Tuesday, July 18, 2017

plover chicks, pollinators, and a cold day on the beach

Friday July 14, 2017
Bird of the Day: piping plover
Coffee of the Day: French Roast
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: plastic thing that looks like a thumb drive or a cigarette lighter
Invisi-bird Status: Official: Refuge Beach: 28 Pairs, 13 Nests, 47 Chicks, 14 Fledglings. Sandy Point: 7 Pairs, 0 Nests, 22 Chicks, 0 Fledglings. Town Beach: 2 Pairs, 1 Nest, 4 Chicks. Number actually seen by me: 2 adults and 3 chicks for a total of 5 plovers.

Hello, I am a Plover Chick and I Can't Read
What can I say? A cold breeze kept the greenheads away.  The three chicks were very active, but not showing any signs of trying to fly yet. I tried to catch a photo of all three of them, but every time I'd see them near each other they were running like crazy. Those little guys run really fast. What few visitors there were in the cold overcast weather all commented on how fast the chicks run. They are just so darn cute.
Hmm, What's All This Trash in my Home, the Wrack Line?
The least terns were really quiet and hunkered down on their nests. I'm guessing some of them will be hatching next week. Meanwhile, having overheard the King of Plum Island, Tom Wetmore, discussing identification of a mystery tern with some other birders up on the Lot 1 platform, I started paying particular attention to the common terns. The mystery tern was supposedly either an Arctic tern or a Forster's tern.  I kept scanning for either species but kept on just seeing leasts and commons, not even any roseates.
Can You Find the Least Tern in this Picture?
My tern-watching was interrupted by my noticing a couple with an unleashed dog on the town beach heading toward the refuge along the waterline. It was low tide, so I practically had to jump off a cliff to get down to the waterline and then start walking toward the refuge boundary. Fortunately, my dog-staring-down technique still works. Just as the dog and its humans entered the refuge, I communicated to them that they had just crossed the boundary without my having to say a word. Low tide is often tough because the way the beach is configured right now, people at the waterline are below a steep berm of sand and really can't see the refuge sign so have no way of knowing where the boundary is. (Same deal with the boundary of the closed area, that's why we're always trying new methods of trying to mark off the closed area with sticks at low tide.) Anyway, the dog and the humans went back onto the town beach with no trouble.
I'm Outta Here
Meanwhile, all three chicks and one of the adults started foraging in the open area of  the beach. I kept an eye on them until they headed back into the closed area, just in case any visitors approached. I think the pickings were probably better further south anyway as there is way more wrack to harbor way more insects, etc. In fact a small cloud of tree swallows swooped down looking for bugs in the area of the least tern colony, so I suspect that's in fact where the insect life was.
On the Move
In my wanderings along the wrack line, I found a strange plastic thing that looked like it could have been part of a thumb drive or a cigarette lighter. It had electrical contacts on one end. Weird.

Weird Wrack Item of the Week
A pair of common terns landed on the beach and did a little dance involving neck stretching, fish presentation, and circling each other. Or maybe they were mystery terns. I started questioning my tern identification skills. Are those legs orange or red? How forked is that tail? How much does the tail extend beyond the wings? Who knows? They were extremely cool to watch.
Common Terns Looking Cool

When I stopped at the gatehouse to sign out and drop off my report, I was thrilled to spot my first monarch butterflies of the season landing on the milkweed. Yay, pollinators! Yay, milkweed! That little milkweed patch is an important part of the refuge.
Monarch on Milkweed
Monarch Taking off from Milkweed

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