By Brian Ward
Hampton Beachcomber, June 6-12, 2013
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Beachcomber and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON BEACH— While there are many species of animals at Hampton Beach, a good rule of thumb for dealing with them is "look, don't touch."
Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus)
Size: 6-7.5 inches tall
Description: Sandy colored on top, white underneath, black ring around the neck
Eats: Worms and insects
For several years, Piping Plovers were thought to be gone from New Hampshire until a jogger came across a nesting group on the beach. Since then, there have been massive state, federal and volunteer efforts to bring the plovers back to N.H. Barriers are erected in late March to early April around the Plover's nesting grounds at Hampton and Seabrook and will stay up until around late July when the last chicks are able to fly. On muddy or sandy ground, plovers will extend one leg and vibrate it rapidly against the ground to draw out hidden insects.
Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)
Size: 150-300 lbs, 4.5-6 feet long
Description: Grey or brown with dark spots
Eats: Fish and squid
Harbor Seals can be found in temperate waters in most of the Northern Hemisphere though there have been reports of seals wandering as far south as Florida. The population in New England has been on the rise over the last few years, and seals can often be seen out on boat trips or resting on sandy or rocky beaches. Harbor Seals are active at young age, and learn how to crawl and swim within a hour of being born.
Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
Size: 4 inch wingspan
Description: Bright orange with black stripes
Like most birds, butterflies migrate to avoid the changing of the seasons. During the summer, clouds of Monarch butterflies drift through the Hampton area. They lay their eggs around late May and early June, and by August the caterpillars turn and begin on their long journey to Central Mexico. Monarchs can afford to be so bright and colorful because as caterpillars they live solely on a diet of milkweed. The chemical in the milkweed then builds up in their bodies making them inedible for most birds.
Seagull (Larus argentatus)
Size: 55 inch wingspan
Description: White head and body with grey wings and back.
Eats: Crabs, bugs, potato chips, leftover chicken, everything really
While often considered a nuisance, members of the Seagull family are found nearly everywhere on the planet, which is no easy feat. Seagulls are omnivores, meaning they can and will eat anything they can find or scavenge. Seagulls are very caring parents, with both males and females sharing the work of incubating and raising chicks. Seagulls have a gland above their eyes that allows them to drink salt water. Seagulls are even known to share knowledge with each other, such as the trick of stomping their feet in a group to make earthworms rise to the surface.