Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 18: Locals and Plovers

Last week's dramatic cleanup transformed the marsh. Those towers of wood and trash were mementos of my slow but steady progress. With them gone it suddenly felt as if I was starting from scratch. And there is a lot left to do. As I stared into the water contemplating this I heard human voices approaching from the road. I'd camera trapped a few people but I'd never actually encountered any in the marsh. It was an older man and his 30-something daughter. They were locals.

"I can't believe I've nevah been back heah," she said.
They asked why and for whom I was cleaning up the place. I said it was for the animals, the birds. Then he surprised me.
"You should get the people from Breezy to come out and help," he said in a Brooklyn accent thicker than a stack of bialys.
I asked if he thought the Breezy Pointers would actually be interested.
"F*** yeah," he exclaimed, sounding both proud and mildly insulted.
As they walked away he turned around and yelled at me, "you doin a good thing heah."
That's my next goal: enlist local volunteers. I'm embarrassed I hadn't thought of it before.

Halfway through cleaning the pond I walked out to the beach and found six piping plovers flitting about. They'd arrived fresh from the Bahamas, or South America, or some place warmer than here.

These little guys never asked for controversy, but in New York they can't seem to avoid it. Because they are a threatened species, and only nest on beaches, vast swaths of summer playgrounds are closed on their behalf. Some people are more than a little bitter about it. But there are plenty of beaches. Not so many plovers.

They're the reason I first started volunteering at Breezy ten years ago. Now they occupy the same space of my consciousness as cherry blossoms and short skirts: harbingers of spring. Watching one scurry down the sand is a bit like watching a wind-up toy on rocket fuel. They go this way:

And that way.

Then they swirl the sand with their feet as if waxing a car, and plunge in after anything that moves.

Their beaks emerge filled with what looks like mostly sand. How they sieve out the good bits I don't know.

Eventually they tire of me and wing it a hundred yards down the beach.

It was hard to break away from them but I eventually convinced myself to start a new log pile and finish cleaning the pool.

At the end of the day I walked back to the truck, still slightly disoriented by the mass cleanup and the scope of work remaining. But as I passed through the relocated hills of wood now consolidated by the road, I was reminded of something important. All of that used to be in the marsh.

High of 41, average wind NW @ 16 MPH, 4.5 high tide @ 02:23 PM, water level unrecorded.
Birds seen in marsh: robin, crow, ? flycatcher. Osprey seen above Riis landing.
Birds seen in bay: black brant, red breasted merganser, oystercatcher, piping plover

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