I arrived bright and early at Sandy Point this morning. The birders were already set up on the beach with their digiscopes and tripods. The attractions: a visiting flock of black skimmers (a rare sight up in these parts) and a wandering gull-billed tern. I wasn't so concerned with the tern (I preferred not to spend half the day standing and waiting for a glimpse) but I really wanted to see the black skimmers. Only problem: they were all the way across the water in Ipswich.
I left the beach and made the mandatory Plum Island tour. Here's the only photo of real note: a pair of juvenile black-crowned night herons at Stage Island Pool. (One is napping).
I decided to go right to Ipswich and see the skimmers at closer range. There is a path from the Crane Estate property down to the beach ("Cedar Point" they call it--I believe it is technically part of Crane Beach); I thought this would give me a shot. I immediately saw the skimmers assembled on a high-tide sandbar.
Most of them were snoozing. I have collected a few shots where they are actually awake and active. I counted 17 (this is apparently not the whole group--others have counted over 20). A nice assortment of breeding and juvenile/non-breeding plumages.
The most excitement was courtesy a juvie herring gull that would occasionally assert its power. The skimmers made way. I like the guy on the left sneaking away. But is flying I really wanted to see. Skimmers are exquisite group flyers. For better or worse, some fishermen crossed the sandbar, sending them up in the air. They circled around and returned to the sandbar.
Here's a video with a little flying and a little comic action. Skimmers have tiny legs relative to the rest of their bodies. Watch the guy below walk all the way across the sandbar to harass a colleague. [please watch in HD]
Oh, and as I turned to leave--an odd looking tern. Up go the binoculars. What do you know? Gull-billed.