Two piping plovers are
working the wrack right in front of me at the north end
of the refuge beach. I do mean right in front of me. They
are within naked eye identification range. Every once in
awhile they stop moving and I lose them as they blend
perfectly with the sand and shell fragments on the beach.
I no longer have to take their existence on faith.
Even better, as hardcore birders
participating in the bird-a-thon converge on the
boardwalk from lot 1, I get to point out the piping
plovers to them. They give me the thumbs up. There isn't
much else to point out for the bird-a-thon people except
the huge flock of oldsquaws chattering away just
offshore. I'm sure the bird-a-thoners probably found all
three scoter species among the oldsquaws but I have given
up on scoters unless they fly up to me and say "Hi, I am
a surf scoter."
Besides the bird-a-thon, there's a
lot going on at PI and PRNWR this weekend. Tomorrow is
the "Plover and Wildlife Festival", though for some
reason I thought it was today. A professor from someplace
is leading a class on the beach, escorted by unit 62 who
is taking Jean's place because Jean is setting up for the
festival. In between greeting visitors, 22 total again, I
hear snippets of the professor's talk drift by. He's
talking about beach erosion and Amophila breviligulata
(even if my spellchecker worked, it doesn't have
plant names -- someday I gotta get that botanical
spellchecker), one of my favorite subjects. I don't get a
chance to listen because I have to deal with a dog.
A big black dog runs up to me with
a tennis ball in its mouth. It wants to play catch with
me. I see the owner coming in pursuit and wait 'til he's
within ear-shot before I say, oh so diplomatically and
just loud enough for the owner to hear, "What a nice
doggie you are! But dogs are not allowed on the refuge."
The guy apologizes and he and the dog head back north.
A woman jogging with her huge dog
is barreling onto the refuge beach. Before she gets
anywhere near the closed area, I position myself directly
in her line of sight and assume the body language of
command presence. I give her and the dog my best "get out
of here now" stare and miraculously they turn around
without my having to say a word.
During a lull in visitor greeting
and dog staring down, I walk over to talk to 62 and
listen in on the lecture (the professor is talking about
invasive species of mussels). I ask 62 if he saw me stare
down the woman with dog. Turns out he only saw them turn
around. I'm still proud of my stare down technique, honed
over many years of protecting the invisi-birds.
I haven't seen any biological staff
lately, so I ask 62 about whether all the nests got
washed over by last weekend's storm. He says he thinks 2
nests survived, plus the one at Sandy Point, and all the
plover pairs are still here. Many visitors are asking
about this. I tell them it's still early enough for them
to re-nest and hatch the eggs in plenty of time for the
chicks to fledge by migration time. It's not like it's
June 15 after all. There's still time.
Last weekend's storm was really
something. I was at a family gathering at the Beach Boys'
house on Salisbury Beach and there was darn little beach
there. Rocks that had been placed there in the 1940's to
catch sand and build beach were exposed. The back steps
got washed off the house. There was little to no dune
between the house and the lack of beach place. People
couldn't walk on the beach until low tide. Oddly, the
symbolic fencing around the piping plover nest just south
of their house was still intact. There was no sign of
plovers in the vicinity of the symbolic fencing, so I
inferred that there were no eggs left. So, after last
weekend, I didn't know what to expect when I came to do
the plover warden thing today. I keep telling visitors
I'm hopeful about the prospects for
Besides the bird-a-thon, the
professor with class, and the festival preparations today
there's also a fly-in of vintage aircraft at the PI
airport. I keep wishing I had a field guide to vintage
aeroplanes. Many cool aircraft fly over on their way to
the airport . They're stealing the aerial show from the
birds today. There's only one gannet diving and three
common terns, the first terns I've seen this season.
As the tide goes out I keep wishing
for a piece of rope to string between the signs, but as I
have no rope I just move the signs closer to the low tide
line and spend a lot of time walking back and forth. It's
just such a joy to be out here and to see the
invisi-birds that I don't care how hard I have to work.
My relief shows up -- with a rope! He must have read my
I drive past the airport on my way
back into Newburyport and notice that the festivities
include vintage automobiles in addition to the planes.
Very cool. Lots going on here in a very small