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.

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