Monday, July 28, 2014

Notes from My Nest

7-28-14 misty morn My world this morning is one of green and gray. A damp and muggy fog has settled over the point, blurring lines and coating everything with dew drops. The flowers in my yard glisten as if with sweat, yet it does not keep the hungry bees from seeking their nectar. They cling to the flowerheads as if drunk, afraid to fly with moist wings and chill air. A lone hummingbird flies to the feeder to sip her own ready supply of nectar. Last night we saw one flitting about under the eaves, looking for tiny spiders under the safety of the gutters and in the corners of the windows. These spiders are her protein source, for herself, or perhaps nestlings she has hidden somewhere nearby.

2. 7-28-14 dogberries My yard has become an eastern jungle with vines growing wildly everywhere. Dogberry bushes ring the yard with glistening red fruit. I am curious to see if any birds will eat these, there is so much abundance now. I hear and see the Cedar Waxwings flying through my yard. As an insect and fruit eating bird, they have no lack of food at the moment. It will be a much different story come winter, though there are a number of fruit laden trees and bushes around here to feed them  long after the snow has piled up.

3. 7-28-14 cottage

I have had a Broad-winged Hawk hunting my feeder for the past few days. Yesterday morning it flew out of the trees directly across from my backdoor when I first went out in the morning. Its broad wings pumped frantically as it flew across the front yard, and even without binoculars I could see the wide white band in its black and white banded tail. This morning I experienced the same thing again. After exiting through the backdoor I walked around the front of the house to check the feeders on the other side. Suddenly the hawk flew through the trees on that side of the yard and disappeared into the woods. I noted that its silhouette is much chunkier than the slim and nimble Cooper’s Hawks are that hunt my feeders in winter here and when I lived in Arizona. My family of crows is still around filling the air with their cries. They are not here all day long now, but make regular stops to see if any seed has dropped and they surprise me with their willingness to eat even the tiniest millet that has fallen from the tube feeders, knocked loose by sparrows and finches.7-28-14 bee cafe

In the top of the old spruce by the driveway various birds perch at various times. It is naked at the top for some reason and the birds love it as a gathering and lookout spot. I have seen everything from the flickers and flycatchers up there, to the smallest sparrow and finch. This morning a family of House Finches collected on the different small twigs with the fledgling doing their begging thing fluttering their wings, mouths agape and crying piteously. The two parents seemed weary by it all and soon flew them down to one of my feeders as if to say, “Feed yourselves!” I had a nice surprise one day last week when I looked out the window early in the morning to see a different silhouette up there. After a look through my binoculars I was delighted to find an Eastern Kingbird perched on the highest point. As I was inside the house, I don’t know how it saw me, but it was as if it knew I was looking at it and it took off flying across the yard. The white tipped tail was easily seen and I added bird number 96 to my Yard List! Will I get four more species before the year is out and finally have a 100 species yard?

7-28-14 flowerheads With migration over and all the other early summer activities, including the Adams Road Race and visits from friends, I finally feel like I can settle into this place and start to live here. I have been so distracted by birds and adventures. Now I get to think about what my new life is like and where I want to go from here. There are days when I love this land and this place, and days when I long for the desert and the birds of Arizona. As always, I find the humidity very hard to take and Gus doesn’t like the flying insects, like mosquitoes and black flies. In the winter we will all complain about the snow and cold, because that is what we do in Maine! Yet, I know that winter holds its own beauty, as do all the seasons.

For now I am enjoying this new life I am living. Things are always changing. Miss Blossom is getting old and I spent all day last Thursday at a veterinary specialist having diagnostic testing done. The end result is that she has an enlarged heart and we are waiting for an appointment with our new vet to find out what the treatment plan is.

7-28-14 foggy morning I am still counting birds in my yard and at the boat launch. Last night the gray fox trotted across my path as I walked down to the bay to count birds. I have regular spots I count birds at, including Brunswick Landing and Wharton Point. I am trying to count birds at The Androscoggin River Bike and Pedestrian Trail here in Brunswick as only a handful of checklists have been submitted from that location. I am intrigued by this mighty river as it flows into Merrymeeting Bay. I am even more intrigued by Merrymeeting Bay and the unique geographical feature that it is. Expect to hear more from me about Merrymeeting Bay! As I sit here writing the rain has started to fall, and I must be off to the bird store for more thistle seed and a nut cylinder for my woodpeckers. They have totally consumed the last one I had out and I have not seen them in a few days. I love my woodpeckers and I want them to come back! For, what is a nest without birds?

