Friday, October 17, 2014

Parker River NWR for best birdwatching spot

This is cool. Parker River NWR is included in USA Today's poll for favorite birdwatching spot. You can vote once a day. Also note they're using Matt Poole's lovely piping plover photo to represent PRNWR -- definitely PRNWR's most representative bird.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Numbers as of this past Monday:
Refuge: 26 pairs,  4 chicks,  59 fledgelings;  Sandy Point: 5 pairs, 1 chick, 11 fledgelings; Town Beach: 2 pairs, 5 fledgelings.

As of yesterday (Friday  August 22) Lot 7 is open.

Want to help clean up the beach? Coast Sweep is coming up on September 13. Come to Lot 1 from 9AM-3PM. Trash bags provided. You never know what interesting trash you will find in the wrack.

fashionistas invade the beach (August 15)

Catching up with blogging my adventures: this is the entry for August 15.

Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Harrar
Bird of the Day: least tern
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: well, the fashion model's glasses haven't washed back up yet, so I'm going to have to call it the Weird Wrack Item of Next Week. Yeah, there's a story here.
Invisibird Status: No report from biological staff. Number actually seen by me: 2.

Looking South
The beach is still closed because there are still chicks who can't fly yet.  I thought they'd all be fledged by now, but they're not. Also, there are unfledged least tern young. So there I was out there this morning expecting a typical shift with a manageable number of visitors. Hah!

Big Waves
The tide was coming in and the waves were particularly big. Further up the island off the Newbury town beach, in the surfing sweet spot, there were more surfers and stand-up paddle boarders than I've seen all summer. I intercepted a few kids and joggers about to enter the closed area, answered questions about piping plovers and least terns and even one about tree swallows, then all heck broke loose.

I spotted a group of college age kids in the closed area. They had come in behind me while I was intercepting a kid at the water line. I politely explained that they had entered a nesting area and asked them exceedingly politely to leave. They were not happy but they did move to the open beach. They turned out to be doing a fashion photo shoot -- a photographer, models, and their driver. They wanted pristine beach empty of visitors.  A beach-goer who used to work the gatehouse several years back tried to help by suggesting alternatives. I chimed in and tried to send them to Rye -- which I thought would be more picturesque and unpopulated than say Salisbury or Hampton.  Former gatehouse tried to negotiate and get me to bend the rules to let them a little ways into the closed area. I radioed Gatehouse (the real one) but had trouble being understood on the radio. All I could find out was that there was no Law Enforcement on duty. Dang, I could've used Unit 61.

Fashionistas Assembling for the Photo Shoot
I finally got hold of Unit 9 on her cell phone and explained the situation. She reiterated "absolutely not" in answer to their pleas to be allowed in the closed area. Finally, they selected a spot on the open beach close to the line and asked some visitors to move. They started their photo shoot.  I told Unit 9 I would stay until the shoot was done because there was no relief on the schedule and these people needed to be watched.

Former gatehouse noticed that a gull was trying to take stuff out of a backpack belonging to one of the models. She zipped up the backpack and offered to take care of the fashionistas' belongings for the duration of the shoot. Big Steve made an appearance and was supportive. The models were doing the beach clothes first, then planning to change to the swimsuits. One of them started to worry that they would not be done by 3:00PM and she had to be at a fashion show. Former gatehouse didn't want to watch their stuff that long and I was worried I would be severely dehydrated  by then, not to mention really hungry.

The Wily Herring Gull
They changed to swimsuits (using the same tricks I learned for doing that when camping with 5 brothers). They went into the water. I mentioned the waves were unusually big, right? The models stand with their backs to the waves. Big Steve, former gatehouse, and I stare with mouths agape. Where are these kids from? Former gatehouse says some are from North Carolina and some from Framingham. OK, they have waves in North Carolina. Big ones. Framingham not so much, but still. Model gets knocked over and comes up the beach to borrow former gatehouse's towel. None of the models have brought towels. For a swimwear photo shoot on the beach. Whatev (is that how you spell it?).

They did a few poses with the female models on the backs of the male models, in the surf, with their backs to the ever bigger incoming waves. One couple gets knocked over. The boy ends up with huge scratches on his ribcage from the girl's fingernails. We ask if he needs medical attention. He says no.

