Monday, May 20, 2013

lovely day with piping plovers

Friday May 17 AM shift

My favorite coffee, perfect weather, and first sighting of the invisi-birds on Friday must mean the forces of the universe are aligned in perfection. 

Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Bird of the Day: piping plover
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: a New York driver's license
Invisi-bird Status: 15 nests -- 13 on the refuge and 2 at Sandy Point. Number actually seen by me: 3!!!!!!

What a Gorgeous Day!
After most of the weather we've been having lately, I was expecting wind and fog. There wasn't any. The weather was stunning.
Where Plovers Dine
Biological staff came by with a ride-along guest. He asked if I'd seen any piping plovers feeding on the flats as the tide was going out. Once again, I said I hadn't seen any shorebirds of any kind. I know there are piping plovers and all manner of other shorebirds out there, but they have not been hanging around the north part of the beach.

See Them? Those Three Dots Along the Waterline? Yup!
Not long after biological staff and guest headed south, I saw a piping plover flying toward
me. It landed on the beach, right at the water line. Pretty soon another one joined it. The two of them were feeding like crazy -- doing that foot trembling thing that's actually called "plovering" because plovers do it (weird because some gulls do it too). They hung out there for quite some time. Every once in awhile, they would hunker down next to a long strand of kelp that had washed up. This was all too far away for me to see what they might have been doing with the kelp. I don't know what kind of insects or whatever a single strand of kelp might harbor. A third piping plover joined them foraging on the flats for awhile, but then it flew up the beach to the highest line of wrack near where the stairs from the Lot 1 boardwalk used to be. I lost track of it amongst the wrack, and resumed watching the other two. I even got to point them out to a visitor, who was happy to know they're really here.

Hard at Work on the Boardwalk
Speaking of the Lot 1 boardwalk, I could hear the saws and hammers and see definite progress. There's still a lot to do, because they'll need to build out a platform on either side at the end, and, of course, stairs.

Where Newbury Residents Party
Between visitors I walked around on the town beach to stretch my legs. I found another party site.  Newbury must be beach party central this spring. By far the strangest thing I found was a New York State driver license. The strangest thing about it was that it wasn't really damaged much. It really didn't look like it had spent much time in the ocean or in the Merrimack River. Maybe somebody dropped it while walking or partying on the beach.

Driver License in the Wrack
Just before I left for the day, I got word that the refuge road had reopened all the way down to Sandy Point. The construction work got done way early thanks to the dry weather.  What a day! Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, piping plovers, good weather, and the road construction is finished! Now if somebody could just wave a magic wand over the Lot 1 boardwalk...

cormorants, terns, and mystery tracks

Hey, I'm way behind in updating you all on such important stuff as piping plovers, progress on the Lot 1 boardwalk reconstruction, how windy it is on the beach, and what weird stuff is washing up on the beach. Lately when I'm not on the beach or at some sort of startup event or poetry slam, I'm gallivanting all over Massachusetts visiting places I want to add to New England At-Hand. So, forgive the lack of beachy updates and set the way back machine to Friday, May 10.

Coffee of the Day: Boatyard Blend
Bird of the Day: double-crested cormorant
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: rubber hose
Invisi-bird Status:  9 nests. Number actually seen by me: zero.

Fog to the South of Me
The day started out  foggy at Plum Island, but pleasantly warm and not windy for a change.  The fog was kind of picturesque. It reminded me a little bit of Nova Scotia.  Besides the ever present flock of longtailed ducks (shouldn't they be somewhere way north of here by now?) the first birds I spotted were 2 common terns, the first of the season. Now that the common terns are here, least terns should be arriving soon too.

Fog to the North of Me
The fog started to lift around the time  biological staff came by on the way to do his survey. He reported that we have 9 piping plover nests so far. There were some mystery tracks leading up the dune, right near the refuge boundary. They looked too big to be shorebird tracks of any kind that I'm familiar with.

Mystery Tracks
Biological staff checked out the mystery tracks and did not find any birds or nests over the top of the dune. I thought they looked like turkey tracks. We never did figure it out. Oddly enough, once the sun came out, the tracks were no longer visible.
A Few Double-crested Cormorants Moving North

There seemed to be a major movement of double-crested cormorants going on. It started with a few flocks of 50-100 each, then longer and longer lines of them in the thousands streamed by. The phenomenon went on for most of the 4 hours I was there.

A Way, Wicked Lot of Double-crested Cormorants Moving North
As the fog lifted, more visitors arrived, so I actually got to talk to interested people. The funniest thing was when some women from New Hampshire asked me if the Hooksett discs were still showing up on the beach.  It would have been funnier if they were actually from Hooksett, but still...
No Fog to the South of Me
By 11:00 AM or so, you never would have known the day had started out foggy.

No Fog to the North of Me

Besides Hooksett discs, there were a few bits and pieces of things that looked like plumbing supplies from the houses that fell in or something.  I've been finding small pieces of rubber hose that looks more like household stuff than stuff from a boat.

Rubber Hose
Work on the Lot 1 boardwalk is progressing. Lots of wood was delivered.

Boardwalk Rebuilding Supplies
The Lot 1 Boardwalk In Progress

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

windy day with seaweed

With the great weather we'd been having all week, I did not expect Friday morning to be windy and cold. Yet another reminder that the weather on the beach is not the same as the weather inland, I guess. Luckily I had good coffee to keep me warm :-)

Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Harrar
Bird of the Day: osprey
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: party, remains of
Invisi-bird Status: Refuge beach: 13 pair, 2 nests; Sandy Point: 2 pair; Town beach: 0. Number actually seen by me: zero.

The skies to the south looked gray and low. The view to the north was brighter and the clouds weren't quite so low. The wind just kept on blowing steadily the whole morning. Biological staff (aka Jim) came by on the ATV with a ride-along (this is a new thing this year where volunteers can sign up to ride along with biological staff on one of his surveys). I told him I had not seen a single piping plover or any other shorebird yet that morning.

I never did see any shorebirds, but did see herring gulls, ring-billed gulls, and a couple of great black backs. There were a lot of  cormorants but fewer than last week. The absolute bird highlight of the day was an osprey that flew right over my head toward the water.  No need for binoculars, he was so low.

A Party?
The wrack was mostly actual wrack, basically rockweed and knotted wrack. Of course, the wrackline and the beach were not entirely free of trash (it will be a great day when they are) so I found plenty of weird stuff to photograph. By far the weirdest thing was the remains of a bonfire, apparently the setting for a major party given the number of beer bottles surrounding it.

An Outlier
Most of the beer bottles were clustered close to the charred wood remains of the fire, but there were a few outliers poking up from the sand nearby.

They Left the Matches
They even left the box of matches behind. That's a first. All this except for one of the outlier beer bottles was on the town beach, not on refuge property.

Artistic Arrangement of Wrack and Hooksett Disk
There was the inevitable Hooksett disc, of course. There is always at least one. I'm so tuned in to Hooksett discs, I thought I saw one on an Audubon refuge in Gardner last week. It was a somewhat similar looking plastic thingie, so they actually haven't penetrated as far inland as Central Mass. :-)

The wrack was looking very photogenic, almost like those Victorian arrangements of pressed seaweed that were all the rage in the 19th century. I had almost no visitors (only one) so had plenty of time to admire the wrack, build a stick fence as the tide went out, and watch the ring-billed gulls put on a demonstration of how to fly into the wind.

More Wrack