Between Storms…At the Beach

Friday morning was damp and cloudy but the weather was good enough to get out in the field between tropical storms. The remnants of Hurricane Fred, just a tropical depression, generated tornado warnings, high winds and heavy rain the previous day. And Henri hit us today as a tropical storm. I live on the fringe of its path so I didn’t experience much wind or rain. Luckily for the people west of me that were in the path, Henri dropped from hurricane strength just before it hit shore. There was still a lot of wind and water damage for them but it could have been a little worse.

Our first stop was the state beach on the southern tip of Plum Island. It was still misting a bit but a few people were on the beach. So were pirates. Let’s call this Great Black-backed Gull “Blackbeard”.

The owner came over and closed things up. But the gull only walked as far away as necessary. He returned as soon as the person went back down to the water. We kept walking down the beach so I can’t say how successful his raid was in the end.

There were several hundred Semipalmated Plovers resting in the dunes and a constant flow of Tree Swallows coming across the sound and heading north along the island. But the first of two nice sightings was three Whimbrels. The beaks on these large shorebirds is unmistakable. They flew in, rested for a short time in the dunes and then flew off. They are migrating from the Arctic to the southern US and Central America.

The best sighting of the morning was a Razorbill sitting on the water in the sound about 100-150 yards offshore. They are alcids and their most recognizable relative is the Puffin. They are typically only seen in our area in the winter and usually only after a storm pushes them close to shore. This isn’t the best picture but it came in handy when I reported our counts to eBird. Razorbills are rare this time of year and proof was needed for my report!

We left the beach and had not gone very far on the refuge road when we spotted a Merlin that was preening in a tree right next to the road. This small falcon is a mighty hunter for its size.

Next: more photos from further north on the island.

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