Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Call of the Clapper Rail

The eastern shore is buzzing with birds. Outside my cozy little house the robins and cedar waxwings filled the cherry trees, a shimmering of wings and red leaves. After a jog under a blue sky with dark grey creeping up on the western edge I rode my bike around this refuge that has become my home. The familiarity of it is comforting and yet there is always something new to see each time I make my rounds. The scene from the marsh overlook is now awash with orange, I sat on the rail and dangled my feet as the breeze brought in a sky rippled in shades of grey. A pair of hooded mergansers, maybe the same ones from last winter, rode the current of an outgoing tide following the twists and turns along the creek. The male, with a brilliant white crest stuck close to his chestnut lady whose distraction with diving led to his crestfalling. I heard clapper rails upon clapper rails as they struck up a rattling chorus, invisible souls moving through shrouds of spartina. I looked out at the marsh and while it's peacefulness enveloped me, I couldn't ignore how the quiet scene was forever edged in blaring trucks as they roared down thirteen, the highway that slices it's way all the way up the peninsula. I think of how close this destruction caused by humankind lies and yet how, despite it, the clapper rail still calls. If this marsh was not here, if we'd continued to paste parkinglots and mini-malls on top of these spongy edges of our existance, the shadow of the clapper rail, the fluting call of the yellowlegs, the quiet strolling of a pair of mergansers, none of it would exist. But it does. The clapper rail still calls. The tip of the delmarva peninsula is a refuge, a place of shelter that provides a haven for the marsh and it's inhabitants. The Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge has been my home and I have had the honor of watching the turn of the seasons for nearly a year now. I've seen how there is such a reliance on this place by the birds-both the migrants and the residents. The reliance is on the fact that this land will be here forever, here to support these millions of bits and sparkles of life, here forever in it's natural condition. We are the ones that know otherwise and we who create otherwise. Humankind could have obliterated this land. But we didn't. So here it is. And do you hear the call of the clapper rail? I do and it brings me to tears.

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