Tuesday, April 26, 2016

of seal antics, noisy ducks, and missing radios

Friday April 22, 2016
AM Shift
Coffee of the Day: Tanzania Peaberry
Bird of the Day: long-tailed duck
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: small black plastic mystery bottle
Invisi-bird Status: Official count: 25 pairs!!!!! Number seen by me: 4 total -- 1 pair and 2 unaffiliated adults
View to the South with Long Piece of Driftwood
The forecast was for scattered showers and sure enough it was raining when I got up, but it cleared up in time for a pleasant shift. 

There was no radio in the box when I signed in, and Gatehouse wasn't on duty yet, but I decided I could use my phone if I really needed to. Naturally, I spotted a trespasser in the closed area walking south very rapidly and already way too far down the beach for me to be able to do anything to get her attention. I called it in and left it up to staff. Eventually the trespasser reversed direction and then headed off the beach at Lot 2. That was the exciting trespassing incident for the day. All other visitors were law-abiding, friendly, and concerned about piping plovers.

Looking North
The most dominant bird of the day was the long-tailed duck. Hundreds of noisy ducks made quite a racket. Every time I looked there were more. I lost count somewhere over 500. A visitor came over to ask what they were eating, specifically she wanted to know if there was some large dead thing out there that was attracting so many long-tailed ducks. The thing is, they eat mostly marine invertebrates and some fish. I speculated that maybe some kind of bait fish were running and that was what attracted them. It probably wasn't a specific food phenomenon attracting them. This is a convenient place for migrating ducks to stop and refuel anyway.

In addition to the long-tailed duck extravaganza, there was a seal putting on a show. Usually the seals just kind of poke their heads up, look around, and dive. Not normally dramatic. Today's seal was jumping out of the water, splashing back down and stirring up the water with its flippers. A couple of visitors asked if it was really a seal because they interpreted it as acting like a dolphin.  The seal's antics got more and more dramatic, rolling over in the air and splashing with its tail, until it finally swam further out and resumed the more usual sticking its head up and surveying the scene.

Weird Wrack Item of the Week
A big group of birders from Mass Audubon materialized on the boardwalk, scanning the ocean with scopes and enjoying the long-tailed duck show. One of them came down to the beach to ask me about the piping plovers. At that point, biological staff was still out there counting but had told me they had counted 15 pairs on the southern leg of their survey and expected to find several more, so I was able to give the Mass Audubon person up to the minute data. She also wanted to know what kind of predators go after piping plovers here, and had a few other plover nesting questions, so I felt all relevant and meaningful (not that dealing with questions about noisy ducks and seal antics isn't meaningful :-)).

The Mass Audubon people got all excited about seeing "purple sandpipers on the jetty". They must have amazing optics if they can see sandpipers hunkered down on the south jetty at the mouth of the Merrimack. Then it became clear that they were referring to a pile of rocks off the town beach. I couldn't detect anything resembling a bird on those rocks either, but my binoculars are not nearly that powerful.  Purple sandpipers are a cool sighting, so I'm happy the group got to see them. Meanwhile, I had to get back to other visitors so didn't get a chance to ask for a peep through one of their scopes.
Birders from Mass Audubon
The invisi-birds generously showed themselves to me. I spotted a pair doing the parallel run display, a lone piping plover catching insects in the wrack, and later in the shift another loner flew in from the direction of the town beach and landed just south of the boundary. I even got a photo of one from a distance. That's a nice full day in the invisi-bird department.

Piping Plover on the Beach
My relief arrived expecting that I had a radio to hand off to him along with the backpack.  When I told him there had been no radios in the box when I arrived, we started to wonder if the south warden had both radios or whether the south warden didn't have a radio either or what all was up with the radios. We agreed that on my way out, I'd let Gatehouse know that north didn't have a radio. The mystery deepened. Gatehouse found one radio in the gatehouse. Hmm, why was it in the gatehouse and not in the charger in the box? And what about the other radio?  Neither of us knew whether south had a radio. I headed home to transform myself from bird person to tree person for a board meeting of the International Dendrological Research Institute and left Gatehouse to solve the radio mystery.
Boardwalk without Birders
By the way, dear spellchecker, dendrological is really a word whether your dictionary believes it or not. :-)

No comments: