It is quite likely that the summer of 2020 will forever be known as the “lost summer,” a confusing and chaotic stretch of days that turned into months and seemed to be suspended in time. A summer when our unique and inalienable American freedoms, which are often overlooked outside the times of crisis, were curtailed or revoked indefinitely: the freedom to assemble and worship, the freedom to associate and gather with friends and family, and the freedom to pursue our own economic destiny, unencumbered and bounded only by individual determination and grit. These are cherished freedoms, our birthright as Americans, which are guaranteed in the Constitution and purchased with the blood and sacrifices of American service men and women in far flung corners of the globe over the past 235 years. Yet now, these freedoms are so elusive that many wonder if they will ever be restored.

And then here in Little Egg Harbor, in the early dawn of the lost summer, when it seemed that the world may never be the same again, our beloved Ospreys, Captain and Belle, returned home to Mordecai Island. Oblivious to the troubles of the human realm, they quickly set about repairing the winter damage to their nest on the eastern edge of our beautiful island and settled in for the summer.

In the ensuing weeks Belle would lay two eggs (April 25th) and dutifully attend to them as Captain hunted tirelessly to provide for her.  On June 1st, two healthy Osprey chicks emerged after 37 days of incubation, as Belle gleefully took to the air for the first time in as many days. A few weeks later, on a fog laden 4th of July, Michele and I assisted Ben Wurst of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation in banding our male and female Osprey fledglings with red leg bands, 25/M and 26/M. At that moment, overcome by a wave of nostalgic and perhaps naïve patriotism, I felt compelled, if only in my own mind, to name the two fledglings in honor of the day and all that it represents: the female “Lady Liberty” and the male “Independence.”

2020 Mordecai Island Osprey fledglings, Lady Liberty and Independence.
In this symbolic gesture my hope is that when, in the better summers that surely lay ahead, Lady Liberty and Independence return home to Mordecai, they will serve as a reminder, a reminder not of the lost summer, but rather of the fledgling experiment in personal freedom that is America: imperfect and ever evolving, but still the “shining city on a hill,” whose streets are paved wide with opportunity for all of the kindred souls whose American Dream is the pursuit of “Life, Liberty and Happiness …”
Kevin Budd with the 2020 Mordecai Island fledglings

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