Keep coming, Aimee,
Nick says, calmly
over and over
to nudge
the birds down the beach
toward us
where we are
crouching
cowering
peeping
waiting for the moment
of the double shot
to toss a net
over a swatch of beach
that had been loaded
with red knots
and ruddy turnstones
(& gulls galore)
pecking away at
fresh eggs of horseshoe crabs

keep coming, Aimee,
then Nick said, yes,
the net flew
bird banders ran
it was crucial not
to let any bird down
so folks worked from
the Bay’s edge
rapidly
removing one by one
the knots, the turnstones,
the semis (semi-palimated plovers),
the gulls (after getting bits of
cotton feathers quickly)
to release all at once.

the banders banded
with light metal the left leg
of the knots and turnstones …
the wing banders and others
formed a circle
on chairs to attach
the wing flag,
measure back of head
to tip of beak,
weigh each gently
in a metal sleeve
on a scale,
take a small feather…

the birds themselves
seemed surprised
at the quick sequence
and finally a little girl
or two actually released
each bird for further
feasting before taking off
for the Arctic for
two months
of nesting, hatching, feeding
before winging their way south
far south to Tierra del Fuego,
a 20,000 mile circuit,
for a light ephemeral
heart-pounding
winged being.

A note from the poet: “Twinkling” regards a top biological phenomenon in New Jersey: the arrival of red knots and ruddy turnstones on Reeds Beach and others to feast on the eggs of horseshoe crabs.

Scott McVay was founding executive director of the Robert Sterling Clark and Geraldine R. Dodge Foundations and the president of the Chautauqua Institution. Among his initiatives are the Dodge Poetry Festival and a Chinese language initiative in high schools across America. A graduate of Princeton, he discovered and documented the song of the Humpback whale and, with Roger Payne, published a cover article in Science. He published a collection of poetry in 2012, “Whales Sing and Other Exuberances,” and a book, “Surprise Encounters with Artists and Scientists, Whales and Other Living Things” in 2015.

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