Right after college I move with my fiance to upstate New York.

He is a newly minted PhD in Zoology and I have a double major in Zoology and Scandinavian Studies.

So of course I want to be a writer.

The small private college has rich students. A yellow convertible with the tag ENVY parks beneath our small apartment. I am trying to write full time and in theory planning a wedding. The downtown has mostly empty blasted out storefronts and I rent a small room upstairs in one of the early 1900s building in which to write.

I do write but I do not generate money. I take a class at the college, writing, and I meet the other faculty. It is fairly lonely and I need more human contact. I am enlisted to band birds.

We band all winter. There is a large cage, 6 by 6 by 6 feet, set in the water, with about a foot of airspace. Corn is sprinkled in the cage and we meet at dawn. The cage has underwater entrances and the ducks swim in. They surface for air and then it's pretty hard to find the way back out.

We don waders. It is January and the water is very cold. This is one of the deep Finger Lakes, carved by a glacier hand, and it rarely freezes. Too deep. The water has to drop to 4 degrees through the entire lake and then below.

We each hope we don't get the wader with the slow leak. Ice cold Finger Lake water slowly trickles in and down to the toes. We wade to the cage with burlap sacks. We open the top and reach in. The professor does most of the duck grabbing, and stuffs each duck into the sack. We trudge back to shore with burlap sacks full of ducks.

We sit in a circle with bands, still wearing the waders. One person is the recorder, with a band list. We each reach into a sack and pull out a duck. We flip the ducks head down between our legs, wings tight against the waders. Ah, now you know why we keep the waders on. We check the duck. Banded ones come back. "Band 382." "That one's been here three days in a row. Glutton for punishment." "Must like corn a lot."

If the duck doesn't have a band, we crimp a band around its leg and announce the number and the species. Then we throw the duck up into the air. They fly off, objecting loudly.

We try not to put the band too tight. Ow.

Most of the ducks are black ducks and mallards. Sometimes we get others: tiny beautiful buffleheads or a goldeneye. We all admire the rarer ducks.

The study goes on through the season. Once in a while there is a casualty in the cage. These go in the professor's freezer.

At the end of the season all the banders attend the celebration and thank you dinner. We each are served half of a wild duck. And the duck study goes on.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.