Saturday, August 3, 2013

Foraging Lessons from the Bookender's

It was one of the few times we didn’t have a camera with us.  Realizing when we were well on our way, and deciding not to turn back lest we miss the sunset... After all, we could spend a little time actually talking and staying focused on our walk ~ rather than stopping a bazillion times to capture yet another ahhhh moment. 

Wouldn’t it figure that the Oystercatchers were out with their offspring!?!

Gone was the brown/grey fuzzy... gone was the all black baby bill... the only colors of youth remaining was the black tippy tip of a mostly orange-red bill and a cute curl at the tip of a tail. 

After Superstorm Sandy we thought for sure this estuary/wonderland would be forever lost, but somehow it has survived... and in someways better than ever.  The wooden boardwalk is gone - no doubt floated away.  In its place a bright new walkway, made from recycled something-or-other...  A red blue ‘carpet’ is now rolled out for our arrival.  Fresh fences lined the dune ‘thruway.’ Sand grass had more than re-grown and waves well over our heads.

Our welcome is not, however, complete until we reach the bird sanctuary.  It is here we know we have arrived.  Behind the designated line - a simple wire that only serves to warn us humans to stay out of the nesting area - there are thousands of families tending to their offspring.  We’ve watched them through their courting journey with anticipation and glee. 

Now at the shoreline we stood - without cameras?!! - on a perfect night!
Sanderlings & Oystercatchers
(Cell phone image... sorry.)

The sky was warm with hues.  Pink diamonds sparkled on the waters foamy edge.  With each wave the sanderlings ran to and fro, in perfect formation and timing.  I always wait for one of them to be sucked in by a rogue wave, but they never are.  (Yes, I have an odd sense of ‘funny’...)

...and the Oystercatchers... Four... two adults... two fledglings... being taught how to forage for their food!

The two pairs were like bookends.  Each parent tipping their head into the sandy earth, like a living sewing machine... or one of those old fashioned ‘Drinking Bird’ toys that bobbed its beak into the vat over and over, only they were much more incisive.  Junior shadowed Mom’s position - beak at the ready - for if Mom found a tasty morsel they would take it straight away.  No worries... if Junior was not at the ready, Mom would stand all the way up, pausing from her dunking behavior and feed her baby the find. 

This guy has his entire bill buried...  
From time to time Mom would feel something beneath the sand and plunge her bill deeper - I envisioned her cross-eyed as the ground surface came so close to her ‘face.’

She would rudder her bill left and right, jarring free the inhabitant from their haven.  Junior took the cue and tried plunging his bill in the same hole along side Mom’s.  It was clearly a lesson in progress.  

And then, a giant seagull would do an overhead flyby, much too close for both parents comfort.  They would peep and screech warnings to anyone that might listen. (click the link if you'd like to hear how they sound :)  Both Juniors would scurry quickly, only in a ‘squatting’ bent legged run - as if they were ducking from a pending overhead attack.  No sooner did the seagull soar off into the sunset and the ‘Bookender’s’ began ‘foraging lessons’ again.

We were swimming in pink.  (1st night)
Like that of a mother nursing her baby - the care, if not ‘love,’ was palpable.  It was a perfect night, sans camera.... (argh!!!) 

We managed to capture a few images - after hurrying to delete an overloaded cell phone camera... At least the hues could be noted.

The next night we headed back to the same spot.  Okay, so the sun wasn’t as dutiful to our plight.... but the ‘Bookender’s’ were!

The 'Bookender's'
You can see the last of the black bill.  :)

Me and my shadow...

A Mother's work is never done....

Nice shot Frank!
The second night was the
more typical Orange - not Pink...

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