Thursday, May 18, 2017

it's happening on the beach

Friday May 12
Bird of the Day: piping plover
Coffee of the Day: Tanzania Peaberry
Weird Wrack Item of the Week:  a wheel or caster from some piece of office furniture
Invisi-bird Status: Refuge beach: 48 pairs, 20 nests; Sandy Point: 11 pairs, 5 nests; Number actually seen by me: 1.
Piping Plover Stood Still for a Minute
The rain showers stopped just as I was leaving PICR with my coffee. By the time I got onto the beach I could see the sky clearing. Yay! A lone piping plover spent most of the first 2 hours running back and forth along the water line in and out of the closed area. I got plenty of close looks and enjoyed watching the cutest bird on the planet maneuvering at high speed. It finally did stand still long enough for me to get a quick photo. And of course by the time a group of birders showed up on the platform at Lot 1, the plover was nowhere to be seen.
Sky Clearing
It was still kind of chilly but not nearly as windy as the last couple of Fridays have been.  There were a few people fishing, all of whom were wearing winter jackets. One guy was wearing a blanket wrapped around his shoulders over his winter jacket.  The stream of visitors was slow and steady.  Everybody was genuinely interested in piping plovers, and one couple wanted to know how Hurricane Matthew had affected our particular piping plover population. I had to say I don't really know. Although many of the Atlantic population of piping plovers winter in the Bahamas and hundreds went missing after Hurricane Andrew hit Andros and Joulter Cays, it's not clear how many were actually lost nor how many of those were from Massachusetts. Anyway, I was kind of impressed that visitors even asked about it.
A Little Darker to the South
I noticed that a lot of walkers were stopping to look at something in the wrack line, so I figured it must be interesting. When I got a chance, I walked over to look at it. Sure enough it was a really interesting dead fish. It had been dead quite awhile and looked like it had been picked at by birds or crabs or whatever, but that wide head and kind of tadpole-looking shape made me think goosefish immediately. That's a fairly unusual beach find, but not totally unknown. They do occur around here.

Dead Goosefish
I was going to name the goosefish as my weirdest wrack item of the week, but later in the morning a caster that looked like it had just fallen off the leg of a desk washed up on the incoming tide. Sitting there all by itself on the sand, it looked even more alien than the goosefish. After all, desk parts are far less common on the beach than dead goosefish.

Weird Wrack Item of the Week
While I was staring at the weird wrack item of the week, I heard a "kee-arr" call and looked up to see my first two common terns of the season. One was carrying a fair-sized fish in its beak. Haven't seen any least terns yet, but have been told that others have seen a few near Sandy Point.

Wrack Lines Converging
Near the end of my shift, the fisherman wearing the blanket over his winter parka ran up  to me exclaiming excitedly that he'd caught a fish.  He whipped out his phone to show me the photo. Sure enough, it was a striped bass, not nearly big enough to keep. He was really happy, practically jumping up and down.  I got a kick out of his excitement. 

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