Saturday, June 23, 2012

Brief Update

Just a short update on the plover numbers today ...

It was pouring rain at my house at 7:00 AM so after about 5 minutes of internal debate I decided to go back to bed instead of to the refuge. Of course by 10:30 the sun was shining brightly and the puddles were drying up. Sigh.

Anyway, I received an update via email, so biological staff must have been out there yesterday in the heat. Looks like they found good news. As of 6/22:
Refuge beach: 25 pair, 23 nests, 5 chicks, 2 fledged.
Sandy Point: 4 pair, 4 nests.
Town beach: zero.

Yay fledglings! Yay chicks! Yay renesting!

I'm so glad the giant high tide didn't set them back as badly as I feared.

BTW, I don't have any news on the least tern colony at Sandy Point. If I get some time between my three jobs, volunteering, and family gatherings, I'll take a walk down there to see for myself.

Monday, June 18, 2012

north northeast wind

cloudy beach
Coffee of the Day: Tanzania Peaberry
Bird of the Day: Great black back
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: a newspaper wrapped around seaweed
Invisi-bird Status: As of Friday: Refuge beach: 16 pairs, 11 nests, 8 chicks; Sandy Point: 3 pairs, 1 nest; Town beach: zero. Number actually seen by me: zero.

It was sunny and warmish at my house. Not so on Plum Island. Clouds loomed to the north and east even though there was blue sky to the west and south when I arrived at 8:00AM. I knew the weather was going to get more interesting when I saw that the huge flock of gulls circling over the beach just to the south of the .1 mile marker was mostly great black backs. When the great black backs come ashore in large numbers we're in for weather from the northeast. Sure enough, when I got down onto the beach I felt the wind coming from the north-northeast. The wind picked up and the clouds moved closer surprisingly quickly. By 9:00AM it was completely overcast all along the island.

There were a few people fishing, but not catching much. Common and least terns were catching plenty though. There was a steady stream of visitors, most of whom didn't stay long as it got colder and colder in the wind.  June 16 and I'm wishing I'd brought gloves!  I did get to explain the piping plover life cycle to a few people and chase down one jogger made oblivious to signage by her iPod (what is it with headphones rendering people unable to read signs?)

A few common grackles showed up to poke around in the wrack. One of them might have been the official bait-stealing grackle as it showed great interest in the fisherman's coolers and bait buckets and it did have a kind of funky tail feather, though not as pronounced as the one we were talking about last week.  The grackles showed extraordinary interest in a newspaper wrapped around a pile of seaweed -- kind of a wrack wrap.

wrack wrap
Birders came and went. Tom Wetmore stuck around for awhile and confirmed that there weren't many birds around that weren't gulls or terns. He was wearing gloves. I was jealous. One of the fishermen finally caught a flounder. The clouds got thicker. The wind got stronger. I found a couple of Hooksett discs. Yup, they're still here.

the inevitable Hooksett disc
I wanted to stop at my favorite historic aerodrome to watch the model jet rally, but my next activity for the day was my cousin's birthday party in Maynard, which is a long way from Newburyport. I did see a couple of model jets in flight and what looked like the beginning of the best smoke contest on my way past. Felafel at Revitalive and a quick trip to Chococoa Baking, which is now conveniently located in the Tannery, to get mini-whoopie pies to bring to the party, and I was back on the road.

Monday, June 11, 2012

a big fish

beach -- looking south
Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Harrar
Bird of the Day: least tern
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: large dark mysterious thing on the closed part of the beach -- people kept asking if it was some kind of nest structure for plovers or terns, so I got to explain their nesting habits but never did figure out what the mystery thing was.
Invisi-bird status: unknown (has biological staff been kidnapped by aliens or washed over by a huge rogue wave?); number actually seen by me: zero. The last status I had before the storm and giant high tide was : Refuge beach: 23 pair/21 nests/27 chicks; Sandy Pt: 5 pr/5nests/4 chicks; Town beach: 0. I hope some of the young survived.

Saturday was Go Fish day. That's the event that used to be "Let's Go Fishing" or "Kids Fishing Day" or various other titles over the years.  It started at 9:00 and ran 'til noon so I had a quiet first hour and a  busy rest of the shift. Lots of the usual suspects like Big Steve (whom I hadn't seen since the day of the Steve Trifecta) were there. I saw fisherpeople Rick and Nancy for the first time this season. Still haven't seen Science Fiction Fishing Guy or the bait-stealing grackle. Rick commented that he had yet to see the grackle this season. How long do common grackles live?

Rick getting the rods ready

It took awhile for the fishing kids to arrive from headquarters so the crowd built slowly but did finally get very lively. 

kids -- and adults -- fishing
There were many jokes about fishing for kids, like "how many kids did you catch?" We discovered the way to catch kids is with fish! Big fish! One of the refuge volunteers landed an enormous striper -- 34 pounds! All the kids on the beach made a beeline to the fish. 

big fish
Toddlers were having their parents take photos of them with the huge fish. I've never seen so much excitement about one fish.

fish -- toddler feet for scale
I caught a fish too -- a windblown paper fish bound for the closed area of beach -- in midair. It had the name Maria on the back. I left it at the check-in table near the bait in case Maria came looking for it.

paper fish

I was pretty busy with visitors and other stuff, so I didn't take a whole lot of photos and my bird list for the day is kinda short, but it was a spectacular day to be on the beach.  All the visitors were cooperative. There were no dogs, and I only had to chase one toddler. I got to give the whole piping plover life cycle speech to a couple of people and answered some questions about least terns too. Mainly people wanted to know how the plovers did during the storm. Wish I had up to date info to give them.