Twice a day, when the tide turns, the Osprey come to fish at the mouth of Plum Island Sound, directly across from my house. They glide in and hover until they spot a flash of fish, fold their wings and stall, midair, like a small airplane about to crash. They plunge, straight down, and if they’re lucky, or skilled, come up carrying a striped bass, or bluefish, alive, its tail flapping, its eyes wild with fright. They carry it like a suitcase up the Sound to the nesting platform where their hungry hatchlings wait to be fed.
The platforms are manmade to attract the birds and visitors to the wild places in Ipswich and the surrounding towns. The two that were erected in the marshlands on the road out to where I live are several years empty. Some of the ones that are occupied are outfitted with cameras to watch the birds build their nests, sit on their eggs and tend their hatchlings until they’re ready to fledge.
Since the towns stopped spraying for mosquitoes, and eradicated many of the invasive plant species like the pretty but destructive purple loosestrife and tenacious Phragmites grass, graceful herons and glossy ibis have returned in numbers I’ve never seen before. Bobolinks and redwing blackbirds perch on grasses in the meadows. Goldfinches rise in clouds from the nesting fields out to Strawberry Hill. Sand swallows and piping plovers swoop over the beach, protected now, by law. House finches with their red heads nest in the dried up Christmas wreath by my front door. I put it up years ago and they found it. I’ve never taken it down. They return year after year, along with the mourning doves that nest in the grape arbor, and the robins, and blue jays, and the Baltimore oriole that hangs it’s pendulous nest from a tree on the walkway to the fresh water pond down the street. In winter, a snowy owl perches on a dune high above Crane Beach. They all come and go, as predictable as the ebb and flow of the tides.