, Newburyport, MA

April 4, 2014

Comings and goings at Quill's Pond

Bill Plante's North Shore
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Finally, the sun broke through what had threatened to be another rain-dominating day early in the week, and I had set out with the aid of a mild easterly at my back to test my lower part.

“I’ll try a quarter of a mile down Hay to Green Street and back,” I said as I set out, cane in hand.

Testing was indicated because I’d had a tumble a couple of weeks earlier that made even sitting on hard surfaces discomforting.

So far so good, I thought as I stopped just beyond the intersection with Green Street to respond to a bluejay’s call somewhere in the trees ahead.

It did so, every 10 steps, and I would answer.

A minute or two later, another joined in whatever was being said, and by the time I came abreast of the trees so did a third.

I have absolutely no idea of what we were talking about, and I don’t want to give the impression that I can converse with any other kind of bird, my falsetto and range being limited.

More’s the pity because they do get around, and I would like to know what some of the regulars to the Quill’s Pond area — those born here over the years and those come to create new generations — would say about Alberta Nutile’s departure from what had long been her home for decades across the street from it.

A retired surgical nurse, Alberta nurtured life in hospitals before retiring, and did the same for birds that came and departed, year after year, later on.

As an embellishment, she qualified for raising domestic swans, their dignity and grace enriching all who stopped by to enjoy their presence together with that of a rich variety of what nature had to offer.

Alberta was a can-doer, and what she did was to make the most of life, her own and those who benefitted from her generous caring and sharing.

A lot of that was of major consequence to the students she housed through their successful school years.

The ponds, her smaller one, as well as Simon Dur’s across the street, has had its share of characters, the most venturous of which was the late “Mister Shefield,” a Peking duck that appeared mysteriously one morning sitting atop the great granite rock at the southern end of Quill’s Pond.

No one had a clue as to his origin. No one who witnessed his ventures will have forgotten him.

He walked with an enlarged wallow, having suffered a leg-rupturing bite by one of the pond’s really great snapping turtles that tried to drown him.

Years later, he disappeared for three days before Alberta found him stuck head first in a drainage pipe, feet still trying to kick his way out of it.

Recovery took a couple of days, but he was soon back at being himself, to everyone’s delight.

Pond ownership is no small matter, and appreciation for both of those on Hay Street is enjoyed by all, including the wildlife come to make the most of it.

As for my morning’s testing, all parts worked sufficiently to lengthen my walk to a mile and back.

One might say all’s well that ends well, but I’d say all’s well that keeps on giving, and Hay Street’s ponds do that very well indeed.


Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is