Sunday, June 9, 2013

Caught Up

A double crested cormorant with its ice-blue eyes sits with a hook embedded in what would be equivalent to our wrist.
     It is so incredibly important for people to be aware of the things they may leave behind, trash-wise. Even accidentally leaving a small hook and bit of line behind can cause agony for the animal who encounters it.
     My husband and I went to Prospect Park with a mission of playing with a go-pro camera we are borrowing and just wanted to have some fun with. It had rained all day Friday, so we were totally excited for spending a lovely sunny day in the park.
     We rode our bikes over and hooked them up at the boat house. I was so excited because a double crested cormorant was just hanging out on the dock. As we got closer we saw that everyone was fairly upset because he was hooked in his left wing. I called an animal rescue place immediately, but they were so short-staffed and dealing with their own facility that they had no one to send (totally understandable, as I know they work hard daily). The park rangers told people they would come out tomorrow. This bird, according to the crowd has been hooked since yesterday. A man approached me and asked who I had called, we got into talking and I found out he managed the land for the Audubon Center (the boat house) and Leffert's Historic House. He was a really nice guy and after talking, we made a plan to get some nets, gloves, boxes, tape (in case we actually caught him), and to give this rescue a go. If we could catch him, that would be better than waiting till tomorrow. I snapped a few photos of the cormorant while waiting for the supplies to be gathered:
Cormorants are diving birds. From afar, they just appear a plain black bird with a snake-neck and funny webbed feet. Closer inspection reveals an absolutely stunning animal.
Double crested cormorants have no problem living in fresh, salt, or brackish water. As long as there are fish to eat, they are there. They are called double crested cormorants because of those tufts of feathers. A little girl came by with her family, and kept calling them ears -- well, her mother thought the cormorant was a peacock. I had some teacher time to explain why the cormorant was sitting so close (it's hurting/sick), what a cormorant is (not a peacock), and why it wouldn't come close to the girl who kept yelling "COME HERE, DUCKIE!" (because it is a wild animal, it sees you as bigger and scary - even though you aren't it thinks you are a predator - which immediately the girl crouched down and continued to yell - and I had to then explain that they also are not dumb, they know you are still bigger than it).
It's hard for a wild animal to understand you want to help. For the same reasons I told the little girl. We appear to be a predator, and in time of distress, this cormorant knows he is not on his A-game. I wish more people understood this, so that when they came by they wouldn't approach so close or yell and scream at it. It was a very teachable moment, we spoke to quite a few people and I hope that some people left understanding how much we can negatively impact a place just by being careless with trash.
The bird needed help, beyond just having the hook removed. He was limping and seemed painful on his left leg. Part of our plan of capture included handing him over to the local shelter where they have connections with wildlife rehabbers. These birds swim and dive using their legs to power themselves, a painful leg makes it hard to swim, so evading predation and catching food can be difficult.  
The cormorant sits holding it's left leg up. Birds will normally do this when at rest, holding one leg up, it's not just exclusive to flamingos. The rudder-like tail is still, making the ability to maneuver in the water a breeze for the average cormorant.
      I tried once to get him and the nets on hand were dip nets and butterfly nets, small and cumbersome, for a cormorant, but better than nothing. The bird dove into the water when the net came swinging, but in un-cormorant-like behavior, he jumped right back up on the dock about 15 feet away. Normally you'd expect a bird like that to dive, swim and pop up again, far off in the distance. For my second try I crouched and got within about 3-4 feet of him, I was very close. My husband slid me the net and the bird was gone. I should have just tried to pounce, after thinking about it. The bird went for a longer swim but still returned to the same dock. We sat and waited as a friend of mine was coming to assist us. In waiting, Animal Care & Control showed up. With two half hearted swings of his net and in less than 10 minutes time, he came and went. The bird still popped back up on the same dock, never retreating far. After Animal Control left, I sat, still waiting for my friend, who was now lost in the park.
     I was being patient, letting the bird take a breather and letting my friend arrive. Some random guy in the park thought he should take a try. I was trying to discourage him, because honestly, I think he was just trying to "be the hero." He grabbed a net and I told him that the nets are not good for this situation (actually the Animal Control guy had a GREAT net, and what a waste of his effort, I should have asked the Animal Control guy to do his job). I tried to tell him, that my friend and I have experience grabbing up birds and he really should just let the cormorant be for now. Of course, random park guy did not listen, picked up the net, and before you knew it, all you saw was a tail dip under the water. The random guy walked away awkwardly without saying anything further to us, he really angered me, but him walking away was the better thing for the bird and I. We sighted the cormorant a few times and then he was gone. We waited and he never returned. We figured at this point he probably went off into the lake.
     My friend finally arrived, after sending dropped pins on our phones, sending out a search team, and using triangulation techniques (okay, maybe we didn't do the last two things, but maybe we should have!), we all found each other. Since the cormorant was gone, which I felt, and still feel absolutely awful about, and it was my friends' birthday, I figured let's go on a mini birthday tour of Prospect Park. And so we went for a little walk, saw some birds, stuck our camera in the lake, into bushes and trees, anywhere. My husband was having fun with the little go-pro we are borrowing.
Pigeons are nesting below the bridge that spans the lullwater. Baby pigeons are so ugly, they are cute!
We watched some red eared sliders with this floating/bobbing log. One turtle was basking, while another turtle was trying to climb on. And in his climbing efforts made the whole log, plus the sitting turtle tumble over. Then the turtle would get on, and repeat the scenario. It was pretty funny.
Pollination in action! Bumble bees have a special section of their leg called the pollen bag, and this is where they collect pollen to bring back to the nest- guess how much pollen can be shoved into there....... go ahead, guess.......

1,000,000 pollen grains! If that doesn't impress you, well, then, I don't know what to say to that.
People often say that bumble bees don't sting because they don't have a stinger. Well, they can and do. If you reeeeeeally make them angry, which apparently takes a lot of harassing, compared to the honey bee. Unlike honey bee's though, which have a barbed stinger, and can only sting you once, the bumble bee stinger is not barbed, so they can sting you as many times as their little heart desires. All bees, hornets, and wasps - only females don a stinger. Because the stinger is a modified ovipositor. That means that it is the part of their body that helps them lay eggs, so you won't see males with a stinger, because anatomically, they are not equipped in that way.
House Sparrows and their swanky real estate, over looking the boathouse pond.
     We then parted ways with our friend and went to the other side of the lake. We saw a cormorant! He was swimming oddly close to shore, which made me think it could be him. I notified some friends and the animal shelter, so hopefully someone will be able to rescue him, someone with better resources and tools. So if you are in Prospect Park and you see some trash, pick it up. After seeing the cormorant, I came across some fishing trash and felt even more compelled to pick it up. Please, be aware of your impact within your community, make sure you take your trash and dispose of it properly. You never know what that little bit of plastic, twine, or that bottle cap could do to an animal that accidentally tries to ingest it or gets caught up in it.
We spot a cormorant off of the Peninsula at Prospect Park/Prospect Park SW- near the BBQ pits. Since these guys swim with their bodies low in the water, we could not see his wing. 
A female house sparrow strikes a pose on some phragmites reeds. An invasive plant that grows where cattails should really be growing.
A male red-wing blackbird was very vigilant over his territory. He chased out a male sparrow as well as the one pictured above.
The bullfrogs were all within the reeds. I heard a few but they jumped before I even saw them. I saw this one guy and through the brush was able to get a picture of him without getting to close and scaring him off.