Monday, July 18, 2016

at the greenhead festival

Friday July 15, 2016
Bird of the Day: least sandpiper
Coffee of the Day: Sumatra Mandeling
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: the same cargo cult airplane thing I saw last week
Invisi-bird Status: Official: 21 pairs, 3 nests, 18 families, 46 chicks, 44 fledglings. Number actually seen by me: zero.
Greenhead warnings in full effect.

Hot, humid, and hazy weather makes for interesting loomings, my favorite type of optical illusion. I was lucky enough to spot a sailboat floating above the horizon just after I arrived on the beach. For once, I got a photo that captures the illusion.  Later on I saw two lobster boats and a huge barge with attendant tugboat all floating above the horizon also.  No sign of Star Island floating though -- the haze was too thick for that.

Weird Airplane in the Wrack - Week 2
The second thing I noticed was that most of the weird airplane thing I commented on last week was still there. A friend who read last week's post pointed out to me that the airplane was a cargo cult airplane and reminded me of the (very old) movie Mondo Cane. Aha! The airplane in the sand is a decoy to attract a real airplane bringing wonderful things. I doubt that there is an actual cargo cult on Plum Island but the island is just weird enough that I would believe somebody was deliberately referencing cargo cults with their sculpture.

Beach Life
I did not see my personal piping plover family. I know the chick was about to fledge any minute last Friday, so I was not surprised that they weren't there. If I could fly, I'd forage somewhere else for a change too. :-)

Many least tern chicks have hatched and are being ministered to by their parents. Much bringing of fish to the young is occurring. Unlike piping plovers (which are precocial), least terns are altricial. Piping plover chicks leave the nest and forage for food as soon as they hatch. Least tern chicks need their parents to feed them.  The least tern chicks are pretty well hidden in the wrack line, so I often don't see them til they are almost fledged. However, careful observation of where exactly the adults were repeatedly delivering fish revealed a nest near a piece of driftwood. I got to watch the adults feed two chicks several fish. This was my first spotting of least tern chicks this season.

Least Tern Air Defense Command Interfering with my Photo
The beach was not as crowded as I might have expected with the extreme heat. Maybe the word is out that the greenheads are extremely active. I saw two women go into the water for a dip and then lie down to dry off. They immediately got mobbed by greenheads who love wet skin. I don't know why they love wet skin, but they do. They also like dark colors so dark beach clothing is not a good idea.  I had sprayed all exposed skin and much of my clothing with Deep Woods Off and was getting complacent, especially when  a light breeze came up. Then the breezed died down and I felt one bite my upper arm just under my sleeve -- that must be the only spot I missed with the Off. I exclaimed curse words and swatted it away. The bleeding wasn't too bad, but it sure hurt like heck. First greenhead bite of the season - check. When my relief arrived he greeted me with "I've come for the Greenhead Festival!"  I almost doubled over laughing. I responded that I'd only gotten one bite, to which he answered, "Well, two and you'd have to go to the ER!" I hope the beach goers realized we were exaggerating. Those things do draw a lot of blood though.

Y'know, maybe a festival celebrating Plum Island's mean, bloodthirsty greenheads would draw tourists :-)

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