Super Moon. Super high tide. Super night at Nickerson!!
Watching the moon rise – a simplistic act – yet nothing short of spectacular. How many months go by where we hardly look to the skies? Too often it feels why bother... the abundance of street lights, house lights, and every other light imaginable, seems to remove any possibility of current day nostalgic starry nights.
As a child I can remember sitting by the campfire, a log or giant rock – uncomfortable as it was – offered seating. My sisters and I would warm one side of our body until the non-fire side of us beckoned for us to turn. Like makeshift rotisseries, we rotated. Our backsides warmed as we looked to the twinkling darkness. Nothing compares to the unabated view of the flip side of a day.
This weekend we headed to Nickerson Beach around sunset to watch the moonrise. Our typically lone beach was filled with photographers. Giant lenses threatened to tip the tripods they perched on. Face after face pressed to eyepieces, while trigger-happy fingers waited for that perfect shot. The moon had not yet crested the horizon… Not a concern, as flocks of Skimmers had come back to the beach to ‘entertain.’ Last year was a hard year for them. Hurricane Sandy had annihilate their estuary. This year the town had it back better than ever, sectioned off and ready for inhabitants. The Skimmers were more than happy to oblige.
Walking towards the estuary, even from a distance, huge flocks could be seen simultaneously lifting into the air. Like black waves against the blue abyss of sky, they danced in flawless unison. How they don’t crash into each other, or the ocean waves, is amazing. Splitting into three groups they landed. Two flocks in the estuary, one along the rapidly shrinking shoreline. A moon tide was happening before our eyes.
The flock seemed antsy, as if they knew something was happening. Maybe they were just performing for the plethora of cameras… either way they sure put on a show.
A select few busied themselves making their ‘nests.’ (If you want to call it that. Basically it’s a hole, pounded into the sand by the chest of the male.) The female would then test the fit. If she liked it, she stayed… while the male proudly stood guard. Others took to the sky, arguing and pirouetting disputes – their acrobatic display prompted a frenzy of clicking, as a gaggle of camera shutters fired away.
Overhead – sometimes near missing our heads – Skimmers would return to the ‘roost’ with dinner clenched in their bills. Tiny wriggling fish, getting the last birds-eye view of life as they knew it.
From time to time a tern would enter the terrane, though wouldn’t stay for long. A quick fluttering dance, a trill song in the air, and they were off. The Oyster Catchers wandered the edge of the estuary, but rarely ventured in. No longer sitting on ill placed ‘nests’ they have gone from paired two’s, to three – Mommy, Daddy and Juvenile. One group even had twins. 🙂 I find it amazing how quickly life must mature for nature. If those fledglings don’t get how to live in one short summer, their chances are nil. (Seriously, it is a wonder they survive at all… too many have met early demise, from people or beach patrols crushing their ‘dream home’s’ to bits. They don’t seem to learn?!! The next year there are more setting their ‘nest’s’ in the middle of the beach?!)
Feathered families lined the shore giving foraging lessons, until the encroaching waters forced them to reposition.
A shoreline, that typically had no issue containing the ocean, was breached. Within minutes the sandy beach became a basin. Rivers of overflow etched paths of least resistance, creating puddles, then ponds. Bubbles blurp-blurped ringlets as the sand drank its fill of salty liquid. Photographers scrambled with their cameras, tripods, and backpacks as the encroaching tide threatened their gear. No sooner did they settle into a new ‘safe’ zone, and they were forced to retreat yet again.
The ‘ponds’ continued to fill with every roll of a wave. Soon Skimmers broke from the ranks of flock order (they faced uniformly into the wind to avoid the ruffled feather) to take advantage of this sudden dining opportunity.
There against the moonlit sky, with a glimmering reflection on this newborn pond, skimmers did what they did best. Skim. Extended orange and black bills disappeared into the glassy surface. From time to time their cutting wake was interrupted as they hit the sandy bottom (indicated by the sudden jerk of their neck – so I guess they do hit…) or the successful catch of a meal. Poor fish. They were caught in the surge… no hope for them now. There was no going back. It was a feasting night for all.
Seemingly on cue the night unfolded. I wish I had the contact information of every photographer that graced that beach. I cannot imagine the spectacular images they captured. Though as I look at the shots we took – NONE compares to the glory of being there.
I have to give a special shout out to Frank. We ran out of the house to get there…. I did not take my camera. Yes – I am a fool… Again! There is a part of me that wants to force myself to connect to real life – as if being behind the camera renders me too busy trying to get ‘that’ shot – worried about seeing only bits of a much grander picture… So much for that theory. I will be taking my camera AND camcorder from now on!
Frank shoved his camera in my hands – as he has done in the past. “Take some pictures!!” Seeing through a lens is such a thrill – to think that I might have ‘caught’ a smidgin of what I see – or feel… yes, I revert to my two-year-old-self, teary-eyed and giddy with glee…. poor Frank.
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