One of the eternal puzzles for me is why cormorants even bother to fly. I guess they can do a pretty good job of it, but it takes so much for them to get going. And they always need a high point to start from. Take a look at this juvenile double-crested Cormorant off the southwest coast of Gooseberry. It was low tide – he had found a perch on a rock all to himself, but decided to join some mature adults 50-100 feet away on another rock.
I’m not real good at translating Cormorantese, but I think what he had to say went something like this:
Hey – I actually like the look of the juveniles better!
But this little series was just one part of a really nice walk on Septembe 1 that started with a striking sunrise . . .
. . . and continued as I noticed the tide was unusually low. I’m not used to this view along the west – 0cean side – of the causeway, for example.
And this little rock, out and to the left of Bar Rock – not sure I’ve seen it before.
I decided to walk along the west-facing coast – a place I seldom go, but it was dead low tide – as low as I have ever seen it. And the first thing that caught my eye was there were three or four osprey fishing, as they were the day before – but this time they were on the ocean side – the day before they had been off the North East Beach.
One shocked me by diving into the shallow water between the rocks and very close to shore. I captured the sequence – thought it’s hard to make heads or tails out of the shot as he hits the water.
He came up empty, which is all too often the case, especially for young birds. Raptors do not have a very good survival rate, especially during their first year. Being a predator is a lot tougher than it looks. To learn all about osprey – especially the ospreys of this region – go to this Web site where they track them with radio transmitters. Wouldn’t surprise me if this were one of the birds wearing a radio transmitter. The picture was taken at 6:15 am on September 1. It would be interesting to see the tracks of local birds on that day – they probably won’t appear on the web for a while, but when they do I’ll have to check to see if one of the radio birds was over Gooseberry at this time.
Having watched the osprey’s attempt at fishing, I saw this familiar sight on the rocks nearby. For many years I walked the beach not knowing what this curious structure was.
If you’re still wondering, it’s a whelk egg case. Actually, it’s a string of cases, each containing as many as 100 fertilized eggs which develop in a few weeks into tiny whelks, a few millimeters in length. The case is attached to a rock or the ocean bottom – if they wash up on shore, as this one did, they’ll be doomed, soon drying out. Hmmm. . . maybe it’s better to think about it by its popular name – “Mermaid’s Necklace.”
Meanwhile, back over my shoulder, an interesting hole was developing in the sky with a lightly colored tinge to it.
And on the rocks ahead of me a ruddy turnstone landed and began exploring the beach. All that white underneath fooled me at first. I thought it was perhaps a black-bellied plover in non-breeding plumage – but the orange legs say “no.”
It was then I came across my junior flight instructor – the immature cormorant. Interesting that they look so different than the adult birds. but then the herring gull takes three years to mature, going through four different sets of plumage. The mature gull can be quite handsome and there’s something about their eyes that seem to me unbirdlike.
I’m more comfortable with the little guys, like this juvenile semi-palmated plover doing a me-and-my-shadow routine as he lands on an offshore rock. (Well, obviously not comfortable enough yet! Paul C. corrects me in his comment below – “Semipalmated Sandpiper on a rock Black legs, straight bill, grayish tones.” Thanks again Paul!)
When you get out near the block houses you come across these three rusted posts – don’t cross this line! Well, that would be the word if it was the early 1940s. These are the last remnants of a fence that surrounded the six acres that were the military installation during WWII.
This pair of ruddy turnstones seemed to seemed to be quite comfortable on their seaweed covered rock.
Ooops – but three’s a crowd!
I simply like this flight sequence of a semipalmated sandpiper. They’re beautiful birds and for me the camera allows me to relive the experience, make a positive identification, and enjoy details that I simply didn’t capture at the moment, such as the reflection in the water.
I guess this semipalmated plover had something to say, but without my hearing aids in place I didn’t have a clue what it was.
Now one of the most common birds around Gooseberry and elsewhere is the Herring Gull – and also one of the most difficult to positively identify. He goes through four plumages on his way to adulthood and within these there is a lot of variation. So it’s my educated guess that the following three pictures are first winter herring gulls – and besides the generally brown plumage, I base that on the totally black beak. b ut as always, I stand to be corrected by readers who know better!
And here’s an old friend I remember identifying this way last year – the black-bellied plover in a state of change, but with the distinctive – I believe unique – black armpits which stay with him after the breeding season.
And finally – a brief series showing salt damage to foliage. This is something I noticed big time with Hurricane Bob two decades ago. Even though we didn’t get that much rain from Irene, the air was thick with salt spray blown miles inland and killing many teees. In fact my guess is the salt air did a lot more tree damage in both Bob and Irene then the high winds did. It seems to impact selected trees and shrubs – including the otherwise rugged rigosa rose.
Fortunately, it’s didn’t seem to bother my buddy, the friendly neighborhood catbird, who is still here.