7-28-14 wet table

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Pleasures of Plum Island

1. 6-26-14 Parker River NWR Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island 6-26-14

June 26, 2014: It just so happened that Chris planned his visit during the same time when my family gets together for the Annual Adams Family Road Race. It is a family thing we do every year and now that I had moved back east, of course I had to show up! But, since Connecticut is a four hour drive from where I currently live in Brunswick, Maine, who says we had to drive it all at once! We got up early, packed the car and headed south to Bird our way there! I knew before he ever arrived that I really wanted to take Chris Rohrer to Plum Island. I had hoped that we could meet up with Dawn Fine there, but my plans became up predictable and, in the end, it just didn’t work out. Still, I could not wait for these Arizona Guys to see Plum Island! In a little over two hours we pulled through the gate and parked in the first parking lot.

2. parking lot-kab Our first surprise was finding Purple Martins in a martin house right by the restroom building! And yes, there were Purple Martins in it! The guys walked up the boardwalk to scan the beach, but all they saw were gulls and humans, so they came back. We keep our eyes and ears open for seaside sparrows but did not find any. However, at the edge of the parking lot, we did find a few birds.

3. hat and bird-kab What is that beyond Chris’ big head with his new hat?

 

4.purple finch Female Purple Finch!

 

5. cedar waxwing-kab Cedar Waxwing in a Cedar tree!

Imagine THAT!

Farther down the road…

6. common yellowthroat-kab …a Common Yellowthroat!

And then a big surprise,

7. mute swans-kab Mute Swans!

In all the time I lived in Andover, Massachusetts, I never birded Plum Island in the summertime. I knew they shut much of it off for the nesting birds, including most of the beach, so I never tried. It was quite a revelation to bird here in summer. Of course, we did have to use bug spray! But it was worth it to see…

8. common tern-kab …a Common Tern!

 

9. willet-kab Willets were everywhere!

We hiked out to the dike and the marsh in hopes of finding an American Bittern.

10. searching for bitterns-kab Chris and Micheal scan the grasses for birds.

While we did not see any bitterns, we did see these birds:

11. plovers and dowitchers-kab Black-bellied Plovers and Short-billed dowitchers across the cove.

 

12. bb plovers-kab Black-bellied plovers after they landed.

 

13. eaki-kab Eastern Kingbird

 

14. cang-kab Canada Goose parent

 

15. gosling-kab Juvenile Canada goose (gosling)

It is a long six mile drive to the end of the road, which starts out paved but turns to dirt. there are numerous pull-offs and parking lots with hiking trails, but any that led to the beaches on the east side of the island were blocked off to protect nesting birds. At the end of Plum Island one reaches Sandy Point State Reservation. Here there is another mile of dirt road to drive to the parking lot at the end. sandy Point is where I saw a snowy owl years ago, as well as several shorebirds and terns during migration when I went birding with the Birders who Blog, Tweet and Chirp one fall. While I knew we would not see the hoards of shorebirds we saw then, I still hoped we would see something. We did.

16. 6-26-14 birding Plum Island Chris hiking the sand at Sandy Point

Piping Plovers and their babies!

17. piping plover and chick-kab There’s the momma on the right, can you find the teeny baby on the left?

I did not want to get too close as it really upset the parents.

Then, in the sand dunes behind us I found Least Terns!

18. least tern on beach-kab Notice the thin yellow bill and the white “headlight” on the forehead?

This is our smallest tern and it is very graceful when it flies!

I believe they are nesting at this site, but once again, I did not want to get too close and disturb the nests!

We got over 45 species on Plum Island this day. We entered two counts into eBird. One for Plum Island, and one for Sandy Point State Reservation. Afterwards we drove into town to eat, then got back on the road and arrived at my Mom’s house well after dark.

Here is a list of all the birds we saw on Plum Island on June 26, 2014. Many of them were Life Birds for Chris and Micheal.

