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Beach day

July 8, 2010
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When my wife and I each say something like ” I love the beach”, we really couldn’t mean it more differently if we were actively trying to make some sort of literary statement as to the varied possible interpretations of an otherwise vague declaration.  This, of course, makes planning any sort of beach outing something of a hairy predicament, rife with potential relationship defining stressers.  I suspect it’s the sort of thing with which any long-suffering birding widow has to deal, as the dichotomy is as predictable as it is stark.

My wife likes the beach in the traditional sense, the relaxing notion of laying on the sand for hours with a good book and listening to the rhythmic pulse of waves crashing against the shore and all that jazz.  Me?  If it involves sitting in one place “relaxing” for extended periods of time, I’m not into it.  I can’t sit on the seashore and stare at the ocean for hours unless there’s the promise that something interesting is going to pass by.  It doesn’t even have to have feathers, I’m not picky, but I’m constantly on the lookout for some biota I can nail down to species, or at least genus.  As you might expect, this is not the sort of attitude that corresponds with the conventional beach-goer’s vacation, but luckily I have a spouse who not only understands my fanatical need to look for stuff, but accommodates it.

So we left for the beach early Monday morning, ostensibly to beat the crowds but no doubt also to get a head start on the peak of bird activity.  As soon as we had everything straightened out on our little patch of beach, I packed up my scope and headed up to the north end of the island to the inlet where a shorebird area has been long established as off-limits to beach-goers and is one of the best places on the island to look for birds year round.

I forgot to mention above that one of the conditions of beach-lazing was that I got to choose the access point, so I headed to the north end specifically to be within walking distance of this little area.  Fortunately, my wife isn’t picky, and since the access area hosted a parking lot and public bathrooms, she was happy to oblige.

Early July is not the best time to bird the beach, it’s still early for most of the migrating shorebirds and most of the resident species are nesting and not easily found in areas near people.  But there were several Wilson’s Plovers running around chasing Fiddler Crabs that they’d make short work of with their huge crab-cracking bills.  There were at least a dozen birds around, mostly young ones indicating a successful year.

Willets were common too, the slender eastern birds that nest on the beaches here.  It’s a few weeks yet before their numbers are augmented by the larger western birds that replace the nesters in the winter and leave us comfortably Willet-filled year round.

There was one migratory shorebird on the flats, a solitary Black-bellied Plover showing no signs of alternate plumage and already as aptly gray as can be.   A pair of Least Terns and a few Oystercatchers rounded out the morning.

Soon I decided to make my way back to the spot where my wife was waiting.  Granted the birding was not as exciting as I had hoped for, and thus necessitated the sort of waiting around on the beach I generally dislike.  But at least I wasn’t worried I was missing anything, as the marsh and beachfront had been covered ably.  I guess this made the whole exercise a little more acceptable, at least so much that it allowed me to relax a bit and maybe listen to the rhythmic pulsing of the waves against the shore.  I’m not made of stone, after all.

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