Posted by: DarkEyedJunc0 | December 22, 2010

The Littlest Inspiration

This year, I got the bug! or was it “Bird flu?”
The Law of Attraction states that “When you are at peace, you attract positive energy.” Earlier in the year, a series of events left me in search of both. For me, the outdoors have always given me that balance, so back to basics I went.
I started out by adding the ritual of a ten mile hike to my weekly schedule. The more peaceful I felt, the more I felt a need to “give back.” I did so by volunteering for my local county’s parks “Trails Team.” At least once a month, the team undertakes a project at one of Monmouth County’s local parks, clearing a trail, maintaining a trail, planting trees, pruning, etc.
Then came an email solicitation from the Volunteers in Parks for help wanted at Seven Presidents Beach in Long Branch- to help protect endangered shorebirds.
The beach? Birds? “That sounds right up my alley!” I thought to myself.
So, off to training I went the friday before Memorial Day, 2010. From that day on, a new love developed. What started as an intention of giving a few hours a week soon became a passion, and 270 hours later, I found my “second wind.”
Plovers and Terns nest right in the sand. When the chicks hatch, the parents will carry eggshells away in their beaks, so as not to attract predators. I can recall seeing many such events followed by a little “wet” chick bouncing around under mom or dad trying to see the world for the first time a few hours later. What a remarkable experience it was to see new life hatch, right in front of your eyes!
The day I started, our coupled Piping Plover pair had 3 surviving chicks, and the Least Terns males were courting the females of their dreams by performing a seductive dance with a fish dangling from their beaks until the females just could not resist their charms and gave in. A month later, the Least Tern chicks started hatching!
As the summer unfolded, the life histories of each of these birds were being written. As in life itself, the day to day at the beach was bittersweet. The three original Piping Plover chicks met their demise, and mom and dad were at it again, scraping a nest in the sand, and doing their courting dance. And one month later, the first egg appeared in the sand. Every other day brought another egg until there were three. All three eggs hatched; but in the end, only one survived, but with great vigor.
Our surviving plover chick (who we named Wilson after one of the Seven Presidents that summered in Long Branch) would very quickly grow up over the course of a month. At first, one parent “flew the coop” and with Wilson’s first “flaps,” the other parent left- presumably beginning their fall migration to a warmer climate. Our Wilson was on his own for about two weeks, taking longer and longer journeys down the beach until one warm September night, when it was apparent, he too left to begin his new life.
The Least Terns, however, were an amazing success story. Our mating pairs successfully fledged at least three dozen chicks. Each one, seemingly, with their own personality. In fact, after a while, some of the “regular” volunteers could start to tell the birds apart based on their locations, personalities, and habits. Some were cautious, some were mischievous, some adventurous (taking their first leaps off a rock to see what “airborne” felt like.) As with the Plovers, everyday bought a new step toward their independence until one day, the terns were all gone.
I am often asked where I get the motivation to commute from work (in Jersey City) and come straight to the beach only to volunteer a few more hours. All I can say to that is maybe motivation is not the right word. Perhaps the word “INSPIRATION” is more appropriate.
Previous summers for me typically meant dancing and partying down the shore, which was fun, but still left me searching for something. This year, I discovered the real Jersey Shore and had one of the most satisfying experiences of my life, and even came away with some great human friends in the process. 🙂
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