More surf shots. One male model is in the water with his glasses on -- not chic sunglasses or hipster glasses, actual prescription glasses. He gets knocked over and surfaces without his glasses. The glasses vanished. Model calls his Mom. She paid for the glasses on her medical insurance. No one is happy. Fortunately, he has brought his contact lens and they are safely zipped in the backpack. Yup, the thing the gull was trying to get out of the backpack was the contact lens container. So glad former gatehouse zipped the backpack.

Meanwhile a toddler runs full tilt into the closed area chasing a gull. I turn to run after her and trip over the stick fence that Big Steve and I had made to mark the boundary. Fortunately, I grabbed the back of my chair, which was nearby and well dug in to the sand, and managed not to fall.

Finally, all the swimsuit models dry themselves off with former gatehouse's towel, put their clothes back on, and leave. By this time I am starving and thirsty, not necessarily in that order. I wait until they are on the boardwalk before I pack up.

I could throw in a completely irrelevant fish story here, but I've rambled on long enough. I should rewrite this story to make it shorter, but here it is for now.

Oh, and on the way out I told Gatehouse I am done for the season. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

least terns vs. helicopter (July 25 AM Shift)

Edited to clarify: This entry describes the July 25 AM shift. All numbers, stories, and coffee relate to July 25.

Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Harrar
Bird of the Day: least tern
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: feathers (OK, so that's not so weird because the gulls are molting)
Invisibird Status: Refuge beach: 25 pairs, 56 chicks, 19 fledgelings. Sandy Point: 4 pairs, 1 nest, 10 chicks. Town beach: 2 pairs, 1 nest, 1 chick. Number actually seen by me: zero.

Gulls Galore
Gulls of many kinds, though none exotic, roosted on the beach. They were joined by several double-crested cormorants, but no terns - exotic or otherwise.

They All Took Off At Once
At one point all the gulls took off at once, flew around offshore for a minute or two, and settled back down on the beach. Nothing in particular had spooked them. There wasn't any sudden influx of small fish either so I'll have to add this to my list of gull behaviors I need to research more.

Flying Boat
The weather was hazy enough to produce loomings offshore, though the Isles of Shoals did not materialize above the horizon as they sometimes do. The best looming was a fishing boat that appeared to be flying above the water.

The least terns were really active, making lots of noise and dive bombing anything that came near the colony. When biological staff stopped by on her way out to do the beach survey, I mentioned that the leasties were particularly excitable today. She replied "I've got my poop hat." A visitor overheard this and later asked "Did she say poop hat?" I was explaining how least terns use poop as a defense mechanism to some visitors and all became clear to the woman who asked that.

I heard a helicopter nearby and looked up to see a Mass. State Police helicopter flying really low over the water just offshore. Just as the thought "the least terns are going to hate this" formed in my brain, a mob of them flew  toward the chopper making a lot of noise.  The chopper then came in much lower and  over the beach  -- right over the least tern colony. Basically, it buzzed the least tern colony. This did not go over well with the terns. I could not tell biological staff's reaction from that distance.
State Police Helicopter
The helicopter continued flying low over the beach as if they were looking for someone. A very concerned visitor came over to me and asked "Are you aware that there is someone on the beach?" I said that it was biological staff and I knew she was there. The visitor reiterated her concern, insisting the state police must be looking for someone and something must be wrong. I reassured her that the biologist was a) authorized to be there and b) safe and in no distress. Biological staff would have radioed me or gatehouse or law enforcement if anything was amiss and I could see her going about her business checking on the birds. The visitor was finally satisfied that there was no emergency.

I'm not sure what the staties were trying to accomplish by spooking the least terns, and, by the way, the piping plovers. These are birds that mistake kites for avian predators. I could understand flying that low over the nesting areas if there was a problem, like someone missing or drowning or committing crimes... Disrupting the birds for a routine patrol seemed odd, but the state police have been stepping up their helicopter patrolling all over the Merrimack Valley lately. No clue why.
Low Flying Plane

There was a low flying general aviation craft offshore, but it did not buzz the beach. Maybe it was Newbury Fly Low Day or something.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

another quick post

I don't have any new piping plover numbers yet, but it's looking like the remaining chicks will have fledged by the end of next week.


