Last week I got to help out with Georgia DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division, placing bands on endangered woodstork chicks. It was messy work (they emphatically unload from both ends the moment you pick them up) but it was incredible to do field work with these pros, and visit this particular site – a former industrial site in St. Mary’s that is now a massive rookery. When we were in St. Mary’s earlier this year, I was dying to get into the property and poke around.
It made me think of Newtown Creek and the birdwatching trips we do, where we see many of the same shorebirds I see here regularly. Even in this wild place, the woodstorks are venturing into a disturbed site and thriving. “Teeming” is the word. Along with the storks, there were cormorants, pink spoonbills, and every kind of egret in there.
Holding a football-sized wood stork chick is: warm, floppy, sloppy and aromatic. I can’t say they are cute in the classic sense, or even very charismatic, but they are special nonetheless.
This trip also made me think of my field work days in Ecuador, when I found myself in the cloud forest/paramo/rainforest/Galapagos thinking over and over, “I can’t believe I am getting to see this first hand.” As much wilderness as we have in the US, it is still a continual surprise to me to be on the East Coast and have so much wildlife (Teeming is the word…) literally within arm’s reach.