The Occasional ‘Wild’ of Rescuing
Adventures of a Wild Care Volunteer, by Amy Sanders
I took a long walk on Nauset Beach in Eastham and the surf was roaring as a result of a heavy storm off shore. Seagulls were dodging the wave crests, diving for snacks, and a variety of them were wandering around the rack line in search of edible treats. Amongst the many gulls, was a tiny fellow in full adult plumage (maybe a Ring-billed gull but on the small side even for that species), and a bit further up a second or maybe third year Herring gull (I’m not very good yet at identifying my bird species, though I do love them all!) with a bit of a limp. My friend and I got talking about Wild Care’s work with gulls, and though I’m not very good at identifying types of birds yet, I do have a fount of trivia from my experiences. Our conversation got me remembering a rather wild seagull rescue done in Provincetown about a year ago, in late fall, on a lovely rainy and windy day. It started like any other rescue—a call from a rehabber that there has been a gull sitting on a relatively dry jetty, near where some folks are working on a construction project. I got the address and headed out. I arrived at the address, found a place to park, found the reporting guys and they pointed. There was a gull with what appeared to be an out of place wing, sitting on the very wet and very slippery algae part of an ancient decaying dock (definitely not a jetty!) Now, I wasn’t super experienced at that point, and they had said up on the jetty, dry, etc., so it never occurred to me to bring along some extra clothing, or boots. I was in regular clothing, and that dock was covered with slimy algae! And, that bird was inches from the water, which was at least a few feet deep, should he have decided he’d rather not be caught. What to do!?
Fortunately for me, another gal came along who was interested in helping out. She wasn’t well prepared either. But at least there were 2 heads on this project. So, I started to creep towards the bird, knowing any minute I could shoot off the algae into the water. I didn’t get very far though before the bird hopped across to another slimy timber and ran for the beach. Yay! Well, kind of yay. This gull might have had an injured wing, but he was a powerful runner. He ran me all over the place. 25 yards east, shift, dodge the people, 20 yards west, dodge again, jump on algae, jump off, 20 yards east, shift and …. into the water. Dang!
This was another one of those, you pray no one is recording. Next thing I know, there are 2 full grown women (one less than a spring chicken—that would be me), running around in the water, fully dressed, shoes and all. I had a sheet I was trying to throw over this feisty fellow. By now, the sheet is soaked, and well, everything is soaked. Fortunately, we had had the foresight to fling keys and cellphones on the beach beforehand, but it is COLD! My helper (whose name I never caught but for whose help I am eternally grateful for), circled around to the west of the bird, driving him eastward to the sheet, and THWAP, I shot the sheet over the very unhappy guy.
Throwing a dry sheet over a bird is one thing, but a wet sheet is another. I flailed around trying to scoop the remainder of the fabric under the bird before he dives, and yet not injure that wing. I was able to do that, but not without completely soaking the remainder of myself. Alas, I got those wings under control, and deposited the angry guy into my container. I was even able to free his face a bit so he could breathe better (wet sheets are harder to breathe through than dry ones). I snapped that top down before he could complain further, duct taped it down, thanked my very wonderful helper, and waddled off in my wet pants, shoes, socks, and rest of me, into my car for the hour drive to Wild Care. All I can say is thank goodness for heated seats, and robust car heaters!
(Disclaimer: Many Wild Care rescues are actually quite easy. Please don’t go getting notions that all are this adventurous! Some in fact, are downright boring.)
Seagull Photo taken from the internet.