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mute SwanDSC_0279
  3. Gadwall
  4. American Black duck
  5. Mallard
  6. Wild Turkey
  7. Double-crested Cormorant
  8. Great Blue Heron
  9. Great Egret
  10. Snowy Egret
  11. Glossy Ibis*
  12. Osprey
  13. Black-bellied Plover
  14. Semi-palmated Plover
  15. Killdeereaki-kab
  16. Willet
  17. Shot-billed Dowitchers
  18. Herring Gull
  19. Great Black-backed Gull
  20. Least tern
  21. Common Tern
  22. Rock Pigeon
  23. Mourning Dove
  24. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  25. Eastern Kingbird
  26. Blue Jay
  27. American crow
  28. Purple martin
  29. Tree Swallow
  30. Barn SwallowDSC_0246
  31. American Robin
  32. Gray Catbird
  33. Northern Mockingbird
  34. European Starling
  35. Cedar Waxwing
  36. Common Yellowthroat
  37. American Redstart
  38. Yellow Warbler
  39. Eastern Towhee
  40. Song Sparrow
  41. Northern Cardinal
  42. Bobolink*
  43. Red-winged Blackbird
  44. Common Grackle
  45. House Finch
  46. Purple Finch
  47. American Goldfinch

*These species are new to my Massachusetts Life List

Then, at Sandy Point we saw these 16 species:

  1. Double-crested cormorantsong sparrow-kab
  2. Great Egret
  3. Osprey
  4. Piping Plover
  5. Willet
  6. Herring Gull
  7. Great black-backed Gull
  8. Least Tern
  9. Gray catbird
  10. Cedar Waxwing
  11. Common Yellowthroat
  12. Yellow warbler
  13. Song Sparrow
  14. Red-winged Blackbird
  15. Common Grackle
  16. American Goldfinch

DSC_0321

Links:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Capricious Capisic Pond

1. sign-kab 

June 26, 2014: The morning after the Great Puffin Expedition we slept in. Then I had a few errands to do and a dentist appointment. Finally, by afternoon we were ready to bird again, and we headed south towards Portland. We made our first stop at the Freeport Wildbird Supply, where I bought bird seed and Micheal invested in his own pair of binoculars! He had been using my compact Nikon’s for the first few days and decided he liked having his own pair of bins! Then we were on our way to visually capture the elusive Orchard Oriole, which would be a Life Bird for both Chris and Micheal!

2. song-kab A song sparrow serenaded us as we pulled into the parking lot!

Milky clouds filled the sky overhead.

3. trail-kab We wandered down the gravel path and within five minutes had our eyes on the prize!

4. orchard oriole back-kab Though I was here earlier in the spring and saw the bird then, I had hoped for a better photo, but it was not to be. The air was heavy with humidity. I felt like I was melting. The hazy light make photographing difficult and the bird just would not turn around to face me! We counted at least 4 Orchard Orioles this day, along with a pair of Baltimore Orioles. We saw a some crows sitting quietly high in a pine, as if trying to hide as they watched the birds of the pond and meadow. Stealthily they hide in the shadows, hugging the trunk of the huge tree. I had never seen crows sit so quietly. What were they up to?

We turned away from the crows, distracted by the other birds flitting around us. Micheal and I spotted a female Scarlet Tanager, but Chris did not get on it in time before it flew off, so he did not count that bird. As we were trying to identify a flycatcher we suddenly heard a ruckus behind us! One of the crows had flown out of its hiding place and swooped down on an orioles nest! All the birds of meadows, woodland and pond rushed fluttering and crying towards the tree with the crow. Everyone was upset as they tried to drive the crow away, but the large black bird of death paid them no more attention that he would a mosquito. Hungrily he raided the nest while the little birds screamed! I could not look. Chris moved closer and tried to see and photograph what was going on, but I don’t know if he succeeded. Nothing he or the birds did scared the crow way until it had its fill. By then we had had our fill as well. We walked disconsolately back to the car, the humidity by now overwhelming. It felt good to get inside and turn on the air-conditioning and drown out the memory of what we had witnessed.

5. mallards-kab I drove us over to Evergreen Cemetery next, hoping that maybe we could find a Wood Thrush for Chris. When we first pulled up, all we saw were ducks! Someone was feeding them bread and they all came out of the pond for the feast!