I had a busy shift yesterday but everybody was nice. No hostile people.

There are no stripers.

Invisible Fisherman Fishing for Invisible Stripers

Semipalmated sandpipers, semipalmated plovers, and least sandpipers are taking over the world. Or at least the beach. Huge numbers have been arriving over the past few days. The fall shorebird migration has begun.

There will be stories. It's not that I don't have cool stories to tell. It's that I don't have time to write them. But then, if I don't write, you all won't read, and so on and so forth. Meanwhile, you all should go out and get Doug Chickering's book: Reflections on a Golden-winged Warbler. Doug writes in a vastly different style from mine and still wears the old blue mesh refuge volunteer hat -- mine disintegrated years ago and I like the gray cotton one I have now way better. Oh, and he apparently never has writer's block.

Link for Doug's book:

Saturday, August 2, 2014

quick update

Piping plover numbers from Jean:
Refuge: 25 pair, 32 chicks, 40 fledgelings; Sandy Point: 4 pair, 1 nest, 10 chicks; Town beach: 2 pair, 1 nest, 1 chick.

Week before last: I realized that herring gulls are the essential binding force of the universe. Hitherto, I believed it was either cat hair or coffee.

Last week: a state police helicopter buzzed the least tern colony.

Yesterday: I talked to 17 visitors - 15 very nice and interested in piping plovers and 2 weirdo trespassers. Nobody threw anything at my head (or any other part of my body) this week. No state police helicopters buzzed the least tern colony.  No unusual tern sightings, except that I finally saw my first roseate tern of the season -- they've been around, not sure why I hadn't seen any.

Backlog of fascinating entries about gulls in fado music and about state police helicopter buzzing least tern colony is accumulating.

Blogger burnout and plover warden burnout are beginning to set in.

The Eye of the Ringbill is upon You

Monday, July 14, 2014

quick update re plover numbers and sandwich tern

Piping Plover Numbers

Latest report from biological staff:  Refuge beach  28 pairs, 6 nests,  52 chicks, 6 fledglings;  Sandy Point 4 pairs,  1 nest, 10 chicks;  Town beach 2 pairs, 1 nest, 1 chick.

 The Tern Extravaganza Continues

According to various postings on massbird, the Sandwich Tern is still being seen from the Lot 1 boardwalk. In other tern news, Prince of Plum Island Doug Chickering reported great looks at a Gull-billed Tern over the salt pannes and a possibility of a second Gull-billed Tern at Sandy Point reported by one of the Bobs.

Obligatory Photo of Anything

Because all blog posts must have photos and I haven't taken any today, here is a photo of a Great Black Back being the boss of all it surveys on Friday.

I Am the Boss of the Beach and the Ocean

Saturday, July 12, 2014

royal terns, sandwich tern, and weird happenings on the beach

Coffee of the Day: Tanzania Peaberry
Bird of the Day: Royal Tern
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: plastic sea horse
Invisi-bird Status: haven't gotten the report yet. Biological staff confirmed the two fledglings I saw last week. Number actually seen by me today: Three adults or fledglings at a distance in the heat haze.

Tree Swallows and Several Species of Gulls and Terns Roosting on the Beach
What a gorgeous day! Bright sun, low humidity, and just enough sea breeze to keep the greenheads away.  When I arrived at 8 AM, the public area of beach was empty of visitors except for a couple of fishermen. The closed area of beach was covered with roosting birds. I have never seen this many swallows sitting on the ground in my life. I've seen millions of them swirling in the air, but never on the ground like this. They did fly around -- very low over the sand -- a bit, but they seemed to mostly walk around and peck at some form of insect life on the sand. The usual gull roost was more populous and more varied. I spent a couple of hours trying to get a good look through the heat haze at a couple of unusual looking terns in their midst.

