Monday, August 8, 2016

quick update from the beach

Friday August 5, 2016
Bird of the Day: semipalmated sandpiper
Coffee of the Day: Sumatra Mandeling
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: feathers, lots of 'em
Invisi-bird Status: Official: 8 active pairs, 19 unfledged chicks, 55 fledglings. Number actually seen by me: zero.

It's not as hot on the beach as on the other side of the dunes. There's a breeze coming in off the water cooling things down a little and also keeping the remaining greenheads off of me. That said, it's still pretty darn hot.
Looking South
Loads of people were seeking relief from the heat on the beach. One would've thought it was Saturday. Sandy Point was already full before I got to the refuge and even when people left, it filled up again quickly. At one point Lot 1 was almost full too.

Looking North
Beach-goers grumpy with the heat wanted to spread out into the closed area. One guy with an Australian accent was grumbling loudly about "the stupid birds". I don't think piping plovers or least terns are particularly stupid.  Maybe someday people will understand that it is worth it to share the beach with the birds. I think some of the grumpy beach-goers are among the folks who think beaches should be totally free of seaweed and only have white sand too.

Some visitors really were interested in the piping plovers and were happy to hear we have so many fledglings this year. There were even a couple of people interested in least terns. However, mostly I spent my time intercepting people attempting to walk past the boundary into the nesting area.  The tide was coming in and the waterline was well above the sand berm/dropoff , so they couldn't claim not to see the boundary. One little kid (about 7 years old) kept chasing gulls into the nesting area and also just crawling through the sand into the closed area even when he wasn't chasing anything.  Speaking to him 4 or 5 times (I lost count after 3) had no effect. His mother wasn't too interested in keeping him in check either. With loads of other kids running around right on the boundary I ended up having to abandon my chair and just stand on the boundary line right in front of them for an hour or so.  A couple of big waves soaked my shoes, socks, and jeans when I couldn't back up fast enough so I was kind of a mess by the time I left.
Gulls Galore
Dozens of gulls were lounging around on the beach. Every once in awhile some of the ringbilled gulls would take off and fly around, but the herring gulls and great black backs stayed put. Oddly there were no laughing gulls or Bonaparte's gulls in the huge crowd. Many of the gulls were molting. Some of them looked pretty scruffy. Every once in awhile a few feathers would blow across the sand in the breeze. A little ways south of the boundary there was one long line of wrack that was almost entirely gull feathers.  It's not weird for there to be feathers in the wrack line at this time of year, but it is weird to have an entire line of feathers. In other weird wrack line news, part of the cargo cult airplane sculpture is still there, but it doesn't look as airplane-like. I doubt it will attract any cargo :-)

Remains of that Cargo Cult Airplane Sculpture
The shorebird migration season has definitely begun. Little flocks of semipalmated sandpipers started arriving from the north. They landed in the wrack line and then some would take off over the dunes to the marsh. I'm guessing there was a lot more for them to eat in the marsh.  Semipalmated sandpipers are only one sign of migration season. The other prominent sign is the gathering of tree swallows. They are assembling into cloud-like flocks that swoop over dunes, marsh, and fields. At one point a huge flock of them sailed over the beach and ascended really high above the water, where they were joined by a flock of least terns. It was a pretty cool sight.

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