Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Loony Evening

     I went for a walk after work to the Marine Park Salt Marsh Nature Center. I walked the regular loop down to the trail that runs along the golf course. I was hoping to see a snipe, but all felt like it was turning into a dull walk- but then I had lots of boat-tailed grackles, an osprey carrying someones prized koi (can't imagine what else that orange fish was!), newly arrived great egrets, and killdeer.
     Then, things got interesting- I spotted a large bird sitting in the salt marsh on dry ground- turned out to be a common loon. This is NOT where you find a loon- they should be in the water. Thankfully it was alive, I practically killed my phone battery (and data plan) searching for any way to get this guy help- at the very least a ride to my home to get a carrier and my own car. The bird didn't flinch at my presence and that was another sure sign this animal was not well.
     Finally a wonderful friend coaxed me to just get in a car and get it out- she had me on contact with a trusted rehabber local to Brooklyn, and so an adventure began...
Molting into breeding plumage, this is the iconic common loon, known for its haunting calls on Northern lakes- but a winter visitor to our waterfront.

I watched this bird for an hour- nothing, I didn't have the heart to leave this bird. Loons are especially susceptible to lead poisoning, which was one of the initial fears upon taking him/her into the vet where I met the rehabber.

I shed my jacket and honed my zookeeper past to grab and restrain the bird safely. Thankfully, I had an extra shirt with long sleeves to keep me warm (I always am prepared- boy scout honor!).
The bird was strong, which was good to see, he vocalized and lunged at me as I positioned myself. I had 3 tosses of the jacket- each toss, the bird lounging back out of it. 4th time I was able to get over him/her in a way that covered the head more fully. I then tucked everything as it should normally be and carried the bird off the trail-- without anyone noticing a webbed foot that might have snuck out of my carefully wrapped package.
I managed not to lose an eye or get stabbed- that beak is serious business!

I later gave up my extra shirt as a loon diaper- my good friend convinced me to just take a cab (that she graciously called for me) and I did not want to pay an extra fee for poop damage. Ironic that I happened to have a wildlife shirt on... I mean, I almost always do.
I sat and waited for a cab while carefully hugging my warm packing, because even when wrapped and restrained, he wiggled and tried hard to get that beak out. I had to keep the bird close to make sure it would not injure itself.

After what felt like the longest cab ride on the face of the planet- my driver chose the weirdest route home- we got to the clinic where we met the rehabber.  I cropped people out for their privacy.
I washed all my clothes upon getting home and showering because I have my own pet bird-- with fear of who knows what on the loon-- since the bird is molting, all my clothes are full of quill dander...



Some preventative injections were given. Also not sure if this bird could have had asper- a fungal infection of the respiratory system - again why I shower and wash all my clothes upon arriving home.

Fluids were delivered, who knows the last time this guy ate- he was so high up and away from the water.
I'm relieved this gorgeous bird is in good hands- a fridge full of fish awaits this creature and hopefully a road to recovery. I just hope my bike is still at the marsh when I stop by tomorrow, if they get through my lock, I'll be pretty ticked, but also impressed. It was worth leaving my trusty bike behind to help a fellow creature out.
Best of luck little buddy!

Super huge thanks to so many people who helped me out and therefore helping this loon out. My friend Mary Beth and her wildlife rescue network, my husband who came and met me at the vet to pay for my cab ride, and my clueless cab driver who had no idea he had a large bird in his backseat.