The Mast-Head: Edge of the Bay

    With the calendar flipping from July to August, changes come to the beach. Even before sunrise I can hear the difference in the wind, now coming from the north. It is a light wind, though, only a hint of what is to come as summer gives way to fall and then to winter.
    In the house, our oldest child was packed off to sleep-away camp for the very first time this week, another sign of time’s passing. Skittering hordes of sandpipers and plovers have been back for several weeks now, their numbers increasing each day as they arrive from breeding places in the far north.
    These small birds move through the seasons quickly, nesting in spring, staying only briefly in their tundra haunts before winging south, stopping along the coast in the usual places to gorge on the shrimp-like things and worms that live at the water’s edge. In the distance they seem to rise and fall like snow, flying out over the bay for a moment without apparent purpose, then returning to the same patch of sand.
    The very southernmost sweep of Gardiner’s Bay has been teeming with life of one sort or another this year. This is in stark contrast with, but perhaps related to, the savage and sweeping devastation of the late December storm that churned the beach and pushed the dune landward a dozen feet in some places. Huge schools of sand eels rise each day before dawn, drawing in predators above and below.
    Terns show up just as there is light enough to see them, hovering along the edge of the beach. It was pointed out to me by a brother-in-law who notices such things that, though their nesting sites were elsewhere, young-of-the-year terns assemble on the beach, waiting to be fed by the more able adults.
    Getting Adelia ready for camp has been reminiscent of the terns’ feeding arrangements, if somewhat more complicated. There have been bags to pack, things to buy and ship in advance. One morning this week, she will be sent on her way, in a van to New Hampshire, our own little bird, making her very first flight