Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Stephanie and the black backed gull family

I walk on a beach owned by the Audubon Society where endangered plovers are a major concern.  But many birds are in danger.  This summer there is only one family of black backed gulls.  They used to be the major species here but then were overpowered by a more common white backed species.  Many mornings when I walk the mile-long beach, I meet Stephanie who has been coming here longer than I have.  This summer she had become friendly with the only black backed gulls who frequent the beach, a pair and their very large juvenile offspring (whose back is still a mottled gray).  Stephanie knows a woman from the Audubon society who tells her how communicative this species is.  They are indeed.  They watch for Stephanie's arrival, one will eat out of her hand.  This beach does not have many gulls. It is not a well known beach and is not for swimmers, so often in the mornings at 8:00 or so I may walk it's length and meet no more than one or two people-- thus it was that Stephanie who comes early too, and I stopped to talk.  Found we were two writers and shared concerns about the birds and the beach.

The juvenile gull has become a matter of concern. He is, in fact, larger than his parents, but they are still feeding him.  So is Stephanie, who, in fact, has brought high protein kitty chow for the whole family.  Obviously the parents can survive well without her handouts, but Junior seems to be unable to seek his own food. Stephanie was throwing raw peanuts to him the other day. She is intelligent and thoughtful enough to worry that her interference is changing the natural dynamic of this small family.

We have a proprietary feeling about this beach and it's well being. We are concerned about the red sea weed which is an invasive species from Japan (probably brought by fishing ships) that is choking the natural green sea weed on which the many varieties of shell fish depend.  This in turn means fewer shell fish for the gulls and is probably one reason the beach has a small gull population (plus the nearby public beaches are good sources of snacks for gulls.

We humans cannot let nature take its course.  She and I worry about erosion from the several hurricanes that have lightly touched down here. We watch the horseshoe crabs which this year  have been only very small young ones that molted and their shells washed ashore-- in the past we have seen many older, larger ones. Where have they gone?  Have they died?  They are a "fosil" species, they were ancient when the dinosaurs were beginning to take over the earth.

And we bemoan the tourists who have found "our" beach, who bring their dogs -- off leash -- ignoring the signs, disturbing the nesting birds. I am happy to have become a "local" who can feel proprietary about this tiny stretch of our precious Cape Cod.  It is  very, very beautiful, especially early in the morning, seeing no other  human figures on the whole mile-long arc of sand, I feel that it is "my" beach.


barbara judge said...

June -- What a gem of a place -- to be able to walk without lots of folks. I would think that there would be signs telling any beach walkers (with dogs especially) what kinds of birds are using this site for their nesting. Maybe they do? The decline in our wildlife around the world is alarming. -- barbara

June Calender said...

No, Barbara,there are not signs about the birds and it doesn't even say it's an Audubon site. There IS a sign saying dogs are not allowed May- September and other months only on leases - it's generally ignored. The do mark areas off limits during nesting season. The privacy early in the morning is precious to me.

Lynn Guardino said...

Ugh, I know what you mean about the invasion during the summer and of the thoughtless people who allow dogs on the beach, as if everyone was so happy to see them. What's worse are the smokers, most especially the cigar smokers who fail to realize how they are polluting. Last summer, there were countless horseshoe crabs on our beaches. Not sure if they are absent this year or if I have not noticed because I have not been to the beach as often as I'd like. I can't take the cigarettes, the tatoos and the sights and sounds of rude and stupid people who don't seem to "get" it. America is in deep doo-doo and it is not just on the beach! Amen

Ladydy5 aka: Diane Yates said...

It is a different time, a different world than probably most of us grew up in. We had respect for property of others for the beauty of it all, not just a place of entertainment to do what ever you cared to do. No respect!!
Glad you have that wonderful place.