Tuesday, June 14, 2016

it's all happening on the beach

Friday June 10, 2016
Bird of the Day: piping plover
Coffee of the Day: Clipper City Roast
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: a dead skate
Invisi-bird Status: Official: 41 pairs, 18 active nests, 7 families, 20 chicks. Number actually seen by me: 4 adults.

Exceptionally Bright Day
Bright blue skies and cool temperatures made for an unusually comfortable shift. I answered a bunch of questions for a bunch of different people and gave a short talk to a school field trip group. The only question that stumped me was "What happened at Sandy Point? Was there flooding?" Not having been down there, I had to answer that I didn't know but that there had a coastal flooding alert at the beginning of the week (Sunday night/Monday morning). I wasn't even sure exactly what she was asking about as I hadn't heard about any kind of disaster on the island.
You Can't See Me, I'm an Invisi-Bird
Both piping plovers and least terns were very active all morning. I was starting to feel a bit like a plover, constantly running down to the water line (OK, so I didn't exactly run, more of a brisk walk) and back endlessly. The water line might as well be at the bottom of a cliff. I got in a pretty good workout. There has to be some way to communicate where the boundary line is at low tide when people walking/jogging can't see the signs above the berm. I couldn't find enough sticks to make a Big Steve style stick fence, so I just scratched the word STOP in big letters in the wet sand, which made me feel more effective but didn't really reduce the number of trips down to the water.
Oh, Hi!
The most interesting thing that washed up on the beach was a dead little skate. For some reason the gulls were ignoring it. I've seen them peck at dead skates before, but today only one ring-billed gull approached it, gave it a peck, and then took off.  A couple of beach goers tried to push the skate back into the water without actually touching it with their hands. They must have thought it was still alive. I checked it out, and it was really most sincerely dead. Anyway, I'm sure it washed back out when the tide came in.
Walking back to my spot on the boundary from the skate's location, I found a northern moon snail in its shell with its operculum tightly closed. That's their major protection mechanism. What they do in response to a threat is to pump all the water out of the shell, pull their entire body in, and seal the entrance with the operculum.
Moon Snail

Working the Waterline
On the way back to my car, I saw a seaside sparrow in the beach grass near the boardwalk. It was the first one I've seen this summer.

No new tall ships appeared in Newburyport harbor this week.

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