Blue Sky Over Lot 1 Boardwalk
My first few visitors only had questions about fish, as in "where are the stripers?" Even my first bird question was really about stripers, as in "is that an osprey that just caught that schoolie?" I don't know where the fish are. My usual clue to where the fish are is where the birds are. The birds were mainly on the beach, not fishing. That indicates to me that the fish are somewhere else. As for the osprey, yes! It was a very dramatic catch. The osprey was fairly close to shore and made a perfect catch. The fishermen and I got a great look at the osprey and the fish, which was indeed a juvenile striped bass. (For those not from this region, "schoolie" is the local word for "juvenile striped bass".) The osprey, with fish, flew off over the dunes, presumably back to the nest. Quite a show.

Orange Plastic Seahorse
I was too busy with visitors and tern identification to spend much time walking the wrack line, which may be the reason why for the first time in history I did not see a single Hooksett disc. Someday I need to write a book about the Hooksett discs but can't figure out how to make it as compelling a story as either the rubber duckies or the sneakers (famous marine debris stories).  I did spot a few plastic objects, almost all of them orange. Seriously, shovels, buckets, toys, fireworks/shotgun shell casings, rope ... all orange. My favorite was a plastic sea horse. Very orange.

Biological Staff about to be Dive-Bombed by Least Terns
The least terns were at their feistiest, calling constantly and attacking anything that moved. I witnessed one single least tern strafing a roost of hundreds of tree swallows. The tree swallows rearranged themselves a little but did not leave.  A lone least tern took on a great black back and drove it off the beach. Very impressive. The black back did return with a very obvious white stripe of you know what on its black back. The least tern air defense command won all subsequent confrontations too. I don't envy biological staff having to census the least tern colony.

Great Black Back
The tree swallows eventually moved on and the gull/tern/cormorant roost grew in numbers. I think what had attracted all those swallows was a recent hatch of winged ants. There were still plenty of winged ants around and the ring-billed gulls moved in where the swallows had vacated.

Low-Flying Plane
Flying conditions for general aviation craft were perfect and there were a lot of them. I need to get a general aviation craft field guide :-). I watched one plane do barrel rolls and another doing some kind of stall turn. One plane made a very low pass over the waterline that attracted much attention on the beach.

Crowd of Birders Scoping the Royal Terns and the Sandwich Tern
In between visitors, I narrowed down the ID of 2 of the odd terns to either Caspian or Royal. With the heat haze and without a scope (I stopped bringing my scope to plover warden shifts several years ago -- too much to carry) I couldn't be sure. I noticed a birder on the beach behind me with a scope so walked over and asked him about the terns. He gave me a look through his scope (this is very generous because 99.999% of birders are way taller than me and have to lower the tripod for me to take a look). We agreed that the two very large terns were indeed Royal. The other odd one was roosting in a depression in the sand behind a herring gull, so we couldn't get a good enough look at it for positive ID. This was my first Massachusetts sighting of Royal Tern (and obviously first Plum Island sighting too)! I tried to to tweet the sighting but didn't have a good enough connection.

Later on, I noticed that many birders had gathered on the platform at the Lot 1 boardwalk and were all pointing their scopes at the gull/tern roost, so word had gotten out about the "odd" terns.

The Weapon
The beach filled up with tons of visitors, including lots of unsupervised children. A couple of boys were throwing balls of seaweed at gulls. They got close to the boundary and were throwing things (not always seaweed) into the closed area so I casually said "hey guys..." I thought I'd gently gotten my point across, but soon they were back. One boy threw a stick, which I immediately noticed was about to hit me in the head. Completely reflexively my hand, with Moleskine notebook still in it, went up to protect my face. The stick bounced off the notebook, thus saving my left eye from a really nasty injury. The kids ran away before I even recovered from the shock. Nearby visitors made sure I was OK.  They wondered where the parents of said kids were, but we were unable to track them down.  There was no point in calling law enforcement, since the kids had taken off and I was uninjured. This incident is definitely one of the strangest things that has ever happened to me during a plover warden shift.

The Moleskine Notebook that Saved my Eye
Several people have pointed out that it's lucky I still keep my bird notes in a real notebook as my iPhone would not have saved me -- imagine a stick in my eye AND a broken iPhone -- shudder.

Now back to the uplifting good parts of the day.  A low flying helicopter buzzed the beach, but did not disturb the roosting birds. What is it with everybody flying so low?

