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.