Tuesday, May 1, 2018

100 Years

I've stopped counting Willets.  The purpose of my count wasn't to know how many Willets were in the marsh, rather it was to get an idea of how fast they arrive in the spring.  It seems that they get here, for the most part, in a 7 to 10 day period, starting as a trickle and finishing in a more massive arrival. 

100 years ago my count would have been zero...zero.  By 1918 the seemingly inexhaustible supply of game and shorebirds had been exhausted.  Egrets were replaced with women's hats.  Willets and many other shorebirds were swallowed by wealthy diners in Boston or New York.  Everything was hunted...no, slaughtered out of ignorance and greed.

In 1918 congress passed the Migratory Bird Act, protecting shorebirds, ducks, geese and other birds from senseless and unrestricted hunting.  The Willets in the salt marsh today are direct descendants of that 1918 law.  I am somewhat surprised that the present ilk in Washington D.C. hasn't tried to overturn it.

Even so, it is important to remember that the number of birds today is still just a fraction of what was seen in the 19th century.

I put in at the sea and paddle up through the Sneak against a medium strength ebb current on a most pleasant sunny day.  I went as far as the Foote Bridge and returned on that ebb current.  If I had counted Willets today the total would've been more than I had seen on my last count.  There were a good number of Yellow Legs mixed in here and there.  Osprey, descendants of the 1972 ban on the use of DDT, were plentiful and active.  I spotted one rather startled groundhog that scurried up into the protective cover of a tree root ball...before coming out to see what was so scary.

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