Tuesday, July 2, 2013

rain and a rarity

My favorite coffee, a life bird, piping plovers, least terns, and even bank swallows -- who cares about rain?

Friday June 28 AM Shift North (sort of)

Coffee of the Day:Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Bird of the Day: red-necked stint
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: Hotsticks bag
Invisi-bird Status:  Refuge beach: 31 pairs, 13 active nests, 34 chicks, no fledglings yet. Sandy Point: 4 pairs,7 chicks. Town beach: 0. Number actually seen by me: 2.

It was pouring rain when I woke up, but mindful of how the rain tricked me 2 weeks ago and stopped by 10AM, I decided to go to the refuge anyway, aiming for 9AM instead of 8. It was still raining when I bought my coffee at PICR, raining even harder as I passed the historic aerodrome, and still raining when I got to the refuge. There was not a single car in Lot 1(well, except mine) and not a soul on the north end of the beach. So where were all the cars that had entered the refuge ahead of me? A chance encounter with His Royal Highness, the King of Plum Island, aka Tom Wetmore revealed the answer. The red-necked stint that had been reported on the massbird listserve was being seen at the south end of the refuge beach. With no reason to get rained on at the north boundary, I high-tailed it south.

Willet on the Town Marker in the Rain
Along the way, I drank my coffee and stopped for a photo of the town marker willet - I'm sure it's always the same one - in the rain. Also saw the suicidal mourning dove pair in their usual spot in the middle of the gravel road. I wonder what they made of all the construction/commotion this spring.

Rainy Birders

Aside from nearly getting conked in the head with a birder's tripod as he was leaving the beach (the other birders pointed out that it would be a really bad idea to knock out a refuge volunteer :-)), I had no trouble finding the birders or the stint. Obviously I did not have my scope with me, as I was equipped for a day of plover wardening,  not a day of rarity chasing, but several people volunteered to lower their scopes down to my height and I accepted one of the offers -- a very nice lady.

Somewhat Drier Birders on the Red-Necked Stint
The stint came a lot closer and I got good looks with my binoculars too. It was hanging out with a semipalmated plover and sometimes a semipalmated sandpiper and a killdeer too. There were nice opportunities for comparison with the semipalmated sandpiper. Such a pretty bird!

Stint (Right Foreground) with Some Friends
I watched the stint and its companions from lots of different spots.  At one point it was close enough that I could watch it with the naked eye and attempt handheld non-digiscoped photography. Attempt is the key word. At full zoom in the foggy/rainy/hazy light, I couldn't really focus on it.

Bank Swallow Nests
As I was standing there, I noticed a bank swallow in my peripheral vision. I turned around and sure enough several bank swallows were flying in and out of their holes. At one point I counted 5 of them. Another birder (Strickland Wheelock I think, but I didn't  have my photographic guide to Massachusetts birders with me :-)) came over to look at the bank swallows and we had a great discussion about flight.

The rain  had let up and I'd gotten good looks at the stint, so I figured I would go back to the north boundary just to check on things. Things were quiet visitor-wise.  A pair of piping plovers were feeding on the town beach. I spotted the remains of a bonfire on refuge property, fairly close to the closed area. The bonfires have been moving slowly southward from week to week from the dunes at the town beach to the the Lot 1 access road between the dunes to right out there on the refuge beach.

This week's fire people meant business. I found an empty plastic bag of Hotsticks fire-starters.
Bag That Contained Bug Free, Kiln-Dried, Premium Hardwood Fire-starters
A least tern flew by me at eye level with a fish in its beak. The two piping plovers wandered in and out of the edge of the surf.
Piping Plover
And here's a brief entry on last week's shift. That should cover all the recent news.

Friday June 21 AM Shift North

Coffee of the Day: Boatyard Brew
Bird of the Day: Bonaparte's gull
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: unidentifiable plastic thing
Invisi-bird Status (actually from 6/14 -- didn't get an update on 6/21): Refuge beach: 32 pairs, 15 active nests, 28 chicks, no fledglings yet. Town beach: 0. Number actually seen by me: 3.

It was one of those days with lots of tiny moments.

Three visitors exclaimed that the new boardwalk, especially the stairs, is a work of art.

A third grader asked an excellent question about how the piping plover's nest site choices were being affected by sea-level rise and global warming.

A fisherman caught a flounder and kids came running from all over the beach to see it.

As I was thinking "gee, I haven't seen any Bonaparte's gulls this year" a small flock of them landed next to the ring-billed gulls on the beach.

I got a nice shot of a piping plover contemplating the vastness of the ocean.

Piping Plover
Weird Wrack Item of the Week

Bonfire Remnants on Refuge Property