Thursday, May 16, 2013

Courting Oystercatchers and Other Shore Sights

Silver Sands State Park yesterday morning was the busiest I've seen it so far this year. Not people-busy, but extremely active with creatures all over the place, flying or romping or being in love. The sort of weird breeding-time behavior I saw in the woods earlier this week is showing up at the beach, too.

The highlight of the trip was a pair of American Oystercatchers who just could not contain their feelings for each other. These two birds would stand near each other on the beach, prodding the sand with those crazy flaming-poker beaks, and acting pretty normal:

And then all of a sudden, both birds would burst into the air and fly together all up and down the shoreline in close synchronization, calling loudly the entire time:

These birds did this several times while I was there, and it was so extravagant and very entertaining to watch. Plus, it just looked like they were having a ton of fun:

OK, you two, there are some nice stretches of sand here just waiting for a nest. Maybe there will be some oystercatcher eggs someday soon?

A couple of Herring Gulls were acting a little love-struck, too, tossing their heads and touching beaks -- much more subdued behavior than the oystercatchers' antics:

The terns are back in Connecticut now, and I saw two Common Terns resting on some rocks at low tide (just look at those long, long wings):

I had a great time watching several Least Terns zooming around, too. These birds make such amazingly elegant shapes in the air with their perfectly pointed wings and tail:

A Merlin was also haunting the area (not a common bird at this time of year), until it got chased off by some very annoyed Barn Swallows:

Later, the Merlin flew over my head, and I got to admire its speedy falcon shape and the very pretty pattern under its wings:

Snowy Egrets are a constant fixture in this park in the spring and summer, and it's always worth stopping to watch these awesome birds for a bit. This one was snatching little fish from the ocean shallows, looking very dramatic against those dark rocks:

Here's something I'd never seen on these beaches before -- a washed-up jellyfish:

I think this is a Lion's Mane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata); I'm basing that guess on similar pictures that came up when I searched for "jellyfish in Connecticut." This creature was several inches across, which seemed pretty big to me, but apparently this species can grow to several feet across, and Wikipedia says that makes it the largest known species of jellyfish. So that's pretty crazy and cool!

Finally, White-tailed Deer thrive in this park, and I'm almost guaranteed to see some on any given visit. This time, a herd of several individuals (including a couple males with just-emerging antlers) was grazing in a field above the road, making for a peaceful picture:

May is such an active month, with so many changes in plant and animal life. I'm already itching to get back out into the woods again! But the beach is always a great place to visit, too.

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