Isn’t it ploverly?

Last summer, I signed up to volunteer at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Each year, the endangered piping plover comes back to the shores of the Atlantic to nest and breed. Currently, it’s thought that there are only roughly 8,000 remaining. In. The. World. So it’s significant that nearly 25% of those come back to my home state to nest.

Papa piping plover, checking me out as he forages for lunch

Parker River each year runs a Plover Warden program to help protect their nesting grounds. Largely, we are the hall monitors of the beach, reminding beachgoers (despite the GINORMOUS signs) that the beach is closed. The 6-mile stretch of pristine beach with its protected dunes is perfect nesting grounds, hence the beach is closed from the beginning of April each year through early August (even through greenhead season!), or when the last of the fledglings go. Only 1 of 4 eggs make it from nest to flight. In short, it’s our job to help them get there.

My first encounter on my first day last year included a pair of entitled locals and their dog who were indignant that they were not allowed to walk down the pristine beach. But you can’t even see the nests, local Karen said. Ken piped in and asked when the wardens’ hours were. Hand on my walkie-talkie, I persuaded them to cooperate, and they finally relented. It is Federal land after all. Nor are dogs allowed.

The guy with the drone was nicer, but still confused as to why endangered birds, whose primary predators come from the sky, would feel ruffled by an ominous robotic sky creature humming around and spying on them from the blue.

This year’s encounters have been more tame. In my official volunteer t-shirt and fluorescent hat, I’ve been able to ward off most would-be violators just by being a tad obvious, and most people I’ve encountered are genuinely curious – some even passionate – about the birds. Not so much the obnoxious college kids camped out in pop-up tents just beyond the (again GINORMOUS) signs, feigning ignorance when nabbed by the plover police, “we thought nobody was checking.”

So far, we have about 33 nesting pairs, with 16 or so active nests after some storms and predators took out a swath of nests. This weekend, the refuge noted that some hatchlings have emerged. Over the next weeks we’ll expect the little fuzzits to begin scooting around the beach. This little guy is from one of last year’s broods that, sadly, didn’t make it after a spate of coyote binges.

So if you encounter a sign, a volunteer, or even just a plover… please tread lightly, as nests are camouflaged and the little ones need as much help as possible. No kites, no dogs, no bikes, no feet… just for a few more weeks to give these guys a fighting chance at fledging!

Zoom in… can you spot the plover sitting on its nest in this photo?

Watch this space. I’m hoping to get some plover-ific pics as the little ones emerge.

On whales, sunsets, out-of-town visitors and other random dribbles…

I’m in something of a travel drought: work has been madness and springtime plans got thwarted by a combination of bad timing and worse inertia. So it’s been a summer of routine routines to discharge the static in the overloaded head.

Enter: sunsets. I bought a fancy new lens a few months back, and took a personal oath to get better at low-light photography. I still should take a class or find a mentor or something. In the meantime, I’m dabbling…

Wearing a camera: I read somewhere a while back that to improve one’s photography, you should put your camera on each day, wear it so it becomes like an article of clothing. So I’m probably that freak marching around town with dog leash in one hand and a camera slung across my body, stalking sunrises, ocean fog, evening light and the egrets that hang around the docks. Some of my recent favourites, in no particular order:

Whirlwind guests: And my first visitors of the summer came a week or so ago, my co-adventuring Calvin brought his adventurers-in-training to my part of the world at the start of their whirlwind tour of the Northeast. We made the most of a brilliant summer weekend: Salem Willows arcade, an authentic New England clam shack experience at Woodman’s, swimming and SUP-ing right here in Bev, and topped it off with a diner brekkie at Cape Ann’s best-kept secret and a whale watch out of Gloucester!

We had the luck of watching local humpback, Dross, lunge feeding for the better part of an hour. In some of these frames, you can see the sardines escaping from her massive mouth, the gulls at the ready for any fish she’s missed. Also seen this day: a few minke whales and an elusive ocean sunfish (on my hit list for diving, but never expected to see one in the North Atlantic)!

My next summer visitor comes in a week or so, and I wonder if it’s cheating to repeat the same classic New England summer rituals? I take for granted that these things are in my backyard, never going on these excursions except when visitors are here, but feel grateful every day to live in a place that people from out of town come for holiday.

I’m writing this not-really-a-travel-post post, in part, to appease that feeling of restlessness crawling in my bones, as the sparks of the next grand adventure take form. I’m writing to practice the artform because I’m feeling rusty. I’m writing because I still wonder quite often if I’m meant to stay in one place, and whether some inner Gypsy isn’t being squelched by this traditional concept of home; whether home is a feeling or if it’s a social construct, fabricated to display tangible wealth. And of course it is both, since the universe as it meets the human condition is this deeply-layered paradox.

So, stay tuned to this space. Even I don’t know for sure what will appear next… but there’s a nagging urge to swim with big animals, and see island-nations that have their own ecosystems, and see rock formations where, for thousands of years, people have built villages into the stone, and animals whose ancestors once existed on this continent, and structures far older than this country’s years.

Surya namaskar

Yoga Sutra 1.1: atha yoga anushasanam. Now the practice of yoga begins.

Yoga, quite literally, is a path. It’s a culmination, or compilation, of the different pieces of a practice: movement, breath, study, concentration, contemplation, stillness, restraint, observation, meditation, presence, authenticity…

This practice wends its way through my life, showing up at different levels, in different ways, each and every day. Some days, I’m cultivating iccha, where the heart seeks to understand this turbulent and harrowing world in which we live, drawing the willingness to allow what might come. Other days, I’m learning; utilising jnana energy, gleaning whatever wisdom I can from books/from others/from the natural world, that helps me sometimes just get out of bed in the morning. Other days, the light bulbs flash: I discover a missing piece of a puzzle; some explanation for that thing that’s been tugging at my subconscious. There are the kriya days, where 1+2=37, because I feel I can do anything I’ve got the will and knowledge to accomplish, and I’ve put the pieces together to take action. Other days, that action is merely a walk around the block to clear my head of the numbing self-deprecating thoughts.

It’s International Day of Yoga. It’s the summer solstice. And so I continue on this path of yoga, making way for a citta vrtti-less* morning, a bright sun slicing through the cotton-puffed sky at the beginning of its arc across the longest day, saluting my endeavours as I salute its.

Happy solstice!

*Yoga Sutra 1.2: yogas citta vrtti nirodhah; yoga calms the fluctuations of the mind-stuffs.