On two outings to North Beach this week, we observed some amazing teamwork by ducks, wading birds and gulls. It made me think of a show my now 14-year-old grandson and I watched when he was a toddler, called “Wonder Pets” where they sang a little catchy little tune about cooperation and teamwork. The words are “what’s gonna work? Teamwork! what’s gonna work…Teamwork!”
The teamwork we observed was 12 Red-breasted Mergansers swimming close to the shore in the old inlet, diving for food. Five Snowy Egrets were running along behind them, looking for anything they could find that the mergansers had stirred up. And in between, were 3 Bonaparte’s Gulls hopscotching over all of them, picking anything off the surface they could find. They were all working together in feeding off whatever each species could stir up.
This behavior is called “mutualism”, feeding off the efforts of the other species. The ducks would then look for whatever the egrets had stirred up with their feet. The second day we were there, 3 Tricolored Herons joined in the mix. It was amazing to watch such cooperation and I couldn’t stop humming the little “teamwork” song!
Throughout the morning, which started with a beautiful sunrise, our good old friend American Oystercatcher U5 and its significant other were around us. First saying good morning at the lagoon in beautiful early morning light, then feeding at the old inlet as we watched the “teamwork”, and finally flying overhead to say goodbye as we were leaving the point.
We had heard the Red Knots are here!!! Sure enough, a flock of just over 200 were resting at high tide at the point, then took off in their spectacular flight. Our days on North Beach always include a lookout for Piping Plovers. “Red/Yellow”, the Great Lakes Endangered captive raised plover, looks to be quite at home at Seabrook for the winter – at its favorite feeding spot along the lagoon with 4 other unbanded pipers.
Article by Aija Konrad, photos by Ed Konrad