As I was leaving the beach, the guy who had let me look through his scope earlier was now up on the boardwalk and called out to me that the other mystery tern was a Sandwich Tern.  Cool! When I got up onto the boardwalk, I observed both the "King" and the "Prince" of Plum Island (Tom Wetmore and Doug Chickering) had joined the scrum. Doug generously let me look through his scope at the Sandwich Tern. The view was unobstructed by gulls so I could be certain of the ID. Wow! Two awesome Plum Island records for me! Royal Tern and Sandwich Tern. What a great day!

Serious Looking Gull

Friday, July 4, 2014


Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Harrar
Bird of the Day: piping plover
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: a plastic funnel that has been here since May (just moved further south and further up on beach)
Invisi-bird Status: Refuge beach: 25 pairs, 15 nests, 19 chicks; Sandy Point: 4 pairs, 1 nest, 6 chicks; Town beach: 2 pairs, 1 nest, 4 chicks. Number actually seen by me: 3 - 1 adult + 2 chicks.

Looking South at Pre-Arthur Clouds
After last night's thunderstorms and in anticipation of Hurricane Arthur, I was convinced my shift would be rained out yet again. However, it was not raining when I got up. In fact there were patches of clear sky over my house.  The Pre-Arthur clouds over the beach did look threatening, but it was indeed not raining on the beach when I got there.
Anybody Here?
Before I even set up my chair, I heard the distinctive peep-lo call and spotted an adult piping plover. It proceeded to run up to the wrack line and hunker down in a depression in the sand. As I played hide and seek with the adult, two chicks ran around catching flies and becoming invisible then reappearing. The adult did the distraction display to divert the attention of a menacing great black back and the chicks scampered away to hide.

Look! An Invisi-bird
The least terns were playing the invisi-bird game too. I watched as two of them landed on the beach just above the wrack line and flattened themselves against the sand. They were indistinguishable from the bits of shells and seaweed.  It was the kind of day when most of the birds gather on the sand and rest. A couple of the least terns flew and dove into the surf, but quickly joined their fellows on the sand. A pair of common terns hunkered down at a safe distance from the great black backs. One herring gull went after the bait fish on a fisherman's line unsuccessfully. Two sanderlings landed near the piping plovers and least terns. Isn't it kind of early for sanderlings? Anyway, the adult piping plover chased them off.

I assumed the piping plover chicks had not yet fledged even though they looked pretty close to ready because they repeatedly ran and hid when threatened and because they seemed to be relying on the adult for good hiding places. As I was musing about this, one of them took off and flew a few feet down the beach. The second one followed after about a minute. Did I witness their first flight? It was pretty cool.

It's Raining!
Big Steve came out onto the beach to extend his trademark stick fence. While I was telling him about what I had just seen the fledglings do, it started to rain a tiny bit. As I debated whether to pack up, the rain intensified. As soon as I packed up and got up onto the boardwalk, the rain turned back drizzle, then back to rain, then to nothing (briefly). Somebody in the parking lot told me everybody was coming back because the rain was over. By the time I got from the parking lot to the gatehouse, you guessed it, it was raining again. And so on and so forth all the way home.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

loomings and least terns (Friday's shift)

Lines of Wrack
Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Bird of the Day: least tern
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: a prescription bottle (empty)
Invisi-bird Status: Refuge beach: 11 pairs, 5 nests; Sandy Point: 5 pairs, 3 nests; Number actually seen by me: 1.

The first thing I noticed when I started my shift was the very steep berm. My photo doesn't really capture it, but the slope of the beach between that leftmost (in the photo) line of wrack and the water line is really steep.  There was a fair amount of sand roiled up by the waves too, so more sand was arriving as the tide came in.
Wrack Item of the Week
 Trash-wise, the big change was that the pink plastic kiddie car on the town beach is finally gone! Did some child finally claim it? Did the tide pull it back out to sea? Did beach cleanup volunteers pick it up? I guess we'll never know.  In general, there was a lot less plastic trash in the wrack.  The weirdest thing I found was a green plastic prescription bottle.  It was empty of both prescription and message. It would be weird to send out a message in a prescription bottle anyway. The other weird item was a funnel I spotted on the closed area of the beach. I'm picturing a giant hermit crab adopting it as a hat. :-)

