Beach Update 6/26 – Looks can be Deceiving

Walked today at low tide, looks like some sand came back, but not enough to add to the high tide beach, but look better than the 6/17 low tide pictures. Better later than never, think this is the first plus sign of sand to occur this year.

Even with the positive development, more erosion to the base and depth of the sand dunes has occurred since the last report on 6/19.

Couple more of the remaining fence posts toppled over the weekend, just west of Coast Guard
Coast Guard Station substructure on June 26th, 2017, notice the loss of sand under the old foundation
Beach sand returning looking east towards Hemlock Cove from Coast Guard at Gilgo State Park

Looks can be deceiving, wishing it was beach back, look at the high water debris line, still getting to the dune base in many locations.

The South Shore Barrier Beaches need sand, call your Congressman today.


Order of Chaeadriiformes

Gulls are from the order Chaeadriiformes and the family Laridae, as are terns. Gulls, unlike terns, comprise the subfamily Larinae.

All gulls are sturdy looking with long pointed wings and an almost square tail. Their feet are webbed and their bills are hooked. When landing in the water to grab food, they alight almost gently rather than dive.

Generally their flight is strong with deliberate wing-beats but some gulls also soar. Opportunists, gulls are mostly scavengers and are at home around human gatherings where they can expect to seize the garbage and refuse left behind by people.

Most adult gulls are some combination of white, grey and black. The markings of gulls are the same in the female and male. Immature gulls have different markings and some gulls may not have their adult plumage for several years. Gulls nest in colonies and generally produce 2 to 5 eggs each year.

The Herring Gull, Larus argentatus, is the most common species found in the United States. Early European colonists on our shores found the herring and great black backed gulls so common and people friendly that they could be easily killed for food.


Fishing Machine

This flexible-necked, goose-sized bird is a very efficient fishing machine. From the surface, it dives under water and uses its large webbed feet to paddle furiously while it uses its stiff broad tail as a rudder. It snags fish in its long slender hooked bill equipped with sharp serrated mandibles for a hold-fast grip.

Because it doesn’t have water-repellent feathers it must air dry its feathers by spreading its wings while standing upright on a perch. This activity is frequently observed at docks and piers along Long Island’s bays.

The Atlantic coast cormorants include the great cormorant and the double-crested cormorant.
Long Island is the southern-most winter range of the great cormorant. Some double-crested cormorants can be found in our area year-round as their northern-most winter range is Long Island and during the other seasons they are fairly common.

The double-crested cormorant adult, Phalacrocorax auritus, is about 30 inches in length and has a wing span almost double that length. It is black except for an orange throat pouch above its long flexible neck. Its two curly plumed crests, as per its name, are not often visible. The immature double-crested has a white breast.

All cormorants hold their bills in an upward slant while swimming on the surface of the water.
Their only voice is a guttural grunt. Cormorants are social birds and generally nest in communities. Sometimes they fish in groups using a herding technique to move a school of fish to shallow water where snagging the fish becomes simplified.

To take flight, they must paddle across the water’s surface to gain enough momentum. When migrating, cormorants utilize a V-formation like geese, but unlike geese they remain silent.

The increased presence of cormorants in our area is a good news/bad news issue. The good news is that any increase in their population generally indicates that the water quality has improved. Cormorant reproductive capabilities are severely impaired by the presence of pollutants in the water. More cormorants usually means cleaner water.

However, the down side of an increased cormorant population is that they are such voracious feeders and efficient anglers that the bait fishing and sport fishing people are concerned.

Studies do show that the cormorant diet is mostly small non-commercial fish, with sport fish representing only two percent. But, they do compete with larger sport fish for food and they definitely will take large quantities of small bait fish. Further, cormorants also damage vegetation and can cause bank erosion along the bay side.

Snowy Owl at Oak Beach

“A male snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) was spotted in the dunes of the Sore Thumb Cove near Oak Beach after a snowstorm on January 21, 2014.  Snowy owls are large predatory birds that venture south from the Arctic Circle during winter months.  They can usually be spotted on oceanfront dunes when tundra-like conditions prevail.  Snowy Owls were also spotted at the west end of Jones Beach and West Gilgo Beach this season.”

MIT Seagrant Experience

Down on the beaches we are intimately familiar with the oceans and the increasing impact they have on our lives. The challenges of operating in the ocean have always pushed the related technologies to the forefront of their fields. This is still true today in our world and I got a front row seat for some of these developments during my two week stay at MIT’s Seagrant College as part of the OEX (Ocean Engineering Experience) program.  Sixteen students from across the United States were selected to participate in the program, and I was one of them.

The program had a two-pronged approach.  Professionals ranging from marine scientists to mechanical engineers lectured us.  This was complimented by a hands-on team project where, under a tight deadline, we conceived, constructed, and tested an ROV designed to log temperature and depth in the adjacent Charles River.  We drew our designs from historic ROV’s such as the Jason Jr., explorer of the Titanic, as well as some cutting edge vehicles, some web connected, in the Seagrant lab.

Seagrant is a partnership between NOAA and 32 universities around the country.  The goal is to support research, training and outreach programs such as OEX. The experience opened my eyes to the wealth of opportunities in the field of Ocean Engineering and reaffirmed the importance of stewardship of the oceans.

By Jed Dale, Student Editor