Friday, April 26, 2013

windy again

Today's shift

Coffee of the Day: Boatyard Brew
Bird of the Day: double-crested cormorant
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: part of a drip coffee maker
Invisi-bird Status: Refuge beach: 13 pairs, Sandy Point: 2 pairs, Town beach: 0. Number actually seen by me: zero.

Blue skies, big waves, and plenty of wind just about sums it up.  Oh, and a few migrating raptors too.  Once again I saw no shorebirds and very few gulls. A couple of kestrels hovered over the dunes near the Lot 1 boardwalk. A peregrine falcon flew from the dunes out over the beach and headed north along the water line.  The most surprising bird was a sharp-shinned hawk flying low over the beach below the level of the dunes. Actually, I've seen sharpies do that before during spring migration -- staying low while all the other species are up higher.
Where the Lot 1 Boardwalk Used to Be
I was just thinking it odd that I hadn't seen any swallows at all yet, when a handful of tree swallows appeared.  Not a lot, though. By far the most noticeable bird of the day was the double-crested cormorant. They kept streaming by in long lines of anywhere from 10 to 100 birds. Almost none of them landed on the water.  They just kept on flying north.
Part of a Coffee Maker
There wasn't as much trash in the wrack this week, but I'm still seeing housewares. Today's weird item looked like part of a coffee maker.

There were few visitors, but a couple of them were challenging. One insisted that she should be allowed to walk along the water line in the closed area because the birds clearly don't nest at the water line because "that's crazy".  I tried to explain the beach closure and the piping plover's nesting and feeding habits, but she was having none of it. Everything I said got the "crazy" response. At some points I wasn't sure whether crazy referred to the plovers, the beach closure, or me. I remained professional and she left.  The other one was just puzzling. She walked onto the closed area from Lot 1 on the access road (remember, the boardwalk is broken). To do that she had to have squeezed between the gate and the sign clearly indicating there is no public access there. When I said the beach is closed for nesting, she asked "What is nesting?" Anyway, I gave the standard piping plover life cycle speech. She was very nice about it and left. I'm still trying to figure out how she could have missed the signs.

Big Waves
The tide was coming in the whole time I was there and the waves kept getting bigger.  I had to keep moving back toward the dunes every few minutes.  By the time I left, the tide was up to the first  of the three signs that mark the boundary.

Beach Signs

a windy day at the beach

Friday April 19 Shift

Second shift of the season because the previous Friday got rained on.

Coffee of the Day: Tanzania Peaberry
Bird of the Day: long-tailed duck
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: a battered cooking pot full of seaweed
Invisi-bird Status: Refuge beach: 12 pairs, Sandy Point: 2 pairs, number actually seen by me: zero.

Looking South -- 8:00 AM
I could hear large numbers of long-tailed ducks calling loudly as I walked toward the beach on the access road. The clamor emerging from the fog sounded as if they were big and very close by. Of course, I couldn't see them or much of anything else more than a few yards off shore because of the fog.

Looking North -- 8:00 AM
Aside from the long-tailed ducks, bird life was pretty quiet for most of the morning.  I only spoke with two visitors and both of them were very nice and supportive of saving the piping plover.  I walked the wrack line as usual and found an unusual amount of trash. Weird trash.

Seaweed and Nylon Mesh Stew?
By far the weirdest thing in the wrack was a cooking pot about the size of a dutch oven filled with seaweed, rope, and orange nylon mesh. Chowder? Bouillabaisse?

The Inevitable Hooksett Disc
Someday I will stop finding Hooksett discs on the beach. Really. It will happen. Actually I'm waiting for some strange species of hermit crab to evolve a need for plastic sewage treatment discs. Meanwhile, I only found a few of them. Most of the trash in the wrack was plastic. Many of the plastic items were not the usual plastic junk though. Many items besides the cooking pot looked like they may have come from one of the houses that fell in.

Plumbing Supply?
I found something that looked like part of the flush assembly for a toilet, a plastic triangle, plastic salad utensils, and much more. 


Big Plastic Fork
The wind picked up significantly and changed direction. I was wearing two windbreakers and trying to position myself out of the wind without much success. As the wind picked up, the sky started to clear and the long-tailed ducks stopped calling. They were still out there, the same distance off shore, but very quiet.

Looking South -- 11:30 AM
By 11:30 the sky was blue and the temperature was about 10 degrees warmer. A couple of northern gannets appeared through a break in the clouds, very close to shore. They put on a brief show of fancy diving but didn't stay long.

Looking North -- 11:30 AM

Saturday, April 6, 2013

first shift of the season

Now that spring is allegedly here, it's time protect the piping plovers. My first shift of the season was Friday morning. I bundled up for the cold and wind and grabbed a coffee at PICR before heading onto the north end of the refuge beach.
It's that time of year again.

Coffee of the Day: Boatyard Brew
Bird of the Day: Long-tailed Duck
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: Stairs
Invisi-bird Status: rumors that they're around Sandy Point. Number actually seen by me: zero.

The beach is a whole different place after this winter/spring with the coastal storms. The dunes drop dramatically to what's left of the beach.  The platform and stairs from the Lot 1 boardwalk no longer exist.

Where the Lot 1 boardwalk used to have a platform and stairs down to the beach.
Visitor-wise it was not a busy day at all. I never actually spoke to any visitors. A few people walking dogs on the town beach turned back when they saw me, without my saying anything.  Besides people walking dogs, the only activity on the town beach was the construction vehicles moving rocks. I'm not going to weigh in here on the mechanics of sand circulation, but you might want to read Orrin Pilkey's The Corps and the Shore  and/or  The Beaches Are Moving: The Drowning of America's Shoreline.
Looking North
The view to the south showed that people walking dogs had been on the refuge beach before I arrived. One clue that the canine footprints are of dogs and not coyotes etc. is the parallel set of human footprints next to them.

Looking South
The wind kept the bird action down, but I did get to see a flock of 44 long-tailed ducks come in for a landing on the water in their comical belly-flop fashion. These ducks are obviously not optimized for landing. With the wind and the waves, I couldn't hear their characteristic chatter, so I had to be content with just watching them.

No shorebirds of any kind were in evidence. I did see two common loons, a horned grebe, and a lone double-crested cormorant. Herring gulls and great black backs were loafing in the sand. Apparently it was too windy for gulls too -- except ring-billed gulls, which I think are the best fliers of all gull-kind.

As far as trash/debris washed up on the beach, I saw a  couple of wooden steps, probably from the Lot 1 boardwalk or one of the other boardwalks, lots of bits of fencing, tiny bits of plastic, and the inevitable Hooksett discs.

One of the Steps

Another One

The wrack line was mostly shells (with bits of plastic , like I said) and a little bit of salt hay -- no seaweed. The sand is already beginning to come back to the dunes, a little bit.

The Inevitable Hooksett Disc
The morning went by quickly. I had a little trouble with the radio, but no big deal. By the time I left, the overcast had cleared and the sun was visible. 

Seemed like every pile of shells had little plastic bits in it.