Monday, May 24, 2010

Rockland Harbor Breakwater

One of my best friends is a 'Main'ah,' born and raised here like me. Because we grew up here, there are  a lot of tourist things that we have never done before. Walking the mile out the Rockland Breakwater is one of those things. Last Saturday, we took a leisurely stroll to the end. There was just the slightest breeze and in the seventies, it felt like June. There were not many other folks walking because the official start to "The Season," is not until Memorial Day. In the lighthouse seen at the end, is a museum. They were painting the floors and organizing the display cases of brick-a-bracka tourist trinkets for sale. The smell of paint drifted out the doors and opened windows, mixing with the seaweed and mud smell from shore. A group of volunteers was gathered around the flag pole receiving instruction in how to raise, lower and fold the American flag. A couple of guys were arguing lightheartedly with the instructor. "I was in the Army for thirty-seven years and we neva' done it like that!" one declared. The other said he had been an Eagle Scout and he hadn't done it that way, either. A family of Asians were fishing from the east side. The man got his line caught in seaweed and was chattering away ferociously while trying to free it. I couldn't understand a thing he said, but his frustration and irritation came across very clearly. A woman sat as far out as she could get on the rocks, alone just staring out to sea.
The breakwater at 4,300 feet is constructed of granite blocks. It took eighteen years to build it starting in 1881. Running north to south, on the west side it protects Rockland Harbor from the ferocious seas that would pound the harbor from the northeast. In the 1800's limestone was big business in the area. Rockland Harbor was one of the busiest ports on the east coast. The granite blocks show fascinating patterns of holes where they were divided and split off in the quarry and when fitted into the breakwater. Sea birds fish the breakwater for marine life and use the surface like a massive kitchen table for smashing and picking. Someday, I would like to walk the breakwater at sunset and maybe, if I'm ambitious, at sunrise.
Purple Sandpipers wheeling around the breakwater's east side.
Double -crested Cormorant still has his lid closed to protect his eye underwater. I saw a Great Cormorant off in the distance perched on rocks.
A Common loon in non breeding plummage takes a big stretch

This Starfish had been dropped onto the breakwater by a gull.  
The tide was outgoing and the wind was from the west. These conditions were less than ideal for birding, though I'm sure the birding on the breakwater can be fabulous. I did not see this man catch anything, so perhaps the same can be said for fishing.
"Do you think this would this look good on me as a hat?"
Sea Urchins were popular with the gulls.

For more information on the breakwater, click this link - Rockland Breakwater
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9 comments:

  1. Sometimes, rock and granite can be just as beautiful as birds and flowers, and some of your shots of the Rockland Breakwater captured the character of the granite. The thing about rocks, boulders and granite is that they last through endless season, unlike us, our feathered friends and your gorgeous flowers. Good shooting, m'Dear. (BTW, what are the stunning flowers at the top of your blog; are they lady slippers, bleeding hearts?)

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  2. They are dicentra, the old fashioned Bleeding Hearts. My son used to call them "Ladies in a bathtub" when he was little. That's what he saw. In my mind that's what I call them, too. And thanks, Ted. I could have taken hundreds of shots of those slots and holes in the rock.

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  3. I checked out your blog today and was looking at your entry for 24 May. The "Least Sandpipers wheeling around the breakwater" are actually Purple Sandpipers in breeding plumage. On 3 of the birds near the center of the photo you can see the distinct orangish base to their bills, and on the bird just to their left, with its wings partially raised, you can see the heavy dark streaking or spotting on the flanks. The breakwater habitat is also a good clue to their identity. It's an unusual species in Maine that late in the spring. Paul

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  4. I took a motorcycle ride to Rockland on Sunday. I've been through Rockland many times but like you it was the first time I went to the breakwater.

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  5. Robin, my eyes must not be as sharp as the other reader, because I don't detect the orangish base to the bills, but they do look more like Purples than Leasts. These two species, unlike Broad-winged Hawks and Peregrine Falcons are distinctly different in size, even more than a Hairy and Downy Woodpecker, with the Purple much larger. I agree that just the location argues for Purples which are almost exclusively found on rocky areas and they are on the breakwater all winter. Keep the pictures coming. I doubt that there's a birder who hasn't made multiple major identification mistakes.
    John

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  6. That was like taking our walk all over again. Well caught! We'll do a surise and a sunset. How's that?

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  7. Pursuant to the following exchange that took place on the Maine Audubon list serve, I have changed the title of the sandpiper photo from 'Least" to Purple.

    Just a purely anecdotal comment: I've never seen any other kind ofsandpiper than purple on the Breakwater in all my years of walkingthere. (On the beach, yes, but not on the breakwater itself.) A friendwho walks there every day has said they lingered very late this year. Kristen On Thu, May 27, 2010 at 8:17 AM, Robin Robinson wrote:> On my personal-non-commercial-not-strictly- birding blog,> http://robins-chaos.blogspot.com I had posted on May 24th while walking on> the Rockland Harbor Breakwater, that I had seen Least Sandpipers. A reader> sent this to me:>> "I checked out your blog today and was looking at your entry for 24 May. The> "Least Sandpipers wheeling around the breakwater" are actually Purple> Sandpipers in breeding plumage. On 3 of the birds near the center of the> photo you can see the distinct orangish base to their bills, and on the bird> just to their left, with its wings partially raised, you can see the heavy> dark streaking or spotting on the flanks. The breakwater habitat is also a> good clue to their identity. It's an unusual species in Maine that late in> the spring.">> Just fabulous that folks are reading and taking the time to fill in me, the> clearly clueless. My first inclination was to go with Peregrine, after all.> What do you all think about these birds? Least, Purple, or other? Maybe> someday I'll learn something about sandpipers through this as I have with> raptors. Robin Robinson- clueless in The Burg (Map 6, I still know that.)>

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  8. Very nice! The mooring’s I use in Rockland is almost in line with the breakwater. I just confirmed them for the summer today. Perhaps you can come up this summer and I will bring you to the stone quarry area, it is a neat place.



    Tom Robinson

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  9. Great shots of the cow birds. By the way what do you feed those birds to make them dance like that ? Maybe they were listening to J.B. also.

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