Monday, June 6, 2016

a plant theme emerges

Friday June 3, 2016
Bird of the Day: least tern
Coffee of the Day: Sumatra Mandeling
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: black rubber spiral
Invisi-bird Status: Official count: 47 pairs, 32 active nests. Number actually seen by me: 2
Leave Me Alone!
Before I even set foot on the beach, I had a group of birders asking me questions about plants. Seriously, they were looking at the dune vegetation from the boardwalk and said "Oh, there's the plover warden, let's ask her." I had my beach chair in one hand and my coffee in the other, and had as yet only consumed one sip of coffee. I was not on my sharpest plant name game. They pointed to the Hudsonia tomentosa and said they couldn't remember the name of it. I said I couldn't remember either because I hadn't had my coffee yet. Of course, even fully caffeinated I can never remember whether the common name is beach heath, beach heather, sand heather, false heather, or wooly something-or-other anyway. Even when I'm fully awake I just call it "Hudsonia".  Fortunately, I was able to identify a willet for them and describe the piping plover life cycle all without benefit of coffee.
Hudsonia tomentosa
A pair of willets that had been hanging around in the dunes landed on the beach and were proclaiming their name loudly in the wrack line. I don't usually see willets on the beach, so that was sort of cool. The least terns are back and in the midst of creating nests, bringing fish to each other, and establishing the boundaries of their colony. The least tern air defense command launched several attacks on a great black back and a pair of herring gulls that kept encroaching on the territory they had decided was theirs. Mostly they worked as a team mobbing the intruders, but one intrepid least tern went full tilt after a great black back all by itself. It pecked at the great black back relentlessly and eventually drove it far down the beach.
Driftwood, Seaweed, Shells
I drank my coffee, answered the usual visitor questions about when exactly the beach would reopen ("when the chicks fledge" is not exact enough for some people),  answered a few more questions from the birding group (this time about birds, not Hudsonia), and watched fishermen not catching anything while keeping my eyes open for dogs, trespassers, etc. I constantly scan the waterline for walkers and joggers who are not paying attention and are about to stray into the closed area. I also look behind me for people more brazenly attempting to walk past the signs.  Those are the usual scenarios.
Weird Wrack Item of the Week
Suddenly a group of 4 people materialized on the beach from over the top of the dune in the closed area. Seriously, there was nobody on the beach and suddenly there they were on the slope between the dune and the upper wrack line walking further down onto the beach. People do not usually just magically materialize on the beach. This came as such a shock to me that it took me several seconds to radio Gatehouse and commence yelling and waving the people away from the wrack line. Gatehouse said he'd check on who they were/what to do.  I managed to communicate enough to get them away from the nearest nest and got them to walk toward me out of the closed area.  Just as they got to me and their leader started explaining that they were from the New England Wildflower Society and had a permit to collect plants in the dunes, Gatehouse got back to me confirming that they really did have a permit but it didn't entitle them to be on the beach. I explained to them that they were in a nesting area and that the upper wrack line is a very sensitive place. I managed not to disclose how close they got to my favorite pair's nest. They were kind of embarrassed and assured me that I was right to have called them on it and that we're all on the side of conservation.
Boss of the Beach
Biological staff was out on the beach doing the nest survey and spotted what was going on with the plant people. By the time she got to me on her ATV, the plant people had gone up over the boardwalk back to where they were supposed to be. Bio staff listened to the whole story and commiserated with my startle response at their materializing over the dunes, not your average beach occurrence.  It took a while for my adrenaline level to go back down though.
The Wrack Line is my Favorite Restaurant!
And y'know, where was the least tern air defense command when needed to poop on a few botanists, eh?
Beach Pea
The piping plovers resumed feeding in the wrack line and occasionally wandering outside the closed area to feed a few yards from me.  The least terns resumed bringing each other fish and chasing off gulls. I finally took off for lunch, and to my delight discovered there was another tall ship visiting Newburyport. This one is the Lynx, a privateer out of Portsmouth, NH.  Is this going to happen every week now?
The Lynx in Newburyport Harbor


TomParmenter said...

Duel on the Dunes.

You really should put together a sample and find a publisher!

Janet Egan said...

Thanks, Tom. I do have a lot of good stuff. I just need to figure out what to do with it.