One of the first times I saw Paul D. "Pete" McClain in action was 20 years, during a kayak tour of the Sedge Islands in Barnegat Bay.
Then-Governor Christie Whitman was on the tour too. At one point, our guide stopped on a small island and told us to take a break.
And there was Pete McClain, joyously holding up a slimy horseshoe crab, extolling its virtues to the visitors. Some didn't look to thrilled, but Pete looked like he was holding up the Hope Diamond.
Sadly, word has come that Pete died today, with his family at his side. He had been ill for some time. Pete's death is Ocean County's loss.
He volunteered for decades to teach the lore of Island Beach and the Sedge Islands. He still owned one of the few "shacks" left on the Sedge Islands.
Above all, Pete was a modest man. The last time I saw him was in 2013, when he spoke at a seminar at the Interpretive Center at Island Beach State Park.
He downplayed his role in resurrecting the osprey population in New Jersey despite the fact that he was one of the founders of the New Jersey Osprey Project.
"I had some very fine people to help me," Pete said at the seminar. "The program just blossomed after that. I did have the help and it was nothing I did by myself."
McLain joined the state Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife in 1951. By 1974, he had risen to the position of deputy director. He decided to try and bring back the ravaged osprey population back to the Jersey Shore and Island Beach.
McLain founded the Osprey Project along with Teddy Schubert, a conservation officer with the Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife. The two traveled to Maryland, where osprey eggs were healthier because there was less pesticide contamination and more nesting areas.McLain and Schubert made the often perilous climbs to osprey nests high in the sky - sometimes dropped in by helicopter, sometimes by clambering up utility poles - and removed some of the healthy eggs.
The healthy eggs were put into incubators, then trucked back to New Jersey. They were then gently placed in osprey nests at Island Beach and down the coast, in the hopes the osprey parents would accept the new eggs.
They did, almost immediately.
To read the rest of "The Osprey Whisperer of Island Beach" - published last year, , click here: http://berkeley-nj.patch.com/groups/around-town/p/osprey
Patch will publish the details of McClain's services when they become available.