As the widely known Disney song conveys to us, the “circle of life moves us all”, but sometimes it can be hard to remember this on a day to day basis as life takes on a quotidian pace. This is why I consider myself lucky to be an SCA at Fire Island National Seashore as a plant biology intern. My daily activities involve traipsing through a rare maritime forest on Fire Island, a barrier island off the southern coast of Long Island, to implement permanent vegetation plots to explore composition changes in the forest. Being out there all the time, I have started to become familiar with the lay of the land… The gently stirring bay water to the north and the crashing ocean waves to the south are the background music to a harmony of bird tunes and unidentified animal noises that sure beat the hum of an office environment.
Recently out in the field while doing some herbaceous plant surveys, the normal sounds of the forest were disturbed by the loud calls of two towhees. The sounds were from right at the edge of one of our plots and my two fellow co workers and I went to scope out what was causing the commotion. Two boisterous towhees were flying aggressively around a huge black racer snake – coincidentally earlier in the day a tourist from Australia told us that he had seen a black snake that gave him a bit of a scare, and we figured it must be the same snake. I initially thought that the birds were being exceptionally brave for trying to attack one of their primary natural predators but upon closer glance, I realized that the snake had something small, pink, and fuzzy in its mouth. The snake seemed to have found its next meal in the towhee’s newly hatched nest. Mama and Papa Towhee were obviously upset and trying to liberate their lost offspring, but the circle of life had taken its course. The snake finished swallowing its prey and slinked away to sleep off his huge meal, and the towhees gradually began to calm down. Luckily their nest still had two other fledglings to continue their progeny, and the circle of life continues on with no clear end or beginning.
It felt like an episode of Animal Planet had come alive outside of the four walls of a television box, and this was just one of many similar occurrences I have had the fortune to witness. Being immersed in nature each day, I see that we share this planet with many other residents, of all sizes, shapes, and species, and that we are all interconnected in one way or another.