Saturday, April 14, 2012

quiet day with horned grebes

Looking South

Coffee of the Day: French Roast Sumatra
Bird of the Day: horned grebes in breeding plumage
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: the inevitable Hooksett disc - they're never going to be all gone, ever
Coast Guard Assets: none, but there were some cool vintage aeroplanes from my favorite historic airport to make up for the lack of exciting Coast Guard things to watch
Invisi-Bird Status: They're being reported on the south end of the island. Number seen by me: zero.

What a New England kind of day! I scraped ice off my car in the morning and layered my fleece Red Sox jacket (in honor of Opening Day at Fenway) under the USFWS logo jacket for a 4th layer to start the shift. By 10:00 AM I'd shed the fleece. By 10:30 I'd shed the USFWS logo jacket (don't worry, I had my PRNWR sweatshirt on).  It turned into a stunning beach day.

There Really is an S on There
The tide was going out (low tide at like 2:00 PM or something). Fortunately, there was a stick fence already in place that I could add to. I recognized the handiwork of Big Steve.  Later on Big Steve showed up and told me if I looked closely I would see an S on his stick fence. He signed his work! Sure enough I found the S. I did add to the fence as the tide went out but  I had a hard time finding additional sticks to add to the fence because there was hardly any wrack of any kind on the beach.

I don't think these lobster traps can be salvaged.

The absolute highlight of the day was the horned grebes. Several horned grebes in breeding plumage were bobbing around close to shore. The sun glinting off the red-and-black breeding feathers and the yellowish "horns" was a spectacular sight. All the birders were exclaiming over the grebes, including Big Steve, who's not even an birder. BTW, it was a "Steve trifecta" kind of day with Steve Haydock and Steve Grinley also in evidence. Back to the grebes... toward the end of my shift the mating plumaged grebes started doing the mating dance! Alas, the Steves and other birders were all gone. Horned grebes aren't quite as spectacular as western grebes, which are known for their amazing display, but they do go almost vertical on the water. I wish I'd been equipped to photograph the display.  I was awed.

The grebes weren't the only show worth watching though. About a half dozen northern gannets showed off their plunge diving skills. Throughout the morning they moved around to different spots, seemingly following the fish. I noticed that at times the flock of cormorants would take off at the same time that the gannets shifted spots.

The absence of much wrack meant it was really easy to watch the sand hoppers jumping around in and out of their holes and burrowing new holes. The slow trickle of visitors and welcome lack of dogs meant I had time to watch all these large and small wildlife activities on the beach. I did have several visitors ask if they could see the piping plover nests so I think I set a new record for use of the word cryptic in a 4 hour period. The best question of the day was somebody who asked "What's that?" and pointed. They meant the land they could see to the south. I said "Ipswich". Rarely do I have a question to which the answer is Ipswich when I'm on the north end of the beach. There's a first time for everything.

Hey look, I wrote a whole entry about not seeing piping plovers yet again!

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