6. duck and gull-kab Most of them were domestic mallards, but we did find two black ducks in the bunch, along with an opportunistic gull! Off in the tall pines of the surrounding woods we heard a couple of wood pewees calling, and in the trees near the pond we did find a Black-throated Green Warbler, but though we tried hiking into the woods, we did not see or hear a single thrush! The humidity was high, the mosquitoes were thick, and thunder rumbled on the horizon!

We made it back to the car just as the rains started to fall. We had hoped to bird a few more stops but it was not to be. We stopped at a local bistro for a late lunch/earlier supper and while we were there the skies opened up and poured down rain. It was very apparent that our birding for today was over, which was fine with me, because I still felt a bit weak and woozy from yesterday’s expedition, and I knew we had more plans for tomorrow! We just never stop birding!

 

Birds seen on June 25, 2014

Capisic Pond Birds

  1. American Black Duck9. song sparrow-kab
  2. Herring gull
  3. great Black-backed Gull
  4. Mourning Dove
  5. Chimney Swift
  6. Hairy woodpecker
  7. Northern Flicker
  8. Willow Flycatcher
  9. Warbling Vireo
  10. Blue Jay
  11. American Crow
  12. Tree swallow
  13. American Robin
  14. Gray Catbird
  15. European Starling
  16. Cedar Waxwing
  17. Common Yellowthroat
  18. Yellow Warbler
  19. Song Sparrow
  20. Scarlett Tanager
  21. Northern Cardinal
  22. Red-winged Blackbird
  23. Common Grackle
  24. Orchard Oriole
  25. Baltimore Oriole
  26. House Finch
  27. American Goldfinch
  28. House Sparrow

Evergreen Cemetery Birds

  1. Canada Goose
  2. American Black duck
  3. Mallard
  4. Double-crested Cormorant
  5. Herring Gull
  6. Mourning Dove
  7. Downy Woodpecker
  8. Eastern Wood Pewee
  9. Red-eyed Vireo
  10. Blue Jay
  11. American Crow
  12. Black-capped Chickadee
  13. American Robin
  14. Gray catbird
  15. Ovenbird
  16. Black-throated green Warbler
  17. Chipping Sparrow
  18. Northern Cardinal

Links:

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Little Dog and the Gray Fox

7-18-14 Blossom Miss Blossom 7-18-14

There once was a little black and white dog who moved to the country where she went in and out of her little gray cottage to sniff in the yard and smell all the smells. Every morning and every night her owner would let her out for some exercise and her bathroom breaks. The world was full of birds and squirrels and chipmunks. Sometimes neighborhood dogs would stop by to say hello. But mostly all was peaceful and quiet.

DSC_0166 Then one day a gray fox showed up beneath the bird feeders. Though there wasn’t much there, the fox would come every morning and every night to nibble on the scraps beneath the feeders. The bird lady who fed the birds, and the little dog’s owners liked to see the fox. It made they feel happy in their “peaceable kingdom.” But one day when the master let the little dog outside in the morning the fox was still there.

DSC_0167 The little dog growled at the fox and looked back towards the house. The fox just stood there and stared at the dog. The master looked out the door and saw the fox just standing there. He saw the little dog just standing there. He did not like the fact that the fox did not run away when the little dog growled at it. So, the master came up with a plan.

The next night when it was dark, the master went outside and peed all around the feeder pole. He had heard this was a way that you could keep wild animals from coming into your yard. I know it seems strange, but this is the way that animals communicate with each other, and it worked! 

DSC_0169While the gray fox has been seen darting across the edge of the yard, it never stops to eat beneath the feeder anymore and the little dog can now go out without fear. This makes the master very happy! Meanwhile, the grass beneath the feeder has turned a lovely dark green. The nitrogen in the urine has fertilized the soil!7-18-14 bird feeder pole

This is a True Story!

By Kathie Adams Brown

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Great Puffin Expedition

1. 6-24-14 view of new harbor June 24, 2014: After a long day of birding the day before we slept in and relaxed the next day. Then it was time to head north towards New Harbor, Maine and our trip on the Hardy Boat Cruise to see puffins. Our arrival at the dock time was scheduled for 4:30 PM, but we left around noon time so we could bird our way there. We drove north along Route 1 and stopped in Wiscasset to count birds and eat lunch. We dined at a restaurant overlooking the river and the Wiscasset Bridge where we could see the traffic baking up as it headed south on Route 1 and hit the slower speeds of the town. However, the Northbound lanes seemed to be moving right along.

