This day is one that's always marked in big fat crayon on my calendar, the day we band the ospreys of the South Shore. My role is really one of observer during the day, but I do lots more in the days before and after the event.
First, I find volunteers. That's not always tough, as some of these osprey families have been watched for years by the same people. My job is to corral the information - when the first bird arrived, when the mate returned, when they started building or adding to the nest, when the first chick's head popped up, etc. Then, when banding day looms, I contact all of the monitors from Quincy to Plymouth and give them an ETA. Weather can throw us off, mud can throw us off and the variable numbers of chicks can throw us off, but by the end of the day, we're pretty close to being where we said we'd be when.
This year, due to tides - more on that tomorrow - we started at Great Esker Park in Weymouth and moved through Quincy and Hull on our way to Marshfield. Our second stop, on Hough's Neck, brought us out onto a saltmarsh off Hingham Bay, and a really deep one at that. To get to the pole, we had no choice but to cross an inlet so wide that we couldn't jump it. So we dropped the ladder down into the inlet and climbed down.
The problem was that once we got to the end of the ladder, we sunk into the muck up to our knees. Each of the first three or four steps from there took enormous amounts of effort to extricate our legs. Now I understand how people have been lost in marshes like this as tides come in and night falls. We all made it out alive, and we only nearly lost one boot along the way.
But we made it, our team of six. Norm climbed the pole and announced "Two chicks, one unhatched egg." The chick was about five weeks old - which is about right for right now. It was old enough to hold a band, but not old enough to fly away. Norm said there was some food in the nest, too, a good sign that these little characters were healthy.
We mud-sucked our way back to our convoy and headed south.
Time: 34 minutes.
New species: (Mushrooms) chicken mushroom (18).
Stranger hellos: None.
What else is happening: visited five more poles, banded four more chicks; magazine and nonprofit work.