Monday, July 16, 2018

it's all happening at the beach

 July 13, 2018
AM shift - North
Coffee of the Day: Clipper City Blend
Bird of the Day: piping plover
Butterfly of the Day: American Copper
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: a sock
Invisi-Bird Status: Official: Refuge: 8 fledglings/3 broods, 28 chicks/15 broods, 4 nests;  Sandy Point: 11 chicks/4 broods, 4 nests; Town Beach: 7 chicks/3 broods, 1 nest. Number actually seen by me: 3 -- 2 adults and 1 chick who looked pretty close to being able to fly.

Least Tern Status:  Bio staff reported that one least tern chick hatched on Saturday. Maybe the first and only. The Friday night high tide washed over most of the least tern nests. 
In case the above status is confusing: Although I'm writing about Friday morning's shift, I'm writing this on Sunday and thus have knowledge of what happened with the extreme high tide on Friday night.
Watching the Tide Come in
Summer is just racing by! The greenheads are out in full force, the plover chicks are starting to fledge, the willets and some of the other shorebirds are starting to stage for migration ...  Yikes, where did the summer go? 
Hmm, what's this orange thing in the wrack line?

There was a nice breeze on the beach, just enough to keep the greenheads from biting me but not enough to make it cold. Visitors were sparse for the first 3 hours or so, in great contrast to two weeks ago when the beach was already jampacked at 8:00 AM.  I had plenty of time to watch my personal piping plover family (that's how I think of them lately). I spotted both of the adults and the chick almost the moment I arrived. They were running around above the wrack line at the base of the dunes. Eventually they moved closer to the water line and I got to see the chick flexing its wings as if it was trying to figure out how to fly. I did not see it fly, but I'm guessing by its actions and its feathers that it was right on the verge of fledging. It may well be one of the fledglings that bio staff observed on Saturday.
There wasn't a whole lot of other bird action. A few least terns and a few common terns were fishing fairly far out over the water. Most of the gulls -- herring gulls, ringbilled gulls, and great black backs -- were loafing on the beach down past the Lot 2 area as were the cormorants. A killdeer landed on the beach near where the piping plovers were hiding and one of the adult plovers promptly rush directly at it attempting to drive it away. The killdeer took off pretty quickly.
Weird Wrack Item of the Week
A monarch butterfly flew over the wrack line -- only my second monarch sighting of the season and once again on the beach rather than in the dunes or the milkweed patch. There seem to be tons of cabbage whites around both on the beach and in the dunes.  My favorite butterfly of the day was the American Copper. They're really tiny -- smaller than cabbage whites -- but also quite colorful.

Let's Go! I Want to Migrate!
Visitor questions were few and all things I could answer easily. That is, until I had handed over the radio and the backpack to my relief and headed back to my car. A woman stopped me in Lot 1 and asked how far it is to the Lot 3 restrooms because the restrooms in the VCS at Lot 1 were closed. I answered that it was a pretty long walk but didn't give an estimated distance. She insisted that I tell her how many miles it is. Since I had already handed off the backpack, I didn't have a map with me to look it up. I finally convinced her to drive there and described exactly where it was. Anyway, I looked at a map when I got home and figured the distance is about 2 miles. Guess I'll be able to answer if anybody asks that again.
Meanwhile in the Milkweed Patch
When I stopped to sign out and turn in my report, Gatehouse was talking to the greenheads while wielding a flyswatter--telling them how many chances he'd given them to get out of the gatehouse.  Yes, people talk to greenheads. It's July.

I parked next to the milkweed patch for a quick photo or two. Much more of the milkweed is actually in bloom now and Cabbage Whites and American Coppers were fluttering around. Couldn't get a good photo of a Cabbage White, but I did get a really good shot of an American Copper. 
American Copper

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

quick update

Update for: July 6, 2018

Following the if it's raining at my house it's probably raining at PRNWR rule, I didn't go be north plover warden today (July 6).

Coffee of the Day at my house instead of Plum Island Coffee Roasters:  New Harvest Steamroller blend.

Invisi-bird Status: Refuge: 28 pairs, 6 nests, 41 chicks/19 broods. Sandy Point: 9 pairs, 4 nests, 19 chicks/broods. Town Beach: 5 pairs, 1 nest, 11 chicks/4 broods. Number actually seen by me: zero because I wasn't there.

No info on the least terns.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

crowded beach in the heat

June 29, 2018
Coffee of the Day: Ethiopian Yrgacheffe
Sighting of the Day: monarch butterfly (first of the season)
Weird Wrack Item of the Week: none
Invisi-bird Status: Official: Refuge Beach: 29 pairs, 9 nests, 37 chicks/17 broods; Sandy Point: 9 pairs, 5 nests, 12 chicks/3 broods; Town Beach: 5 pairs, 3 nests, 5 chicks/2broods. Number actually seen by me: 1.

Looking South
OK, it's really most sincerely hot today. The beach was already packed with people at 8AM and they just kept coming. Questions ranged from is the tide going out or coming in to why the plovers are not nesting as close to the north boundary as they did last year.  I didn't have a whole lot of time to take photos.
Herring Gull
The plover pair I can usually see from the boundary -- and their two chicks -- were doing a good job of becoming invisible for at least the first two hours of the shift.  I finally heard the peep-lo call coming from quite a way farther south and up closer to the dunes and located one of the adults walking around. I heard another one calling but didn't see it.  There really wasn't much bird activity on the beach except for a few herring gulls keeping an eye out for visitors' food scraps or bait.

My best sighting of the day was not a bird at all. A monarch butterfly flew down off the dunes and made a low pass over the beach. My first of the season. I'd actually been thinking about monarchs because I hadn't even seen the milkweed in bloom yet, never mind monarchs or their caterpillars. It seemed a little late to me. I guess I should read my old blog posts/notebooks to see when the milkweed usually flowers and when the monarchs come around. As I was leaving for the day I did find some milkweed in bloom in one of the usual spots. The only thing that would have been more exciting would be seeing the monarch on the milkweed.
Milkweed in Bloom