I ordered a haddock calzone sort of thing where the fish and food came wrapped in a pastry crust. While it was very good going down, I wondered if it was wise to eat since we were going on a boat ride, and I know I don’t have a very strong stomach. However, our cruise was still hours away, I reasoned, and my food would be mostly digested by then, right? We finished our meals and went down along the dock near the river to count a few more species of birds before getting back on the road. It was a good thing we did, for we found a Laughing Gull on some nearby rocks down below the bank. We did not see a lot of birds in Wiscasset, other than gulls and cormorants, but we saw two new species, the Laughing Gull, and a Fish crow!

The drive north was uneventful. Chris and Micheal looked out the windows at the countryside, and then the quaint little towns as we drove through Bristol, Maine and down into New Harbor. Once in the parking lot we already started counting birds in the surrounding area and on our walk down to the dock.

Hardy Boat Cruises have things arranged where you park up the hill from the harbor, then walk about 2/10ths of a mile down to the dock. All around us was the typical New England architecture that I am so use to as we passed farm houses and colonials and well kept lawns. Chris and Micheal got to hear a genuine Downeast accent from the parking lot attendant as we paid the $3.00 fee to park.

Once down at the dock I realized how chilly it was getting and I knew it would get colder out in the open air on the open sea, so after being dressed in Capri’s all afternoon, I went back to my car to put on long pants. In the end I was so glad that I did. It was so cold out there! We arrived an hour or more before our sail time so we hung around a bit and watched gulls and house sparrows hanging around and looking for food! We hoped we might see something a bit more spectacular there in the harbor, but no such luck. Finally we boarded the boat and claimed out seats topside and in the open. I knew that if I was going to survive this boat ride, I needed to be in the open air! I had my private collection of homeopathic remedies which I hoped would help me through the trip and I looked forward to seeing puffins! My camera was on my lap and my binoculars around  my neck in preparation for our ride! I snapped a few cell phone photos while we waited, but saved my Nikon for the trip.

2. 6-24-14 New Harbor, Maine

Then, the captain came on the loud speaker. He warned us the seas were very rough tonight and if anyone wanted to get off, they could get a full refund. But I sat tight. If it was only me, I probably would have rescheduled, but I really wanted to see this bird, and I wanted to share the experience with my best birding buddy, Chris. So I sat tight. It was fairly calm here in the harbor, and though I am by no means an experienced sailor of any sort, I did know the seas would be much rougher once we left the safety of the harbor. And I was right. After numerous appeals for people with weak stomachs to leave the boat (and some did), we finally set sail.

3. 6-24-14 Chris and Micheal on the puffin boat Micheal and I sat next to each other on one bench, with Chris sitting behind us. A brave young man who was the Audubon naturalist went to the front of the boat where he braced himself along the railings of the prow as we hit the open seas. We hit wave after wave and the boat rocked from side to side and up and down. Sometimes spray came over the prow and splashed the young man and others who stood beside him. The naturalist had a helper who tried to hold up placards with drawings of birds as they tried to explain what type of birds we would see out there. They told us the story of the Puffins, and how they were extirpated from the Gulf of Maine and the efforts that went into bringing them back. It was just amazing!

4. the audubon naturalist-kab

 The brave young naturalist from Audubon.

However, I could barely look at anything. I soon found myself with my eyes fixed on the horizon. I could not look through my binoculars, never mind my camera lens. I took one shot of the naturalist before things got bad, and that was the only photo I took on the whole trip. I think I could have managed the motion of the boat, but the smell of the diesel fumes wafted up from below and into my nostrils. It slipped down my throat and into my stomach where the fumes seemed to churn with the fish and the dough and the cup of tea I had drunk long ago. I soon recognized the feeling and I knew I didn’t have long. I asked one of the ship mates what I should do if I have to vomit. He said go to the back of the boat or lean over the sides, but he also sent someone to get white paper vomit bags. I was not the only one who needed one.

