Well, I got totally soaked, electrocuted myself, and tore a big hole in my pants. But my day was still better than it was for Jimin & Maya as they attempted to tough it out at their very first nest on the front beach of Barnegat Light during the storm.
Many of you who followed along at The Little Egg Cam as poor Tatiania & Stacy had to manage an unfortunately timed hatch through this weekend’s brutal nor’easter had one burning question: isn’t there something you can do? As with lots of things, of course there were plenty of things you could do. It’s just that all of those things had a very, very, teeny, tiny probabilities of making anything better and enormous, completely well-understood and well-documented chances of making things much, much worse. So the wise thing to do in that case is to wait and see. We’re still waiting, and we’ll soon be seeing, so stay tuned.
Still, it wasn’t easy to twiddle thumbs and just watch it all go bad. The desire to run shawshank-style through Plover Park, grabbing up all of the babies, and bringing them home to a warm, safe place was pretty overwhelming. Interestingly, in a new era of more visibility and communication thanks to developments like NestStory and The Little Egg Cam, entirely new protocols for when to take action and intervene will probably need to be considered.
But there are times when you clearly can do something, so I of course immediately jumped in the car when I awoke this morning to a call from New Jersey’s PIPL co-moms Kashi Davis & Emily Heiser explaining that our very own Jimin and Maya needed a hand.
Barnegat Light’s fearless monitor Jess had smartly run up to check on Jimin before the high tide and discovered his nest (like many along the coast I’m sure) had been abandoned and was about to be completely blown over with sand and buried. With a delicate touch, it can help to gently dig up the eggs and recreate a nest bowl so that the adults can continue to see them and remain connected to the nest. Sometimes they will dig them out on their own, but not always. The more visible the eggs are, the better, and in Jimin and Maya’s case those eggs were rapidly vanishing.
It’s an easy task, yet one that nobody really wants because just one wrong move and you are going to create a huge mess that you will have to live with for the rest of your life. With my background in wildlife photography, everyone knew I’m already living with the scars of scores of mistakes I’ve made around wild animals both out of ignorance and impatience, so they figured why scar anyone else needlessly. Have Northside Jim do it. He’s already broken!
My hands were literally shaking as I carefully sculpted the sand away from the delicate eggs. I was most certainly extremely nervous; this nest means the world to me. I spent a whole week of my life trying to find it, and I was there when Maya actually laid one of these eggs.
But mostly I was shaking because it was freezing cold, pouring rain, I was being sand blasted on the open beach by 28 MPH winds, and most importantly, I had stupidly grabbed the electrified top of the exclosure with my soaking wet, bare hands and got a shock which was still reverberating through my wrists. Oh yeah, and I had just tore a huge hole in my pants as I tried to squeeze my aging body through a tiny gap in the sharp, rickety-old wire fence. Epic! Truly a Memorial Day weekend I will never forget.
By the time we were done, Jess & I were completely soaked. We tried to find Jimin and Maya in hopes of gently leading them towards the nest so they could see their now unburied eggs, but there was no one on that beach except an old gull with a broken wing shivering in the dune grass and just trying to hold on. I headed home and just hoped for the best, still kind of beaming with pride about what a cute little scrape I’d made.
When the rain finally broke this afternoon, I stopped by to check on my work and see if the nest might need to be dug up one more time before morning.
And that’s when I got a shock which jolted me even more intensely than the electrified exclosure top had my soaking wet hand. As I approached, a well camouflaged Jimin hopped off the nest and gave me the loudest peep I’ve ever heard.
Jimin had returned and was incubating “our” nest!
Jimin had apparently been hard at work completely redoing my scrape, moving the eggs around, and generally fussing with it. If you ask me, that was totally unnecessary and I’m still really proud of my nest.
But he did spruce it up with some shells. I should have thought of that. Oh well, live and learn.
I hope you enjoyed this little story of the small things we can do that make a difference, and that it makes those times when we really want to do something but can’t, or shouldn’t, a little easier to live with.