exit30.wordpress.com? Welcome To Skimmer Nation.

Wait... what the....? Once you've crossed the LBI Causeway, made your hellish trip to the Shop Rite, and downloaded or checked out your stack of good reads for the Summer, there are very few reasons to up yourself out of your beach chair, let alone leave the Island.
Wait… what the….? I know, I know…. Once you’ve crossed the LBI Causeway, made your hellish trip to the Shop Rite, and downloaded or checked out your stack of good reads for the Summer, there are very few reasons to haul yourself out of your beach chair, let alone leave the Island.
But today, in a Readings From the Northside first, or maybe second, or third, a beach in a far away land, someone else's beach, beckons us. Now this might look like just another beach but be assured this is something special. Look  closely....
But today, in what might be a Readings From the Northside first, a beach in a far away land, “someone else’s” beach, beckons us. Now this might look like just another beach, and a particularly ratty little one at that, but be assured this is something special. Really special. A true gem. Look closely in the dune there….
Wait... is that? No. Ehrmergerd. Ehrmergerd! Ehrmergerd, Ehrmergerd, Ehrmergerd!
Wait… is that? No. It can’t be… Ehrmergerd. Ehrmergerd! Ehrmergerd, Ehrmergerd, Ehrmergerd!

EHRMERGERD! IT’S TODD POVER! BERCH NESRTING BERD DERECTER FER NEWR JERSEY! IT’S MAH FERVRIT BERCH NERSTERTING BERD ERXPERT! MAH HEROOOOOO!!!!!!!!

And when Todd Pover steps onto this little slice of heaven to do what he does best, that is, take care of the shore's most awesome treasure, even better than Pirate Treasure (GAR!), our beloved beach nesting birds....
And when Todd Pover steps onto this little slice of heaven to do what he does best, that is, take care of the shore’s most awesome treasure (even better than Pirate Treasure GAR!), our beloved beach nesting birds….
Well, that's when you see clearly, you've reached The Skimmer Nation.
Well, that’s when you see clearly, you’ve reached The Skimmer Nation.
EVERYBODY! Terd Pover Alert! Quick, everybody fly, and POOOOPPPP!!!!!!
EVERYBODY! Terd Pover Alert! Quick, everybody fly, and POOOOPPPP!!!!!!
Poop shirt. That's the thanks Todd gets when he checks on the eggs of New Jersey's largest colony of Black Skimmers.
Poop shirt. That’s the thanks Todd gets when he checks on the eggs of New Jersey’s largest colony of Black Skimmers, The Skimmer Nation.

While the birds may not have the social graces to thank Todd gracefully, and without poop, we sure do (I hope). Todd Pover is the Beach Nesting Bird Director for the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and is responsible for the health, happiness, and itty-bittiness of the shore’s greatest treasure, our adorable, itty-bitty beach nesting birds. And you can bet that your grandchildren will one day thank this man for the work he is doing amongst us.

Today was clearly worth leaving our beach chairs for as Todd shows off one of New Jersey’s most unbelievably & awesomely wild sites, The Skimmer Nation.