Runner Up for Wrack Item of the Week
While scanning the closed area with my binoculars, I spotted something that looked like a really tall piece of driftwood -- like a tree standing upright or something. It was hazy enough that I figured it was a looming (a mirage in which objects below the horizon seem to be raised above their true positions). I've had the experience of a great black back looking the size of a toddler, so I thought nothing of it for a few minutes. Once I'd finished my coffee, I noticed that the looming was moving. As I got a better view, I realized it was a person. I radioed Gatehouse and described the location as between lots 2 & 3. Eventually, Unit 8 arrived on the beach and took a look. He doesn't have as much experience staring at the beach, so wasn't sure where each of the boardwalks comes out. After watching the person walk up toward the dunes and back toward the water, 8 set out on the refuge road to see if there were any vehicles in lots 2 or 3 that might give a clue. The only vehicle he found was a refuge vehicle that Gatehouse confirmed was Frank. I doubt that it was Frank on the beach at that spot. Anyway, the person disappeared before I left. I'm now, in 20/20 hindsight, thinking that the haze did throw off my perception of distance and the trespasser was considerably south of lot 3 and was merely being projected above the horizon. Dang, I guess I need more experience with loomings.

Meanwhile, a squadron of least terns flew over my head bearing fish. I narrowly dodged a stream of least tern excrement. The least terns were very active fishing and then flying to the southwest. I'm guessing they're setting up housekeeping somewhere to the southwest of where I was standing. The leasties outnumbered the common terns by quite a few.  They were definitely the most noticeable avian life form of the day.

One piping plover put in an appearance for about a half hour feeding along the water line and around the big piles of seaweed washed up.  It kept vanishing behind the piles of bladder wrack and kelp. I managed to get a photo of it between piles.

For such a gorgeous day, visitor action was slow. I only spoke with one visitor, who wanted an update on how many nests there are.

To recap: 1 piping plover, 1 visitor, and 1 trespasser (who may or may not have been a mirage). Just another day on the beach.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Least Terns Are Back

Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Harrar
Bird of the Day: least tern
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: unidentified round thing
Invisi-bird Status: Haven't seen this week's report yet.  Number actually seen by me: 2

Piping Plover in the Wrack Line
I really thought my shift would be rained out, but the rain stopped just in time. The heavy clouds mainly kept people off the beach. A few guys were fishing for stripers and not catching  much of anything. One guy caught the smallest striped bass I've seen yet. That was about it.

Had my first Big Steve sighting of the season. He was just leaving when I was picking up the radio and backpack at the gatehouse.  Also had a Tom Wetmore sighting. Would love to know what he saw with his scope looking out beyond the flock of long tailed ducks.
The pink plastic kiddie car is still on the town beach in the same spot. I didn't bother taking a picture of it because it hasn't moved.  There were the usual Hooksett disks on the beach. They're going to be there forever. There was even one in the parking lot at Plum Island Coffee Roasters. The strangest thing I found as I walked the wrack line was large round thing about the size of a salad plate - gray on top, black on the sides. It looked like some kind of filter disk though I can't figure out what it might be a filter from.

Large Round Thing in the Wrack Line
For most of the shift it was just me, the fishermen, and the birds. Two piping plovers flew in from the general direction of the 0.2 mile marker, doing their trademark peep-lo call. The both fed for awhile then one flew back. The other one stayed, running back and forth along the water line. It didn't stay in the closed area (they can't read after all), but it would turn back as soon as it got to about even with the boardwalk (if you drew a line from the boardwalk to the waterline, I mean).

Piping Plover in Outgoing Tide
A couple of common terns and a small flock of about 6 least terns showed up and were diving like crazy. It's good to see the least terns back for the season. I hope they nest on the refuge beach. It was fun to compare the least and common terns' diving techniques side by side.

