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Adventures of a Wild Care Volunteer, by Amy Sanders
For a couple of months, rescues have been very quiet so I’ve added some informational pieces to Duck Tales. This month, however, as is often the case in the summer, things livened up at Wild Care. Not only are the bird and squirrel babies in full swing (and I do have a shift feeding baby birds), but also the rescues and transports have livened up a bit. Still though, they’ve been calmer than usual on the Outer Cape (I have no idea why), and so I offer a gentler adventure this month.
As usual, it started on an otherwise quiet day. I was working in my studio when I got a text asking me if I was up to catching a seagull with an injured wing at Beach Point in Provincetown, and by the way, there was also a chickadee to pick up and bring in. The chickadee was captured—it was just a pickup.
So I gathered information. The seagull was last seen at 5.2 Beach Point. For those of you who live on the Outer Cape, you know Beach Point is not a specific location, but rather an area that stretches the entire distance of Pilgrim Lake on the other side of Rt. 6. And what is with “Five point two”?? I know the numbers on that stretch of road (which is NOT Beach Point Road, but rather Shore Road) are roughly 300s to 600s. So was “5.2” a condo number?
And, the gull was last seen about an hour ago. So this would be a phone call. “Where on Shore Road?,” I asked. A friendly voice says “5.2.” Hmm…
But the bird had moved so he said he’d call some folks to the north and see if anyone had eyes on it. I asked again about the number, and that he say it slowly. His answer this time came to me as a more plausible number in the 500s, allowing me to zone in on where he is. Within a few minutes he calls again, and says the bird is a bit north and gives me the location for the Bay Beach Town Home Condominiums. So I was off!
I had a bit of confusion about where it was (I only had a street number) but found it after one turn around. A woman with a bright red sweatshirt greeted me in the parking lot. This is a great set of condos where there is a pass-through in the center of the building, out onto the beach. I headed out through the pass-through and was told it was just a bit up the beach to the north.
A bit more than a minute later I spotted the bird. It was sitting on top of a small dune that I was later to find out was artificially constructed, and just recently so. The dune height was about 4 feet, and there really wasn’t any choice but to climb it to reach the bird because, well, I’m just not very tall. So I climbed up, hoping it would hold. But, as I was climbing, my gull friend decided to start walking south along the ridge. So I started walking south along the ridge, trying to get a place where I could toss a sheet over him.
I took about 10 steps, and got the perfect spot. He was blocked from going further by the Rosa Rugosa there. I put one foot forward and expertly tossed my sheet. Got him! But as expertly as I’d thrown the sheet, the ridge chose that moment to collapse under my front foot, though, of course not my back foot.
Now, when I was 12 I couldn’t do a split. I’m far less agile now. My forced split went as far as my legs could go, pulling the hamstring of my back leg, and then my torso toppled sideways into a dune fence. I’m actually grateful for the topple because it was far less painful than a full split would have been.
“OMG! Are you all right?!?,” screeches the lady in the red sweatshirt. “Yes, I’m fine, thank you,” I sputtered. I was able to pull my legs into a more natural alignment, and right myself, and then to tuck the sheet edges around my bird friend. I hobbled back to my car with my charge when I realized I’d left my shoes behind. My new red-sweatshirted friend ran back for them for me. One of the things I love about Wild Care runs is that the people I meet on them are almost always incredibly kind and friendly folks.
So I was off. Off to get the chickadee. The chickadee turned out not to be a chickadee at all, but a House Finch fledgling. Apparently it had had a more dramatic day than I had. It had found itself flying into the wake of a passing car and was witnessed being spun about until it landed less than gracefully on the pavement. No actual car strike, but pretty banged up. So into my car with him, too.
And off we drove to Wild Care, where each rehabber on duty got their own incoming patient. I would drive back home, take some Ibuprofen, and land on my porch to recover.
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Wild Care has a state-of-the-art seabird therapy pool, which allows seabirds and waterfowl to exercise on running water. This will help our bird friends recover more quickly so they can get back to their watery habitats!