Birdie Barage

At a particular portion of Minot Beach in Scituate, just to the north of “Bar Rock,” is a tiny cove, well-protected from the storm surge by a series of offshore rock outcroppings.Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 5.44.28 PMSee?
When a strong storm blows through, the surf naturally stirs up a lot of seaweed, and currents and wind direction dictate where that seaweed ends up. As you might note from the photo, the northern corner of this cove is a natural spot.

And sometimes, it piles, and it piles, and it piles – into large berms. And when the berms build, the seaweed coming in after it has nowhere to go. So it sits in the languid surf, sodden slop. For days upon days. And it begins to rot and stink. It is one of those “low tide” smells that only lovers of the seashore welcome, even perhaps inhale with a sigh. “Ahhhhh, the ocean!” I have visited dairy farmers who exclaim similarly, but I don’t quite smell the equivalency. Because I’m from the shore.

All of this decomposing flora, naturally, attracts millions of bugs, winged and wingless.

And those bugs attract birds! Lots and lots of birds. [Don’t lie – you had no idea where this was going. You were expecting a rant about stink from a cranky old man.]

I have been to this spot many, many times in the past 25 years, whether the seaweed has been piled four feet high or been sucked out with the tide. The “Bar Rock” beach is an attractive spot for family beach going. Nice protected waters, cool rock to climb, periwinkles and crabs. My son jumped off Bar Rock a hundred times. I walk to the end of the beach at the top of the photo, and climb out onto the rock lege that juts a good 300’ into the surf. At low tide, you can walk out to the end, sit 8’ above the crashing waves, and charge your Mojo big time.

Each time I visit the shore, it is a different discovery.

This past weekend, I popped down for a little me time. The weather wasn’t terrific and the seaweed was stinking pretty good, so the beach was quiet of people. Not so, the shore birds, who were there to get fat.

I walked up to the upper end of the cove. The sea weed was piled 2’-3’ to the high water line, with maybe 15 feet of sand before the wall. You can see the big lawn at the top? There’s a nice 3’ stone wall along that line, good for planting your butt in the soft, dry sand, leaning back, and watching the action.

So I did that. For a good hundred feet to either side of my spot, dozens and dozens of shore birds foraged the seaweed. Least sandpipers, spotted sandpipers, semipalmated sandpipers, sanderlings, lesser yellowlegs, plovers, and my favorite new find, the “Ruddy Turnstone.”1200px-Arenaria_interpres_(habitus)

Can you dig that? (Not my pic)

This was all fun, naturally, but then I discovered why my spot against the wall was so advantageous!

The shore birds were doing fine picking the bugs out of the weeds, but what about all those flies? Who was going to feed on them?

These guys showed up, and the show started.


They were there to take care of the flies, and they were very efficient at it. For some reason, it appears that the flies enjoyed the area closest to the wall, and so that is where the swallows hunted most aggressively. They would circle off of the seaweed heaps and then race in a straight line down the length of the wall…where I was the only obstacle.

And so there I was, watching barn swallows head straight for me at head-level, and flick off to evade me by a foot. I could feel it and hear it. They circled back repeated their routes. After a few passes, they got used to me, and passed closer. It got so ridiculous, I closed my eyes to see if I could tell when they passed by. I broke out laughing at the discovery that indeed, I could.

The world is in an awful place right now. Awful. Moments like these have taken on a vastly more important role. Make them happen, and make use of them for your peace of mind.


  1. Jamy Buchanan Madeja says:

    You are not cranky.

  2. T Beaton says:

    Peter: – you have a gift for seeing, and saying, things that is truly incredible. Thanks.

    1. Pete says:

      Thank you for such a lovely compliment. It gets me into quite a bit of trouble, too.

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