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A Story of Defying the Odds!

By Joseph Albanese - November, 2014

It is often said that the world is shrinking. In this age of social networks and instant connectivity it is easy to draw this conclusion. A thought can travel from one end of the world to another in mere seconds. But even before this electronic web encircled the globe, some communities were very well connected.

There was a saying at my college: “small world wildlife.” This came about because no matter whom you ran into, or where you ran into them, if they were in the wildlife world you could be certain you were only separated by a few degrees. Because there are a limited number of jobs, and an even more limited number of schools, even if you didn’t know that person, you knew someone who did.

With the advent of social networking, this web got even tighter. Now you could see the connections depicted on your computer screen. And what’s more you could see their projects unfold right then on your monitor. I enjoyed my personal news feed as I watched my cohorts field seasons unfold in front of me. I was almost as if I was alongside them as they counted shorebirds, and built hen houses.

I spent a field season in the Alaskan Bush. Our camp was located twelve nautical miles outside of Valdez; we conducted work on a large seabird colony within sight of large glacier. I got to spend four months in one of the greatest places on Earth; every way you looked was a post card. Each view was more fantastic than the last, each day better than the last.

The connections you make with your co-workers in those situations is strong. Not only did we spend a lot of time together, we were the only people we saw. We would get the occasional visitor, but we were on our own most of the time. At the end of the season, there was a melancholy feeling through out the camp, as we knew we would be going our separate ways.

We all went back to our respective homes. I went straight back to college in Central New York, one of the field hands went back to her “Uni” in London. My boss went back to his home in tucked in the Maine woods. Time went on, and we took different paths. I ended up doing population management work, my London friend went to Scotland to earn her PhD, and my boss took a full time position as the Game Bird Biologist in Maine.

It was uncharacteristically cold winter, and former boss was almost certain he wouldn’t capture any black ducks in his walk in traps. He was battling more than a fair amount of ice in his study area, so he almost felt like he was just going through the motions. You can imagine his surprise as he found his traps stuffed full of ducks. Perhaps more amazing was the half dozen mallards that had no business being there! I was also amazed as I watched the events unfold through my Facebook feed from hundreds of miles away.

The next winter I had some college friends visiting, making their annual pilgrimage to the salt marsh in pursuit of Atlantic Brant. This year had an exceptionally large group visiting, so large that we rotated shooters out of the blinds. After two of them limited, the decision was made to try to jump a black duck or two. After a couple hundred of yards, a two shots rang out, and two mallards were brought to hand.  One of which was sporting a band!

As it turns out, that was one of the mallards I watched my old boss band through a computer screen! After we got the initial report stating it was banded on Raccoon, Island Maine the year prior; I was astonished. I dropped them a note to confirm what had just occurred and sure enough they did. This series of events certainly gave new meaning to “small world wildlife.”

Joe AlbaneseJoe Albanese is a Wildlife Biologist, with a decade of
experience in Natural Resources. Receiving a Bachelor's
Degree in Wildlife Management from the State University
of New York at Cobleskill, he has worked for a myriad of
government and private agencies, most notably the
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of
Agriculture. His career has taken him from the shadow
of the Empire State Building to the rugged remoteness
of the Alaskan Bush. He has worked with flora and
fauna, piscine and terrestrial creatures.


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