Wednesday, January 21, 2009

January 21, 2009 - Water Street, Plymouth, Massachusetts

The day ahead was going to be a long one, and I had no idea whether or not I would get my walk in later, so I had to give up on some sleep to get it in. I figured that if I was going to do it early, there should be some sort of reward.

My body has told me in capital letters, at the top of its lungs, in neon lights, that rewards from now on cannot be sugary. And the economy has told me that they cannot be frivolous. So I turned to nature.

I parked at Nelson Street Beach Park and began walking south. The sun was not up yet, and the creature I sought was nowhere to be seen. But ten minutes into my walk, as the slightest hint of the sun peeked through the clouds, there was life. American black ducks amassed in huge numbers near the shore behind the building that I always knew as Cranberry World, and gulls began their short trek from loafing grounds on Plymouth Beach across the bay. My grandmother lived nearby when I was a kid, and whenever we visited her, we visited Cranberry World. We sampled all the Ocean Spray products in little paper cups and loved to watch the continual loop of old commercials that was part of the museum display. I distinctly remember one in which Mr. Hooper from Sesame Street pushed a handcart through the streets yelling "Cran-apple! Cran-grape!"

But back to 2009. Reports had come from birders all around the region last night of an extremely rare gull actively feeding on a dead rock pigeon behind the East Bay Grille restaurant, an all-white bird called an ivory gull. I figured that would be an ample reward for sticking to this routine of thirty minutes a day no matter what, the enjoyment of experiencing something new, seeing something I had never seen before and might never see again. A second one had been seen for three days in Gloucester, an unprecedented double-ivory attack on Massachusetts.

I didn't have to wait long. The trick to finding a good bird sometimes is finding the birders. They were there with the sunrise, and soon began to point en masse. The gleaming white little visitor soared close by, so closely I felt like I could have reached up and grabbed it. But what a bizarre thing to ponder. This small bird is one of a vanishing breed, a species disappearing from our planet because its habitat is eroding. The same melting ice caps that are endangering our polar bears are stealing the breeding grounds of these gulls. The way that this bird actively performed for the gathering crowd, giving its slight, wheezing call, it seemed as if it was trying to deliver a message about its plight. I was, of course, misinterpreting its normal high-energy behavior, but at least the bulleted point about its bleak future and the need for action got through to me.

Time: 33 minutes.
New species: Ivory gull (89 - lifebird).
Stranger hellos: None.
What else is shakin': Cleaned out the tree swallow and wood duck boxes at North Hill Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Duxbury with a team of staff and volunteers; re-visited the ivory gull with that team later in the day; finished scanning pics for the golf course book.

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