At the Water's Edge
I hadn't really had to say much more than "Hi!" to a few visitors until a huge group of high school kids arrived on a field trip.  One of the teachers came over and told me they knew about the plover nesting, assured me they had a group permit, and all that stuff. I gave one of the other teachers some of the handouts about piping plovers.  The kids were doing some kind of interdisciplinary art project on the beach, which seemed harmless enough.  When the one plover who'd been around all day returned to the public use area, I asked the teachers to make sure the kids stayed at least 10 feet away from it.  They assured me everything would be OK.  Then I spotted boys digging in the dunes and girls sitting in the dunes right next to the signs that tell you the dune is fragile and keep out. I flagged down a teacher and asked him to talk to them, which he did. So far so good. Just before it was time for me to leave I spotted more kids sliding down the dune (you know, the one that's been slowing building back up -- you've seen it on the news...) ... Flagged down another teacher and she got right on it. I was relieved I didn't have to call Law Enforcement.  I did mention the situation to Gatehouse when I left.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May 16 -- Feeding Frenzy

Invisi-bird  with Bubbles
Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Bird of the Day: common tern -- lots of 'em
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: the pink plastic kiddie car is still still here
Invisi-bird status: Refuge beach 28 pairs, 12 nests; Sandy Point 4 pairs, 2 nests; Town beach 0. Number actually seen by me: 2.

Looking North
When I arrived, the beach was empty except for two striper fishermen and a trail of footprints. The fishermen weren't catching much. Whatever stripers they hauled in were smaller than my cat (who is very small) and got thrown back immediately.  The footprints of a person and a dog looked like they had been there even before the fishermen arrived. I never saw anybody in the closed area.

Looking South

Trespasser Footprints
Visitors were scarce despite the beautiful sunny day. That may be because it was not a beautiful sunny day inland. All morning I kept expecting the rain to move toward the coast but it didn't. 

Invisi-bird at Low Tide
Two piping plovers hung around together feeding just to the south of the boundary, but I saw no signs of mating behavior.  Birding in general was fairly slow until almost lunch time. There were the usual long tailed ducks, a few cormorants, and three common terns. Then suddenly there were hundreds of terns, hundreds of cormorants, gulls, and various kinds of diving ducks all in one spot in a giant feeding frenzy. Something big must have chased all the small bait fish toward that spot. Terns were diving from every direction. It was spectacular to watch.
Feeding Frenzy
I hope the Mass Audubon Birdathon people I saw on the Lot 1 boardwalk got to sort through all those species to add to their tally.

Mass Audubon Birdathon People
Instead of yet another photo of the pink plastic kiddie car, which is inexplicably still here, I'll include a somewhat hazy photo of the light reflecting off solar panels on a roof near the northern end of the island. At times it looked like a giant column of light hovering over the roof and stretching way up into the sky. Maybe the homeowners were signaling an alien spaceship :-)

Column of Light Reflecting Upward off Solar Panels

May 9 -- The Birdiest Day Yet

Coffee of the Day: Tanzania Peaberry
Bird of the Day: brown thrasher
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: a seat by the fireside
Invisi-bird Status: Refuge beach 24 pairs, 4 nests; Sandy Point 4 pairs, 2 nests, Town beach 0. Number actually seen by me: 3.

Interesting clouds, relatively little wind, lots of birds ... I repeat lots of birds. This was by far the birdiest day yet. Common terns are back. Three black-bellied plovers were feeding along the water line near the three piping plovers and one semipalmated sandpiper (one -- they can exist alone ? :-)). An osprey flew directly over my head.  The beach just seemed totally alive with birds.

Still Here!
The pink plastic kiddie car is still here. I'd have thought some kid would have taken it home by now.

A Seat by the Fireside
It looks like the illegal beach bonfire season has started. I spotted freshly burnt logs, empty beer bottles, and a cushion positioned cozily by the fireside.  Only one cushion? I guess the other firebugs sat in the sand. Sigh. I'm thinking we need a webcam set up on the Lot 1 boardwalk pointed at this spot. That would probably be cheaper than posting law enforcement out there all night. Anyway, at least these people didn't leave the freakin' fire burning (that has happened before).
The birding got even better as I was leaving after my shift. Two brown thrashers were bustling around in the underbrush in the dune near the gatehouse. As I was watching them, an eastern towhee landed on a bush right above them and admonished me to drink my tea.  It actually seems like summer already.