Tuesday, April 12, 2016

big waves

Friday 4/8/16
AM Shift North
Coffee of the Day: Clipper City Roast (a Colombian dark roast)
Bird of the Day: bald eagle
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: a hat
Invisi-bird Status: Semi-official: 5 pairs & 4 unpaired adults for a total of 14 -- as reported by biological staff fresh off the beach. Number actually seen by me: zero.

My best bird sighting of the day happened before I even got to the refuge. I spotted a bald eagle soaring over the Merrimack River. It may be one of the pair that has been hanging out at the refuge lately. I know "real birders" don't get excited about bald eagles, but those of us who live in Massachusetts have waited many many years for nesting bald eagles to be a not so uncommon thing here. Anyway, it made me feel good. Shortly after that I had a turkey vulture and an osprey, also satisfying sightings.
Early Morning Waves
As for the weather: The day started out windy again, like last week, and got windier as the day went on although the temperature was not as balmy as last week. I gave up trying to keep my hat on after about half an hour. I just stuffed it in the backpack and put up with the glare and my hair flying in my eyes.
Looking South
Things started out pretty quiet, but got busy for about the last hour of the shift. The tide had been coming in all morning so by 10:30 or so I was having to move my chair back from the waterline every few minutes. All of a sudden there were lots of visitors but not a lot of beach. A group of Russians were taking selfies with the big waves, but they seemed to know enough not to completely turn their backs on the waves (unlike certain fashion models I have encountered awhile back).  It was extremely challenging to explain to them why they couldn't walk down the beach past the signs though.  One of them understood enough English to get the basic idea, so they were cooperative.
Looking North
The rest of the visitors spoke English and didn't attempt to enter the closed area. The most common question was "why aren't there any surfers with the tide this high?" I had to admit I was surprised not to see surfers too. One guy insisted that if the water comes up that high on the beach that was as bad for the plovers as him walking on it so he should be allowed to walk on it. I managed to explain that they haven't established nests yet so the extremely high tide wasn't a threat yet and that he still had to stay out of the nesting area lest he disrupt feeding or mate selection activities. Everything worked out and he did his walking on the town beach. The best visitors of the day were a couple from Billerica with a little kid. They wanted to know all about the piping plovers. By the time I answered all their questions, the guy asked if he could volunteer as a plover warden. Wow. I told him to stop by headquarters and talk to them about volunteering. It would be really cool if I got somebody so excited about piping plovers that they decided to volunteer.

Big Waves
There was still beach left when biological staff went out to do the survey, but by about a half hour before full high tide there was almost no beach between the water line and the dunes. I moved back to the bottom of the stairs at the base of the boardwalk and managed to stay dry.

Major Spray
The most interesting line of wrack was high up on the beach. It was mostly normal organic stuff that makes sense, but there was a fair amount of trash like bottles and cans. The weirdest thing I spotted was a hat that had clearly been in and out of the water several times. Before I got a chance to pick it up, it had washed back out. It looked like there were barnacles growing on the plastic strip at the back. Couldn't get a really good photo of it, but it qualifies as weird wrack item of the week.

Weird Wrack Item of the Week
My relief arrived on time and I left. I got to the parking lot just as biological staff was arriving on the ATV. As I had suspected, there was not enough space for her to drive back on the beach so she had go out to the road and drive back that way. So lucky me, I was the first to get this week's numbers: 5 pairs, 4 unpaired adults. They're here. They're pairing off. It must be spring.

Normal Wrack Items of the Week

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