Monday, July 13, 2015

why are there greenheads?

Saturday July 11
AM Shift North
Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
Bird of the Day: ring-billed gull
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: none
Invisi-bird Status: haven't seen any official numbers this week. Number actually seen by me: zero.

Looking South
This was by far the most crowded I've seen the beach yet this year.  Also the most people I've seen actually in the water swimming. Summer is in full swing. Unlike last week, fishermen outnumbered standup paddle boarders 10 to 2. I did not see anybody catch a striper or a flounder or anything other than somebody else's line.

I had several people ask me about piping plovers, everything from what they look like to where they nest and whether gulls prey on them. Oddly, nobody asked me for a date when the closed part of the beach will reopen. Everybody seems to get it that we open when the last chick has fledged. I did have somebody ask if the beach closure was for sea turtles - which don't nest here.

The most interesting question I had all morning was "why are there greenheads?" I had trouble wrapping my mind around that question. Why are there greenheads? Why is there air? Why is there a planet Earth? I ended up just explaining that greenheads are a kind of horsefly, that they breed in the salt marsh, are eaten by fish and birds, and are only around in their adult form in July and part of August. Oh, and it really hurts when they bite.

The greenheads were indeed out in full force but left me alone 'cause I followed my own advice and wore light colored clothing and sprayed myself with Deep Woods Off. Light colors are key because greenheads are attracted to dark colors and will go right for your butt if you're wearing blue jeans. I ended up offering my Deep Woods Off to a group of people visiting Plum Island for the first time. They didn't bring any kind of bug repellant and one of the women was wearing black shorts. The whole group sprayed on the Off and were much more comfortable. I also advised them to move closer to the water, because there was more of a breeze there and greenheads are clumsy fliers. BTW, these weren't the people who asked "why are there greenheads?"

There was a great article in Yankee Magazine last year talking about the miserable creatures: 
Greenheads: The Beasts of the Northern Wild.

Looking North
I didn't see a single piping plover the whole shift, but I did see a least tern give another least tern a fish. They were both adults so maybe they are the pair that lost their nest to the coyote and they're attempting to renest.

Other interesting bird behavior included a lone redwinged blackbird attacking an osprey and a ring-billed gull successfully evading three herring gulls bent on stealing a morsel of bait that the ringbill had pilfered from a fisherman. The ringbill out maneuvered the herring gulls with fancy flying moves worthy of an air show.

No comments: