At sunrise, this little corner of the Atlantic Ocean was soothingly calm. Even the waves were reticent to break the silence. Rather than crash ashore, they tumbled onto the sand with a "well, if we have to" kind of approach.
In the distance, two tightly grouped rafts of scoters awoke with the sun. They did not start feeding right away. Instead, they just moved together as a flock, paddling their way south, which was the way the waves were approaching. One got up and flew, showing white coloration under the wings, and another was solid black, with a yellow nose. Add two species of birds for the year. Make it three. The flying scoter flew over two common loons.
I'd walked this area before, in another life and with another purpose. When I was director of the Scituate Historical Society I joined the selectmen of that town on the ancient task of "perambulating the bounds." We met their counterparts from Hingham, Cohasset, Norwell and Marshfield at the many boundary markers rimming the community. One of them, the Scituate/Marshfield line, is here, in the dunes. The granite boundary marker is gone, washed away by some ancient storm. To make a celebration of the event, I contacted the other historical societies and met them at the markers with gifts from our society. They returned the favors in kind.
The dunes give way to the South River, part of which was once the North River. Prior to the Portland Gale of 1898, the North River flowed out from this spot. Standing in the dunes looking south, well, that was the South River. Looking north, up towards Humarock and Sea View, that was the North River. Now it's all South River, up to the confluence at Fourth Cliff. This would be easier with a map.
Out on the river, oblivious to such self-imposed manmade headaches, common goldeneyes, buffleheads, mallards, American black ducks and Canada geese floated along under the watchful eye of a red-tailed hawk perched on a distant cedar tree. Chunks of ice broken loose from the shore glided past, causing the buffleheads into intermittent scurrying movements. Suddenly, one black duck took off, and then they all took off, dozens of them formerly hidden in the trenches of the marsh. Within minutes of circling the area, they returned to pretty much the same spots from which they had flown, back to the business of dabbling.
I had better get back to the business that I do, too.
Time: 33 minutes
New species for 2009: Black scoter, white-winged-scoter, common loon (54 species of birds for the year).
What else I got done: wrote and emailed an enewsletter in time to go to the Bruins/Wild game at the Boston Garden!