I would like to introduce all of you to my good friend, Eden Suderman.
Perhaps you are curious, as I was when I first met Eden, about her unusual name. Eden's mother, Rebecca, told me the story. On 1 January 2006, having flown to Florida overnight, a pregnant Rebecca woke up to what she deemed to be an earthly paradise. She told her husband that if the baby was a girl she wanted to call her Eden, because she felt they had started the year in an earthly paradise.
Eden was born in July of that year. And the world has been a better place ever since.
It seems that Eden and Nature writ large were destined to be firm companions. She has interacted with creatures as disparate as frogs, toads and newts, to Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) and Monarchs (Danaus plexippus). On a visit to Costa Rica she fed monkeys, sloths, anteaters and porcupines at an animal rescue centre.
I met Eden when she came to SpruceHaven to observe our bird banding operation. From that first moment, and on numerous repeat visits, she made it clear that she wanted to be more involved, and craved hands-on activity, not mere observation.
Just a week ago Eden came out to help me to monitor one of our Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) colonies. And help she did. She followed instructions well, climbed the ladder and slugged it along to the next nest, went up to check the nest with mirror and light in hand, and worked indefatigably. Furthermore, she got the hang of it instantly and showed herself to be a true wildlife custodian.
But best of all she became my friend. The span of years between us evaporated before our eyes; she is a great companion, a pal to chat with, a supreme helper anxious to pitch in and do her part, a joy to cherish a wildlife moment with, a person who understands the sheer magic of contact with a wild creature, and she recognizes the importance of helping our fellow inhabitants of this Earth we share together.
Today she was back for more. But this time do the weekly check of all our bird houses to track the activity going on within.
The first order of business was to examine the contents of a box we had erected in the driveway in the hope of attracting Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio).
While we have succeeded in providing a winter roosting place for this diminutive owl, it has not remained to breed in any of our boxes. Often the space is usurped by non-native Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) and we toss out any attempts at nest construction each week before this invasive species has a chance to get established. Today the box was empty.
It was onward to inspect the nest boxes of Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), Eastern Bluebird (Sialis sialia) and Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor). Eden was thrilled to find a chickadee sitting on eggs at the first box she opened.
She wasted no time in checking bird house after bird house, climbing the ladder and unscrewing the entrance panel into the box.
She was excited to see the nest below, originally begun by an Eastern Bluebird as revealed by the foundation, but taken over by a Tree Swallow, and containing a clutch of Tree Swallow eggs.
Later she would have the thrilling experience of a Tree Swallow brooding her clutch and allowing Eden to very gently lift her up to count the young. Such encounters do not leave one unmoved and Eden's face was aglow with the sheer magic of it all.
The woodlot at this time of the year is alive with biting insects and I told Eden that she should wait for me in the open, while I went ahead to face the voracious swarms. They were not quite as bad as I had thought, however, and Eden ventured down to have her first look at the nest of a House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) with eggs.
We checked another screech owl nest box and tossed out the beginnings of a starling nest.
Our final round of nest box inspections was on the north side of the property where we found the young of both Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds.
It is difficult for me to express adequately how pleased I am to see dedication of this magnitude in a young person. As someone who has been involved with wildlife since my earliest memories, it is gratifying to see the torch being passed in this way.
Thank you for allowing me to share this experience with you, Eden. And thank you Rebecca for all the sterling qualities you portray and the encouragement and support you give to Eden.
I am indeed humbled by this friendship and I earnestly hope that I can help Eden along her path to bigger and better challenges - she and all her generation are the future, the only hope we have. May we all help them as best we can.