Saturday, April 7, 2012

windy day with long-tailed ducks

Long-tailed Ducks
Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Sidamo -- really tasty
Bird of the Day: Long-tailed Duck
Weird Wrack Item of the Day: the inevitable Hooksett disc
(otherwise the beach was really clean from the March 31 cleanup)
Coast Guard Assets: 1 Jayhawk helicopter
Invisi-bird Status: they're around here somewhere. Number seen by me: zero.

The Friday morning shift was my first plover warden shift of the season. Beach closure started April 1. It was very windy and cold so my delicious hot Ethiopian Sidamo coffee from PICR was especially welcome. The wind meant constantly changing skies too. I could've spent the morning taking photos of the sky and not had the same cloud formation twice.
Beach and Dramatic Sky
The most predominant bird was the long-tailed duck. There were tons of them. I lost count at about 55 because more would surface from their dives or another group would land. Watching long-tailed ducks land is a spectacle. They are so awkward coming in chest first like doing a belly flop. Alas it was too windy for me to get any good action photos. The best part of having so many long-tailed ducks so close to shore is the noise. They're probably the noisiest ducks along the New England coast and spring is when they're noisiest. They sound like they're talking in a kind of hectoring or scolding voice. (Hmm, must work on my natural history descriptions -- I'm sure I can do better than "hectoring".) A huge harbor seal spooked a group of about 30 of them amid spectacular noise.

Sun on the Water
Besides the long-tailed ducks, I saw many brant plus horned grebes and a common loon or two further out on the water. In the air, a single northern gannet cruised over my head, two sharp-shinned hawks skimmed by low over the beach and then took an abrupt turn to the northeast over the water.  It's hawk migration time and there was a major movement of  kestrels. I saw at least three kestrels and a peregrine falcon but I think I missed a lot of kestrels while doing my actual job of talking to visitors and scaring away dogs.

Actually it was a pretty easy day, all the visitors were cooperative and the two dogs who intruded on the refuge had humans nearby so all I had to do was look official and walk toward them -- the radio scares the humans and direct eye contact intimidates the dogs. Presto, dogs gone.

The best question of the day was from a couple from North Carolina. "Do you work here? Are you a member of the club?" I didn't quite know what to make of that. I answered that I volunteer here and this is a National Wildlife Refuge, not a club.  They asked about the people with cameras on tripods (actually they were scopes) and whether they were a club. It took me awhile to realize they meant the hawk watchers at lot 1.

On my way back to the gatehouse, I stopped at the VCS to use the restroom and talk to the hawk watchers. They confirmed there were tons of kestrels. They had not seen any sharpies and asked where and when I had seen them. I realized they could not possibly have seen the sharpies over the dune. The sharpies were flying really low. I mentioned to the hawk watchers that I had seen sharpies behave like that last year too. On the way home I started wondering if sharpies are routinely under counted because of that.

Brant in the Merrimack River
There were way more brant in the Merrimack River than in the ocean. There's clearly a major northward movement of brant going on too.

I thought I saw a snowy owl in the Great Marsh, but it turned out to be a white bucket. I think I fell for that same white bucket another time this winter. It does a good snowy owl impression.

I headed back to PI CR for another cup of Ethiopian Sidamo and bought a pound of beans for the weekend. Can you tell I really liked the Ethiopian Sidamo? I birded the Salisbury Beach campground, browsed for books at Jabberwocky, ran into my brother-in-law at Angelina's -- he had the perdue wrap and I had my usual veggie sub with tons of hot peppers -- and checked various spots along the river for eagles. A fine day.

Haystack in the Great Marsh

1 comment:

Dawn Fine said...

hee hee..A white plastic bucket is as close as I have been to seeing a Snowy owl.

I wonder about your sharpie observation too.

Glad your in our Birding club..hee hee