Hulls Cove, October 26, 2012 (Beachcombing series No.67)

photographs and text by Jennifer Steen Boher of Quercus Design

Hulls Cove, Maine; October 26, 2012 (Beachcombing series No.67)

Hulls Cove, Maine; October 26, 2012 (Beachcombing series No.67)

The first new Beachcombing series in six months! I don’t know why it took so long to pull together, but I’ve been moving these pieces around on my light table since early November.


It was a gorgeous October day, warm and sunny with deep blue skies and a cold wind. Most of the debris that caught my eye was typical of what I usually find: clam, crab, whelk and slipper shells, driftwood, fishing rope and shotgun shells, all of them anonymous. I do know where the white mesh disk and the half-burned piece of wood came from, though, and it’s an odd feeling to find something on the beach and know its history.


The plastic disk is one of 4 million that were accidentally released from a New Hampshire sewage treatment plant during a storm overflow in 2011. They washed up on beaches along the Massachusetts and New Hampshire coasts for months. In spite of official attempts to recover them, at least 400,000 are still at large. Now they have entered the currents that circle the Gulf of Maine. Harry Johnson has an excellent report on tracking their migrations in his column for the Portland Press Herald. And just look at it – two full years in the ocean, and it’s practically like new, only a little dirty. Forget diamonds – plastic is forever.


The piece of burned wood was probably washed down onto the beach after a fire earlier in the month at the R.L.White carpentry shop just across the road. Fortunately no one was injured in the blaze, but R.L.White’s has been around since 1903, and they lost all their historic tools, moldings, and a large quantity of old-growth lumber that they had stocked back in the ’30s, all of those irreplaceable today. Weeks after the fire the beach was still littered with charred wood and tremendous quantities of wood shavings.


The seagulls distracted me from my gloomy meditations. Three of them, second year juveniles, were splashing in the shallow water. (Mature herring gulls have a pure white head. First-years are brown, like the one in the background above. These with the grey wings and the mottled head are in their third year.) They would energetically shake their wings in the water, dunk their heads way under, and then stand, spread their wings and shake all the water off.


If they were bathing, it was a very aggressive bath. There was a first-year juvenile watching, and sometimes the older birds seemed to be threatening it and sometimes trying to impress it.


Eventually the younger bird seemed to get fed up, and chased one of the others. I watched for a long time, but I never did figure out what they were doing. Any bird-watchers out there who understand seagulls?