I have been attacked by some real life angry birds.
It’s Day Number Two of our Cape Cod Vacation. I’ve decided to take advantage of the breezy, overcast sky (and some free time while the family naps) to grab a few photos of the choppy tide and the grassy dunes. I stroll down the boardwalk from our cottage to the shoreline. It’s a pleasant sandy stroll, and I pause to take a few shots of the cordoned off area of the beach intended to protect a few of the Cape’s threatened bird species, the Piping Plover and the Common Tern.
What happens next takes me completely by surprise. A bird lands a few feet in front of me and immediately takes off again. Then I hear a persistent squawking sound, and I look up to see the same bird swooping over my head. I duck. No big deal right?
Apparently it was a big deal for these birds. I was now a predator encroaching on their nesting area, and they would have none of it. Suddenly two or three birds begin to chase me, aiming for the back of my head. I quickly realize that these little white birds mean business and I break into a run. Once I get out about ten yards from their nesting ground they back off and seemingly disappear.
I am still not convinced that I have actually been chased by these little birds. I am probably just imagining it. Who gets attacked by birds, really? Plus, there are several families sitting along the beach; surely they took the same path as me, right?
So after I spend about 15 minutes taking some photos along the shoreline, I decide to make my way up the boardwalk to our cottage. Sure enough, just as I get within five yards of the nesting area, two birds come right at my head, squawking and swooning and scaring the daylights out of me! The folks on the beach must think I am a certifiable crazy person, running around ducking and dodging and covering my head.
Now I have a real dilemma, about 50 yards of sand, two Common Terns, and a few Piping Plovers are standing between me and my cottage. I tell myself that I am a grown adult and should be able to get past a few little birds, right? I start walking, trying to stay a bit wide of the nesting area. It’s no good. They attack again!
Clearly, I will have to outsmart these birds. Finally, I decide to shed the bright green t-shirt I have on over my swimsuit, and my pink Red Sox cap. I also decide to strategically hike well to the other side of the nesting area, pitting an unassuming 4-year old boy playing in the sand between me and these birds. It’s not the straightest walk back to the cottage, but it gets the job done.
Me: 1. Common Tern: 0.
When I arrive back at the cottage, still in disbelief that I have been stalked by two little white birds, I do a little research on these protected bird species making their home at our vacation destination. I soon learn that Common Terns have been known to attack humans. According to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife:
Common Terns attack human intruders by diving at them, pecking exposed body parts, and defecating on them. … Common Terns also distinguish between individual humans, and familiar humans are attacked more vigorously.
Great. So now these birds know me! I am in big trouble. I think I will have to find a new beach.