I asked Micheal to change places with me so I could be near the side of the boat and he did. While the boat rocked and rolled and my stomach churned, Chris Rohrer was running around and standing up snapping photographs! Soon we were seeing terns hunting and fishing over the rolling sea. While Chris was laughing and having the time of his life, I could feel that it was all over for me. I raised that vomit bag to my mouth and tossed my cookies into it! As wave after wave of nausea hit me, I felt a calming touch on my back. It was Micheal offering me tender support without saying a word. I could feel his calmness flowing into me and it helped me to calm down as well.

Everything gets a little fuzzy for me from here on out. I know we finally reached the island. The boat slowed and made two or three passes along its shore where we could see Puffins, Arctic, and Roseate Terns, as well as hundreds of Laughing Gulls whose cries rose above the sounds of the crashing waves and the boat’s noisy motor. I could not raise my camera to take a single picture, but I did take a couple of brief glances through my binoculars to look at Puffins and Black Guillemots. Then, before I knew it, we were headed back.

I think it was at this point that I feared I needed another vomit bag and I asked Micheal to see if he could find me one. While he was gone I stared at the horizon and Chris ran around taking pictures. There were children on this boat that were totally unaffected by the tossing waves and diesel fumes. They laughed with every crashing roll we made, while I turned green and wondered where Micheal went. He soon came back with another bag for me, but left again, and we did not see him. Finally Chris sat back down and started to wonder where Micheal went as well. Neither of us saw him on top of the deck. Chris went below to see if he was sitting down there, but no. No Micheal. Where was he? Just as we were wondering if he had been tossed overboard he reappeared. It turns out that when he went below to get me another throw-up bag the motion got to him as well, and after bringing the bag to me, he went below deck to get sick in the restroom! I felt so bad then! He had tried to help me, and then he got sick as well! Micheal was my hero on this day!

Finally we breached the rocky shores that led into the calmer water of the harbor. Ahead of us I could hear the booming noise of a band playing at Shaw’s Restaurant. Each boom of the base penetrated my stomach and made me feel sick all over again. I had made the mistake of putting my closed up bag of puke on the floor between my feet. Of course the rolling seas knocked it over and I could not even do anything to pick it up. I was so green and weak and I just wanted off of that boat! I just wanted to be away from all that noise!

I think Chris or Micheal helped carry my tote bag off the boat. I walked slowly and calmly up the hill but as fast as I could to get away from the loud music. As I stood on the firm earth I was so glad to be still. I realized that while I was glad to have seen the puffins, I will probably never do a pelagic trip again! It was just too painful. That means there is a whole group of birds I will never see, for the only way to see them is if you go to sea. They never come to shore.

I was too sick to drive us home, so Chris drove while I dozed in the front seat next to him, and Micheal dozed in the back. For several days thereafter I still felt a bit woozy and weak, but we had more birds to see, and I did not let it stop me!

The folks at Hardy Boat Cruises did the best they could under the conditions. I was quite impressed with them and how they handled things. The Audubon naturalist was amazing and kept his cool and answered questions even though he had to hold on for dear life and his shirt got soaked from the sea spray. If you want to see puffins, I would still recommend this company, but just don’t ask me to accompany you on the trip!

It’s important to note that Hardy Boat Cruises works together with Project Puffin and part of the proceeds from every trip is donated to that cause!

In the end, Chris got four Life Birds on this trip, while I got two; the Arctic Tern and the Puffin, but I have to look at his photos to see them!

Birds seen in New Harbor:

  1. Common Eider
  2. Double-crested Cormorant
  3. Osprey
  4. Laughing Gull
  5. Herring Gull
  6. Great Black-backed Gull
  7. Mourning Dove
  8. Eastern Phoebe
  9. American Crow
  10. Fish Crow
  11. Barn Swallow
  12. Gray Catbird
  13. European Starling
  14. Yellow Warbler
  15. Chestnut-sided Warbler
  16. Song Sparrow
  17. Common Grackle
  18. House Sparrow

 

Birds seen on the Puffin Cruise:

  1. Common Eider
  2. Double-crested Cormorant
  3. Black Guillemot
  4. Atlantic Puffin
  5. Laughing Gull
  6. Herring gull
  7. Great black-backed Gull
  8. Roseate Tern
  9. Common Tern
  10. Arctic Tern
  11. Mourning Dove

 

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6-18-14 Mere Point Bay Sunset Happy to be back on shore looking at the sunset from Mere Point Bay!