I wiped away the weeds & foam. / I fetched my sea-born treasures home... Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


In these last frozen days of winter ...

                                  huge flock of sanderlings arriving at dusk, early March, as the snow falls
it is to hard imagine that the shorebirds will return by mid-March. Usually the oystercatchers arrive on the heels of the sanderlings [sandpipers] who are arriving by the thousands daily.
The clownish black, white and orange oystercatchers are always here by St. Paddy's Day---though this exceptionally cold winter could delay their appearance.

                                                                              mama oystercatcher and baby


                                                                             oystercatchers with"teenage" chicks
My favorite mallards are back too!

Swimming in colorful pairs in the vernal storm- and tide- ponds that we call swales. Mallard ducks are not ocean ducks, they are dabblers who normally frequent freshwater ponds or streams, but in recent years a small flock has made my dunes theirhome. Each year I wait for them to nest here--but no. Probably because the pond dries up by late summer? Or they are put off by the many humans using the summer beaches; mallards are very shy birds.
Sometimes they are joined by Canada geese and brandts,

though these too are a rare sight on the open ocean beach. (It's a "well-known fact" that geese love golf courses and soccer fields---green grass and open spaces.) Yet a small band waddle in each spring, many with yellow neck tags, signifying---something?
The plovers will come in April,
                                                                       piping plover on her nest
Then in June and July the terns and skimmers arrive last, stopping here at the beach to nest. No arctic trek for these guys!
                                                                              black skimmers w/ chicks

No pretty songbirds for us here at the beach but beautiful and wondrous all the same.
And, oh look how fun! a great find at HG:
A perfect Oystercatcher decoy.
And here's an arctic tern...in turquoise plumage, but realistic nevertheless.

                                    arctic tern & white shells/white ironstone bowl
Plus some rare treasures: authentic beach combed decoys....
a handpainted wooden black duck. And a very rare Arctic tern, also handmade, cut from wood.
So now, as the day darkens at 6 PM I set off for home with the words of one of my favorite nature writers echoing in my head:
"...when darkness lays itself down over Nantucket Sound and the ferry's horn is the last recognizable voice we hear before heading home for the last time each day./// It will be July soon enough...and long before that we will have the joys of the squeaky-hinge song of the returning red-winged blackbirds, the tinny voices of the peepers, the velvet of the pussy willow catkins, the unfurling welcome of the fiddleheads, crows and gulls in great numbers, and the osprey and marsh hawks riding the currents drifting in the ocean of air.
Spring is already here, where we have held it all winter: in our hearts."
Spring?---or Summer for those of us here at The Beach.

Aren't her words beautiful?

North Cairn's Nature column runs every Sunday in the Cape Cod Times. She can be reached at ncairn@capecodonline.com.


PS-All photos, including wildlife pix, migrating birds taken by me here at my beach.