Monday, August 20, 2012
Plum Island, Newbury, MA _ June 13, 2012 _ 11:48-4:50pm _ Raining http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S10973166
The sun shone down lovingly on the gray clouds above but its brilliance did not warm us. It was raining that cool soft drizzle, that beastly destroyer of expensive optical devices. It was in no way a pleasant rain but nor was it unpleasant. It was there and nothing anyone could do would change it.
It was the type of day that fell into line with Charles Dickens opening lines to Bleak House "London. [...] Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill." After that the two wet days slid out of sync, Dickens describing a murky, creeping fog, while we were at that present moment experiencing damp that fell into the category of rain. Oh well, at least quoting Dickens sounds cool.
The depressing drizzle did not deter the hardy avifauna of Plum Island, and in mere minutes we had picked up our lifer Wilson's Phalarope. It was a stunning bird - long, black, dainty bill, gray body and rusty neck giving it a fashionable appearance. It was small, barely larger then a White-rumped Sandpiper, dwarfed by its feathered alarm system, a pair of Greater Yellowlegs. Both were double its size, and although both were handsomer then the phalarope they were no competition to the regal appearance of this long-legged wader. After pleasing our eyes on this rain-soaked lifer we continued our slow and extremely enjoyable drive down the road which would take us the length of the island.
In a blur of black-and-white along with a little gray the Willets trapped the eye, the ear and the imagination. Their wild yodeled whistles resounded throughout the refuge's long, birder-covered, road.
Hellcat held its usual wonders today, a few Short-billed Dowitchers, White-rumped Sandpipers, Black-bellied Plovers, Green-winged Teal etc. The highlight here was unquestionably the pair of Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, 2/3s of this species that have been recently reported at this most admirable location. Other pleasantries seen included my year bird Bank Swallow, numerous Marsh Wrens and a Black-crowned Night-Heron. I was surprised to see the nests of those dainty creatures, Marsh Wrens, lined the sides of the boardwalk that wound through Hellcats phragmites marsh. They were at the current peak of avian architecture in the western hemisphere, creating a strongly woven ball, hollow in the center, one passageway leading into the warm, dry, interior of the nest, the same portal leading out - back doors seem not yet to have crossed the mind of the wren.
Our next stop was Stage Island Pool Overlook where we scored a few Mallards, Gadwalls, American Black-Ducks and Green-winged Teal.
A day is never capped of better then with a few endangered species. We were able to find Piping Plovers, Least Tern, which abounds on the island, and a lifer Roseate Tern, mixed in with a few Common Tern. All three of these awesome species were lazing on the beach at Sandy Point.
What an awesome way to end a day. Three threatened birds all on the same beach. Sadly with the storm which blew through recently, came the destruction of many of these birds nests, which were unmercifully swept away by the crashing waves. Luckily the birds have started building their nests again. Apparently, before the storm it was the biggest year for Piping Plovers on the island yet recorded - I believe that 32 nesting pairs were counted. I am unsure what the number is at now, after the storm, I can only pray that the figure has not fallen.
Thanks is in order to my grandmother who was kind enough to take us to this most beautiful of places, despite the possibility of coming face to face with a Megalosaurus!