I was out for a walk the other morning and made a quick stop to check in our old friend, T2 the Oystercatcher. It is something of a diehard habit I suppose. Longtime Readers might remember T2; LBI’s most world famous American Oystercatcher, and most photographed bird, whose claim to fame is that he is the last and only Oystercatcher attempting to nest on the beaches of the Island Proper (outside the Holgate Refuge), and has failed miserably and continually in this endeavor every year for ten years straight.
Part joke, part horror story, part heartbreak, part inspiration, the story of T2 can either haunt us or heal us, depending on our mood at the time. For a little background, see the 2014 Reading, Reproducing Hope, or others in the T2 Archive.
I do believe this was actually the year I finally gave up all hope for T2. I was finally capitulating and joining the scores of folks who’d become so worn down by disappointment that they had truly come to believe this bird was just not meant to make babies. For years I’d been baited into naive optimism that perhaps this particular year would finally be T2’s year. This was most heartbreaking of all in 2014 when T2 had a nest make it all the way up to hatch date, only to have the egg turn out to be a dud. In fact, I’ve half-joked to many people this season that T2 is sure to succeed because I am finally, completely, and utterly convinced that he won’t.
But then again, maybe not, because for some reason I was still out there checking.
Upon arriving, I noticed both T2 & Linda Hamilton were both off the nest loafing, which can be a really bad sign. They should be incubating their hopeless and ill fated eggs. So I scanned the shelly debris for evidence of broken eggs, or fox tracks, or other signs that this, T2 & Linda’s third nest of the season, had finally failed like all the others.
And that’s when I heard them.
In the still morning air, the tiniest of little chirps. So delicate and precious, they could only come from the mouth of one thing.
T2… do you have…. a BABY?!!!11!!!!
Scanning and scanning, I soon saw the nest intact. Relieved, I zoomed in:
LINDA HAMILTON!!!11!!! GET OVER HERE!!!11!!! YOU HAVE A BABY!!!!111
Shock. Awe. Tears. Laughs. Disbelief. Head shaking. Fist bumps.
There are many ways we might respond to such a miracle. There is simply too much too say, too many conclusions to draw, and too many lessons to be learned here. So I’ll choose one:
Our local, native animals are diehard Islanders just like the rest of us. The spirit of the Island is not unique to just us people. It is clearly shown in the attitudes of the creatures who live here as well. T2 has had his Island home destroyed about three times a year, every year, for the last ten years, but he never quit. He kept retrying, and kept rebuilding. It is quite possible that not a single person who knew T2 & Linda was left on this Earth who actually believed they would ever succeed. But they did. They made absolute suckers out everyone who ever lost faith in the spirit of relentless determination. Only a fool would give up hope. And now they get to raise their kids on the greatest beach on earth: Long Beach Island.
Experiencing The Miracle:
T2 & Linda Hamilton have a crap-ton of fans, and I imagine many people will want to come throw cigars, as I did, at these miraculous heroes, or maybe just try to get some of the pair’s wicked determination and fortitude to rub off on them.
T2 and Linda aren’t shy and know after ten years that people are not really their problem. But remember to use enormous caution when observing their hijinks. Not only are they (obviously) totally inexperienced parents, but there is a wickedly serious crow issue at their nest site this season. The crows have been extremely keyed in on the family and numerous close calls have been witnessed. The crows are insanely smart and this is a situation where any photographer or observer could give the crows the clues they need to crush this miracle. Be extremely paranoid of crows, and don’t let the blood be on your hands.
By the same stroke, we can be an extremely powerful deterrent to predators, including illegal dog walkers and trespassers, and give this miracle family the extra boost they need just by being interested in their fate.
In the immortal words of New Jersey’s Great Todd Pover:
Love ’em, but don’t love ’em to death.
Hopelessness is for losers! An Islander never gives up! Ten freaking years. Truly. Unbelievable.
I have a feeling it is going to be one heck of a Summer. Whatever we do, we can’t be a suckers. We can quit… but let’s not ever, ever, ever, give up hope!