Wednesday, June 21, 2017

another cold rainy friday among the least terns

Friday June 16, 2017
Bird of the Day: turkey vulture
Coffee of the Day: Clipper City Roast
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: blue plastic thingie
Invisi-bird Status: Official:Refuge Beach:48 Pairs, 25 Nests, 16 Chicks; Sandy Point: 9 Pairs, 6 Nests, 4 Chicks; Town Beach: 4 Pairs, 2 Nests, no chicks yet.  Number actually seen by me: 1.
Beach - Looking South
Somehow I wasn't expecting the cold rainy weather until later in the day, and following the usual rule of  "if it's not raining at my house ..." I headed to the refuge for the AM plover warden shift. Got stuck in a traffic jam on Bridge Road -- no, the drawbridge wasn't open, there was construction, go figure -- but managed to get to to PICR, obtain coffee, and not be that terribly late.
Stick Fence -- What's that blue thing in the wrack?
The weather wasn't too bad at first, windy and cold but not raining. Visitors were few: a couple of fishermen who were just leaving when I arrived and a group of three birders visiting from Austria who left not long after that.
Weird Blue Plastic Thingie
One of the plovers did a brief flyby and that was it for plover action for the day. The least terns were still doing their fish-presenting thing, but not as much as last week. They drove off a northern harrier and a red-tailed hawk in quick succession.
Least Terns At the Water Line in the Rain
The most interesting bird behavior of the day was a turkey vulture who landed on the beach to check out a dead fish. I often see them circling over the marsh or over the dunes  but I can't remember the last time I saw a turkey vulture land on the beach. It hung around for a long time, intermittently picking at the fish. Then a great black back flew in and tried to chase the vulture off. The great black back took over eating the fish, but the vulture didn't exactly leave. It stood on the sand about three feet away and just watched. It seemed to be waiting for the great black back to leave. This went on for well over an hour. I kept watching through binoculars.  I have no clue how to identify dead fish at a distance through binoculars and didn't get a chance to walk up to the town beach where this was going on for a closer look, so the fish ID will remain a mystery. The vulture did get another turn at it when the great black back had finally had its fill.
That Crab Doesn't Look Big Enough to Satisfy the Herring Gull
It rained off and on, but every time I thought I should leave, it stopped. When the rain let up, a few more visitors appeared. I saw a family group read the signs and then head out for a walk along the water line toward the town beach. They were photographing each other and picking up shells. No problem, right? The woman who appeared to be the matriarch of the clan carefully noted where I was and where the boundary line was. I saw her watching me, but didn't think anything of it. When I turned my back to deal with something else, she ran into the closed area, grabbed a huge clam shell and ran back out before I could do anything. I was pretty far up from the water line at that point, so I couldn't catch up with her. None of the birds were disturbed, so I just made a note of what happened and left it at that. 

Quite awhile later the group returned to the refuge beach and sat in a circle picnicking and taking more photos. Suddenly the woman stood up holding some kind of food -- a potato chip, Cheetos, I don't know -- straight up over her head.  She posed like that for several minutes before I realized she was trying to bait the least terns to come closer for a photo. Did she really want the least tern air defense command anywhere near her head? I've seen people use food/bait to lure birds for photos -- which is strictly forbidden on the refuge -- but this just seemed weird. Whatever snack food she was holding was not appealing to the terns, nor to the great black backs or the turkey vulture.  Since she wasn't actually feeding any birds or doing anything untoward except holding food over her head, I decided not to approach her.  She finally went back to sit in the circle with the group, and then they all left. 
Least Tern Hiding in Plain Sight
I'm not sure which was the stranger behavior: the turkey vulture standoff with the great black back or the woman trying to lure the terns.

1 comment:

TomParmenter said...

The buzzard was waiting for something to die.