Saturday, April 25, 2015

the beach is a weird place

Saturday April 18
AM Shift - North
Coffee of the Day: Boatyard Brew
Bird of the Day: Double crested cormorant
Weird wrack item of the week: umm, you decide.
Invisi-bird status: Refuge: 20 pairs, Sandy Point 2 pairs, Town Beach 2 pairs. Number actually seen by me: zero.
Looking South
Some days are weirder than others.  Some days are just weird. Weird. Weird. Haven't said weird enough yet. For only the fourth or maybe fifth time in like 20 years of plover wardening, there were no radios in the equipment box. There should be two radios happily charging in their little cradles, but there were zero. Called headquarters. Brainstorming together, we were unable to figure out where the radios have gone. We agreed to use cellphones in the event of anything requiring communication until someone could bring me a radio.
Low-flying Aeroplane
The weather was spectacular -- clear and bright and not unbearably windy. Among other things, this meant lots of activity from the Plum Island Aerodrome.  I got a little nervous when an extremely low-flying plane resembling an ultralight flew over the beach. When I first spotted it, it was slightly offshore, then it came in over the water line, then as it proceeded south it came further inland and at lower altitude. The lower it got, the more concerned I got that it would crash on the closed area of beach. Fortunately, it regained a little altitude before it flew out toward Cape Ann.

The major bird excitement of the day was a long line of about a thousand double-crested cormorants bookin' it north. Actually I lost count at two groups of 500, so there may have been more than 1000. It was impressive to watch.
Highly Photogenic Log
There was a huge log washed up on the beach, looking very photogenic, and loads of people were taking photos of it. As I was answering questions about the piping plovers, about the Sandy Point parking lot (only the first lot is open so it gets full fast), and the Blue Inn (it's closed for renovations I don't have any insider knowledge beyond that, yet a visitor believed I would be able to tell her the inside scoop on "what happened to the Blue Inn"),  I spotted the strangest thing I have yet seen on the beach.

A man carrying a couch walked onto the beach and placed the couch next to the photogenic log. I thought this odd. Who brings a couch to the beach?  The tide was clearly coming in, swirling up around the log periodically. Two women appeared. One a young model carrying a couple of dresses, one very poufy. The other apparently the photographer's assistant, carrying the thick couch cushion.

Photo Shoot
The photographer placed the couch next to the picturesque, photogenic log and turned to answer a question about which dress the model was supposed to put on. A wave washed over the couch -- which was still awaiting the cushion.  After some negotiation amongst themselves the photographer moved the couch further up from the water line. They did a bunch of photos with various of the dresses. The model was wearing fairly skimpy bikini underwear beneath the voluminous dresses, which struck me as funny,

Just when I thought they had become more sensible, he had her pose next to the log - without the couch - with waves swirling around her. I got a little worried that this was going to turn into a disaster like the bizarre photo shoot last August where one model lost his glasses and one got seriously scratched up. Fortunately, they finished up safely and toted the couch off the beach. My relief arrived and told me he'd just seen the strangest thing... to which I immediately said "oh, the couch."

Monday, April 20, 2015

windy day on the beach

Saturday April 11
AM Shift - North
Coffee of the day: Tanzania Peaberry
Bird of the day: osprey
Weird wrack item of the week: shoe insoles
Invisi-bird status: No official report yet. Number actually seen by me: 2
Big Waves
Boy, I thought last Saturday was really windy until today's extremely, really, most sincerely windy shift. The wind blew my glasses off my face, my hat off my head, and the coffee out of my cup. Every time I stood up, the wind blew my chair over until I finally put a hefty piece of driftwood through the chair legs to hold it down. The wind made for some spectacular waves too, bringing out the surfers and stand-up paddle-boarders. None of them were doing yoga, so I still have not actually seen anyone doing stand-up paddle-board yoga yet.

Looking South

A pair of piping plovers landed on the beach just south of me and fed at the water line for awhile before taking off for points further south. I hear tell there are others around, but the majority seem to be hanging out far enough south that I am not seeing them with binoculars.

Looking North
The wind kept the visitor numbers down, but I did chat with a couple of people who wanted to know more about piping plovers. One guy was a photographer who wanted to know when shorebirds are more active: morning or night. I answered "low tide".  Morning vs. night doesn't make nearly as much difference in how active they are as the tide does. The more exposed wet sand or mud there is, the more likely they are to be feeding. Of course, they do also feed at the wrack line, but there isn't much wrack on the beach right now.

Weird Wrack Item of the Week
As I was noticing how little sea weed and other wrack line type plant matter there was, I came across two shoe soles in varying states of damage about 50 yards apart. I do not think they are from the same pair of shoes, judging by the nail hole pattern. Together they qualify as weird wrack item of the week.

Another Sole?
Rarely do gulls leave alone a dead fish on the beach, but there was so little meat left on the one I found, that not a single gull even glanced at it.
Dead Fish
The birding highlight of the day came toward the end of the shift when I spotted an osprey out of the corner of my eye.  This was my first osprey sighting of the season, always a joy. The visitors had all left the beach because of the wind, so I had plenty of leisure to watch it through binoculars at close range. It didn't catch anything while I was watching, but it was splendid just to watch it fly.

Crab Shells

Friday, April 10, 2015

another season begins

Coffee of the Day: Tanzania Peaberry
Bird of the Day: tree swallow
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: a knot
Invisibird Status: they're here! Number actually seen by me: 1 (flyover)

Sand, Sea, Sky
My first shift of the season was Saturday, April 4.  It was raining when I got up, so I thought I'd be rained out, but it stopped in time for me to get in a couple of hours. The beach wasn't very busy. I only answered one question all morning and that wasn't even about piping plovers. Someone wanted to know when the road to Sandy Point would be open. I told him it would open when the snow is gone and the road is passable. BTW,  the road is now open. I personally would not drive my car on it until it's less muddy, but that's just me.

Looking North

I heard a piping plover peeping within the first 15 minutes that I was there. It flew over and did not land on the beach. I heard some killdeer also. However, the most common bird of the day was the tree swallow.

Looking South
As the skies cleared, the clouds and the light on the water put on an ever-changing show. When I wasn't drinking my coffee or trying to keep my hat and glasses from being blown off my head by the increasingly intense wind, I managed to take a few photos.

Looking West

There's still snow on the beach, some of it covered with sand. Also, the dunes seem to be building back up a little bit -- there's definitely been an increase in sand.

Snow's Still Here
There wasn't much bird action because of the wind, so I entertained myself by inspecting the debris on the beach. Besides some wooden stairs, a lobster trap, part of a fence, and lots of mono-filament  fishing line, I found a piece of driftwood with a rope tied around it into a granny knot.

Weird Wrack Item of the Week