Sandwiched between a Marina & a dog park, this tiny little site is host to the largest colony of Black Skimmers in New Jersey.
Sandwiched between a Marina, a Dog Park, and a Highway, this tiny but super critical little site outside of Ocean City is host to the largest colony of Black Skimmers in New Jersey.
Todd's Awesome Army of Beach Nesting Bird Heroes was tasked with performing the gruesomely tedious task of counting them all. They put the number at over 2,000. While we should't disrespect the amazing math & science skillz of these experts, between you and me, they are wrong. I was there. There are, like, a SKIM-BILLION birds there. It's unbelievable!
Todd’s Awesome Army of Beach Nesting Bird Heroes was tasked with performing the gruesomely tedious task of counting them all. Rumor has it that 2 volunteers went blind, and six went insane. They put the number at over 2,000. While we should’t disrespect the amazing math & science skillz of these experts, between you and me, they are wrong. Dead wrong. I was there. There are, like, a SKIM-BILLION birds there!!!11!!! It’s unbelievable!
Black Skimmers large, gorgeous, and hilarious beach nesters who are caught somewhere between other beach nesters: Oystercatcher, Piping Plover, Least Tern
Black Skimmers are large, gorgeous, and hilarious beach nesters who are caught somewhere between other beach nesters: Oystercatcher, Piping Plover, Least Tern.
The lay there eggs in shallow little scrapes in the sand like the other Beach Nesters.
The lay their eggs in shallow little scrapes in the sand like the other Beach Nesters.
They are wickedly colorful and give your eyes a burst of high-contrast flavor like the American Oystercatcher
They are wickedly colorful, extremely noisy, and give your eyes a burst of high-contrast flavor like the American Oystercatcher.
"HALP!!! TODD! MAH WINGZZZ! DON'T STEAL MAH EGGZ!!!!" They do a totally goofy version of the Piping Plover's "broken wing defense" to fool low I.Q. predators away from their nests. (Dang it! U fooled me!)
“HALP!!! TODD! MAH WINGZZZ! DON’T STEAL MAH EGGZ!!!!” They do a totally ridiculous, awkward, & goofy version of the Piping Plover’s “broken wing defense” to fool low I.Q. predators, like me, away from their nests. (Dang it! U fooled me again Skimmer!)
Unlike the highly territorial PIPL (Piping Plover) & the AMOY (American Oystercatcher), Black Skimmers breed in large colonies like the Least Tern.
But unlike the highly territorial PIPL (Piping Plover) & the AMOY (American Oystercatcher), and very much like the Least Tern, Black Skimmers breed in large colonies made up of as many birds as they can scrounge together.
Skimmers get their name from their fancy foraging style in which they skim the surface of the water with those goofy beaks and suck up the unsuspecting little fishies.
Skimmers get their name from their fancy foraging style in which they skim the surface of the water with those goofy beaks and suck up the unsuspecting little fishies.

We once had a colony of Black Skimmers on the North End of LBI, for years, at Barnegat Light State Park. It is rare to see one the Island these days and now we know why: they’re down at Exit 30. While that’s not the real reason (too many predators attracted to and fed by our garbage is), a bit of good Skimmer-news for LBI: a small, itty-bitty colony is trying to form down at Holgate this season for the first time in a while. “Itty Bitty” and “Colony” go together about as well as milk & Coke(TM), so we’ll have to see what happens there.

We kan haz COKE (TM)????!!!
We kan haz COKE (TM)????!!!
Meep Meep!
Meep Meep!

The Skimmer Nation is a bizarre little place. It is not necessarily what you think of when you think of “wild beach” habitat, but hey; it’s working! Our little beach nesting friends are left with precious few places to go but still manage to find ways to squeeze themselves into our world and into our lives. Just like Tufters & family at Barnegat Light, these animals keep on fighting and keep on brightening our beaches despite our piss-poor stewardship of the amazing natural treasure that is the beach.

I asked Todd in all seriousness if his job was really just to manage to the decline and extinction of these animals that depend on our beaches for their survival. In what I am certain was an honest response, he said “No. We’re holding the line.” AWESOME!!11!!

If we can truly hold-the-line and prevent the extinction of the these animals, we can leave this treasure for the future generations that I really believe will see the folly of our “Pave The Beach!” mentality and value the shore for what it is before all else: a natural treasure. If the good guys like Todd continue to be willing to get sh%t all over, literally, as they swim against the tide of our current human culture of incredible cruelty to wild animals, the hope for a bright future of better beaches stays alive. Yeah!

That bright future exists only as long as Todd can hold-the-line. We’ve got to keep coming up with ways to help him. There are so many things we can do in addition to the obvious make-a-donation to the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ. We can start by rallying around these weird little carved-out protected areas, like the Skimmer Nation, by showing our support, by respecting them, and by teaching our kids how important they are.

While many of us are probably too lazy and too selfish to really change, that’s OK. If we can make any small compromise between our own human comfort & pleasure, and the critical needs of the wild birds that need the beach, that’s a start… and then, we can just teach our kids to do better. They aren’t lazy and selfish yet!

While Todd Pover does the difficult work of holding that line, let’s get a jump start on building a new nation: The Wild Beach Nation.

"WAITTTZZ!!!! WUTZ ABOUT MEEEE???!!!!" Sorry Least Tern. You're right, I did not mention the enormous colony of Least Tern mixed in with the Skimmer Nation, and the hundreds of fat, little adorable chicks like you running amok.... I'm saving that for another post little one. Another post."
“WAITTTZZ!!!! WUTZ ABOUT MEEEE???!!!!” Sorry ‘lil Least Tern itty-bitty. You’re right, I did not mention the enormous colony of Least Tern that are mixed in with the Skimmer Nation, and the hundreds of fat, little, adorable chicks like you running amok…. I’m saving that for another post, little one. Another post.”