An Important Message From Smokey, The Skimmer

An Important Message From Smokey, the Skimmer.

Kids, if you are going to smoke, don’t start any fires, and be sure clean up your butts, especially on the beach. Otherwise folks will continue to malign the marvelous gift to the human mind, body, and spirit that is nicotine as a “filthy habit.” Which it surely is when it spoils the beach.

Hopefully Smokey, the juvenile Black Skimmer, is benefitting from the tobacco’s naturally anti-parasitic properties as described in the Reading Cigarettes For Babies. Probably not. But speaking of which, the experiment of sprinkling tobacco in Peregrine Falcon nests to control parasitic flies this season didn’t really work as well as hoped. The degrees of infestations were better, but they were certainly not eradicated. Maybe more tobacco is needed in each nest. Or maybe it was just a fail.

Speaking of fails:

Smokey, lookout! Yer doin’ it wrong! It’s backwards!

Truth be told, the cigarette butt is not the real risk to Smokey in the picture above; it’s the tire track she’s standing in. Smokey is one of the two adorable offspring of that late-nesting pair of Skimmers who didn’t realize there was a re-opening-to-the-humans date for the Holgate Refuge. Like the couple who walks into a restaurant 10 minutes before closing and orders a huge meal, with tons of drinks and appetizers and desserts to boot, completely unaware of how uncool of a maneuver that is, breaking a normally well-understood, unspoken agreement between the restaurant staff and patrons about what “closing time” really means.

And so it was that this Skimmer family got a super-late start and caused the tip of Holgate to be closed a little longer than normal, past the official re-opening. Always agreeable and reasonable, the Refuge staff took a balanced approach and opened the area to eager anglers as soon as the babies were technically capable of flight.

But still, these are babies, and worse, baby Skimmers… meaning, they are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. They have a lot to learn, and a lot of distractions, so getting run over is a very real and very serious risk. This family is bold and hilarious, and most folks out at Holgate get a huge kick out of their presence and are looking out for them while enjoying their antics. It’s just that some people don’t know they are there and, even when they do, don’t realize how easily they could accidentally run over one of these beauties while they are still figuring out the basics of living on the beach. Skimming is not an easy way to make a living and takes a lot of concentration and practice… as many folks casting for mullet alongside of them can attest!

Anyone who uses Holgate should use extra caution driving, especially around the tip, for the next few weeks. There used to be a day when we had hundreds of these animals. Now, this is the Island’s only family of Skimmers left. They are truly precious, as is our permission to drive automobiles on very fragile beaches. Respect. Mutual, Respect.

If you have any connection to Holgate, spread the word to look out for the babies and use extra caution driving. This family deserves our best care because they are adorable, hilarious, local animals who knew the Island long before we did. But even for folks who don’t care about those things, I’ve got another angle: we are all still completely self interested in protecting them because the death of just one of these very special local birds will likely result in longer, more thorough closures of the Holgate Refuge for all of us in the future.