All spring there has been relatively little bird action on Gooseberry – at least to this weekly visitor – but on our July 7 visit it started to pick up and by July 13 things were going strong. Well, at least Don and I saw some great birds. But as Pogo would have reminded us, Friday the 13th came on Friday this month! That means I “took” more than 100 pictures – without a card in the camera! So I went back on July 15 alone and took even more – terrific day. But the main thing this tells me is that Gooseberry really comes alive in mid-July. In the following video-slideshow the first pictures are from July 7, but once you get to the bull dog in the car, that’s today. And the extensive inflight images of the scolding – notice it’s beak is seldom closed – Willet was actually four different birds which were not happy with having several the humans on the beach, presumably because they have young in the tall grass nearby.
I hope the slide show conveys the excitement and beauty of an hour on Gooseberry – especially fairly early in the morning. I’ve pulled out what I feel are some of the better and more interesting shots and put them here in large format – click on any image for a larger version. I’ve also tried to identify the birds, but a few really have me guessing. The Great Egret, however, is easy – I just seldom see them on Gooseberry. They are common in the marshes opposite nearby Horseneck Beach. So it was fun to watch this one catch breakfast out at the end of Gooseberry and gulp it down. Even more fun, however, was to see what looked to me like a young family of Piping Plovers snapping up food in the tidal pool as a Willet took a bath in that pool and as a Least Sandpiper joined them. I sent some of these pictures to Jamie Bogart because it looked like the result of a successful breeding – Jamie is the person who sets up the protective string and wire around nests of these beautiful birds. He wrote back: ” . . . these are likely a fledged brood with adult(s) from another site (eg Allens Pond) that are passing through Gooseberry. The south tip will start to get active with migrants over the next few weeks as the early stages of the shorebird migratory movements begin….” So they weren’t Gooseberry residents – but they still were fun.
When I asked Jamie about that last picture, he wrote: ” . . . the bird you have there is a Least Sandpiper, which has the yellow legs. Semipalmated have the black legs, that’s the distinction.” That was the 7th. What follows are photos from the 15th. Now we never let the “kids” stick their heads out the car window. I don’t consider it safe. But it sure is cute and reminds me of how dogs used to ride in my car when I was much, much younger. It’s summer, of course, and there are a lot of people here. Even at 7 am when I started down the beach, some folks had set up an umbrella and were milling about while another person was walking two dogs nearby. This, plus my own presence evidently stirred up four Willets who wheeled about the skies yelling at us. I assume they were nesting somewhere in the beach grass. Of course, being nearly deaf I could only hear them once in a while – but the open beak tells the story in the pictures. Beautiful birds, especially in flight – other weeks I thought I had seen a nesting pair near the southeast tip of the island, but these were all much closer to the parking lot. Checking Pete Dunne’s “Essential Field Guide Companion,” this behavior is absolutely common for the Willet: “Fairly tame and easily approached; when trespassers cause nesting adults to become frenzied, birds hover and stoop until the intruder retreats to the scant safety of the neighboring Willet’s territory.” Yep – well I didn’t feel threatened, but I felt well-scolded! As usual, Dunne’s descriptions really fit ” . . . a long, heavy, straight, and relatively untapered bill, a thick neck , a compact body, and long, thick, grayish legs.” Meanwhile, in the nearby water were what I thought of as Huey, Dewey, and Louie! (Oh – and Wikipedia informs me that their real names are Huebert, Deuteronomy and Louis.) I have noticed several times this spring that the Common Eiders seem to be hanging around and presumably breeding here – but I saw no signs of young. Well that changed. Here are some adults Eiders with obvious young. The Eider’s long, hevay beak sets it apart and when Bren saw the pictures of the young her first reaction was they “must grow into those beaks!”
Next up was a familiar bird – I’ve seen these on Gooseberry several times, but they seem so out of place they always give me pause. It’s a Rock Dove – a pigeon. Notice the white “cere” where beak meets head? OK – I don’t have a clue what a “cere” is, but that’s what it’s called in the “Sibley Guide to Birds,” and frankly I never noticed it before, but it really shouts for attention in this picture.
Now the next pic might tempt you to think Piping Plover in breeding garb, but this is the more common Semipalmated Plover – the difference is his back is brown where the Piping Plover os grey.
And this, I believe, is the Semipalmated Plover in flight – but a juvenile – notice the dark beak? I think that’s about the only thing that separates him/her from the adult above.
On the reeds in the marshy area between the towers and south point Redwinged Blackbirds, tree swallows, and “LBJs” were hanging out.