red Among the Green
More Golds and Reds with Some Pink
It was just a totally stunning day, the kind of day people move here for (thinking that these gorgeous late summer days are more frequent than they really are).

Glasswort Turning Red for Autumn

sometimes Google just cracks me up

Saturday, September 8, 2012

rough meadows

Last Friday's search for shorebirds yielded lots and lots of least sandpipers. It also marked my first visit to the newly opened Mass Audubon Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Trail to Nelson Island Was Mobbed with Least Sandpipers
Coffee of the Day: Tanzania Peaberry
Bird of the Day: Least Sandpiper
Invisi-bird status: Final count on the refuge: 27 pairs, 39 chicks fledged. Number actually seen by me: 2.
Weird wrack item of the week: a Hooksett disc on Patmos Road. It's not weird to find Hooksett discs anymore, but the location so deep into the Great Marsh is weird.

Cabbage White
After checking out the least sandpipers at Nelson Island, I headed over to Rough Meadows and Sawyer's Island. The grasses and autumn wildflowers were waving in a steady breeze. Butterflies were having a hard time hanging onto the flowers. I saw monarchs, cabbage whites, and a mustard yellow within seconds of getting out of the car at the Rough Meadows parking area.

Besides walking along Patmos Road to admire the great egrets in the marsh, I did the Kestrel Trail -- a short loop through meadow and woodlands. Acorns were everywhere.

Great Egret in the Great Marsh
Essex County Greenbelt's Sawyer's Island property preserves yet more of the Great Marsh in the same area of Rowley. Walking the trails there, I came across lots and lots of shed horseshoe crab shells of all sizes, saw many more great egrets, and savored beautiful marsh views.
One of Many Horseshoe Crab Shells at Sawyer's Island

In search of more shorebirds, in case the tons of least sandpipers who surrounded me at Nelson Island weren't enough, I finally headed to the refuge beach. Lots of both greater and lesser yellow-legs were hanging out at the North Pool overlook along with mallards, Canada geese, and blue winged teal.  I found a parking spot at Lot 6  and walked the beach. Immediately, 2 piping plovers landed nearby. They don't seem nearly as invisible on wet sand as they do on dry sand.
Piping Plovers

my review of My Green Manifesto on Goodreads

My Green Manifesto: Down the Charles River in Pursuit of a New EnvironmentalismMy Green Manifesto: Down the Charles River in Pursuit of a New Environmentalism by David Gessner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The canoe trip down the Charles River from Hopkinton to Cambridge is basically the backdrop and metaphor for an extended argument with Nordhaus and Shellenberger about the future of environmentalism. Gessner's ideas are inspiring and he does get you to think about our place in nature, what "the wild" means, and what environmentalism means.

Having enjoyed Gessner's previous books, I'd hoped for more description of life in and along the Charles. Also, having grown up along the Charles, I was amazed to find no mention whatsoever of Rita Barron and her lifelong work to clean up the Charles.

View all my reviews

Monday, August 6, 2012

swallows in road, helicopter in sky, chicks on beach

beach -- looking south
Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Harrar
Bird of the Day: tree swallow
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: a burnt page from a magazine

Invisi-bird Status: Refuge:27 pairs, 20 chicks, 18 fledglings; Sandy Point: 6 pairs, 1 nest, 0 chicks,  2 fledglings; Town Beach: 1 pair, 1 chick, 0 fledglings. Number actually seen by me: 5 - 1 adult, 4 chicks.
Coast Guard Assets Sighted: 1 Jayhawk helicopter

Saturday morning was hot and humid with no sea breeze.  The air was thick with tree swallows. Walking from Lot 1 to the beach, I was surrounded by swirling swallows. They do this mass flocking thing every year, and every year it's a marvelous sight. Some landed on the sand at my feet and many came close to my head.  At least I was on the path between the dunes and was on foot. Unfortunately they also land in the road and get hit by cars sometimes. Hence the annual sign reminding drivers to be on the lookout for them.
Swallows still do not have Blue Cross
The guy who lives near the piping plover nest on the town beach came by to tell me to tell biological staff that he saw 2 of the chicks when he was on his morning walk. That's good news, especially since biological staff had only seen 1 on Friday.  And you wonder why I call them the invisi-birds?
Adult piping plover feeding
Four chicks and one adult piping plover were feeding avidly at the water line, moving up the beach as the tide began to come in. The adult landed on a driftwood log and stood there for some time while the chicks continued feeding. The chicks were running around like manic windup toys; their legs were just a blur of orange.  A couple of them came fairly close to me before retreating further south near the adult. I got good looks at one of the chicks running with its wings outstretched.  It sure looked like it was trying to do a running take off.  They're about 25 days old, so should be ready to fly soon.
Piping plover chick spreading its wings
Visitors kept me steadily busy from about 9:30 on.  Everybody wanted to know all about the chicks, so I got to talk about my favorite subject a whole lot!  I let several of the visitors use my binoculars to watch the chicks, and sure enough they all exclaimed at how cute they are! OK, one guy exclaimed over how good my binoculars are before he commented on the cuteness :-)

Gull chorus
Some of the visitors thought the gulls (herring gulls and ring-billed gulls) were the parents of the plover chicks, so I had to explain there are a lot of species that hang out on the beach :-) The gulls were just roosting on the sand for the most part, not fishing or stealing. Three of them did start calling loudly and posturing for each other, but the rest of the gulls ignored them.

A Jayhawk helicopter! And yes, those are tree swallows around it.
As if the plover chicks weren't enough excitement for me, a Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter buzzed the town beach. It came in really low and circled a few times so people could get a really good look. The helicopter flyby was part of the weekend's Yankee Homecoming festivities. Newburyport is celebrating its recent designation as a Coast Guard City. Naturally, I didn't find out until later that the Coast Guard station was open to visitors for the afternoon. Speaking of things I found out later, apparently there was a black-bellied whistling duck at the North Pool on Saturday morning too.  But, heck, piping plover chicks, the tree swallow spectacular, and a Jayhawk helicopter are more than enough to make my day!

Oh, the penguins on their ice floe were still floating in the Merrimack, the yellow dot sale at Jabberwocky was still going on, and the felafel at Revitalive was delicious.