Thursday, June 30, 2016
WILDLIFE RESCUE: HOW I SAVED A FLEDGING PIGEON
Copyright, 2016, Carolyn Chambers Clark
Tropical storm Colin hit the Venice-Englewood Florida area with a bang one Sunday night in June, 2016. The wind roared, the waves tossed, and baby birds fell out of their nests under the fishing pier by Sharkey’s restaurant.
My husband and I love to go to Sharkey’s early in the morning. Catching the lavender and pink sky at sunrise and inhaling the tangy air is a delight. It makes me feel glad to be alive.
My husband loves to fish off the pier, while I walk the beach, collecting shells and invigorating my feet and legs by walking in the surf.
Sunday night, the rains started. That and the high winds kept us off the beach all of Monday. There’s always more wind at the water so I could only imaginr the destruction Mother Nature was releasing at the pier. At our house, newly planted shrubs and flowers whipped around so herd I worried they might be ripped right out of the ground.
Because it had rined the night before, when we got up the next morning, I decided to check the locall weather. I saw a picture of the fishing pier with a CLOSED sign on it. We waited until the sun broke through, and then we got into our car and headed north for Venice.
The sea was very rough, the sky cloudy, and the wind blew off my baseball hat a few times, but I persevered down the beach. The sand was very wet and it felt as if I was slogging through a foot a mud, so I cut my walk short and came back. Halfway there, I saw feathers in the water. When I went closer, I saw a baby bird. I grabbed it out of the water and tried to revive it, but it was dead already. I didn’t know if I should bury it under the sand or leave the poor thing for other birds or animals to eat. I finally left it on the sand, but I felt horrible that I hadn’t been able to save the creature.
That night I dreamed about the bird, saw its water-soaked feathers, and closed eyes. If only I’d come out earlier, maybe I could have saved it.
Although the radio predicted rain on Wednesday, we shoved out raincoats in the backseat of our car and headed for Sharkey’s fishing pier.
As usual, Tony took his fishing cart up the long walk up the pier, but not before he gave me a hug and said, “I’ll see you at the car at nine or nine-thirty.”
I walked across the sand toward the water, taking off my crocs and holding them in my hands as I started north. Many of the turtle nests marked off by the volunteer turtle crew had lost their signage and markers. I hoped not all the mother turtles’ efforts were in vain. As I kept walking through piles of seaweed and tree branches, I saw several new turtle nests, but these were farther in from the shore. I wondered if the departing turtles who had already laid their eggs had communicated with the incoming turtles and told them to bury their eggs farther back from the shore.
I met several people walking the beach. Of course, I had to tell my sad story of the dead bird to them. They all shook their heads and said something like, “Mother Nature can be cruel.”
That didn’t make me feel one bit better. I met several people picking up refuse and I joined in, but my heart wasn’t in it. I just wanted to get to the car and write about the dead bird.
When I was almost to Sharkey’s, I looked out into the water. To my surprise, I saw another bird tossed around by the sea. I ran into the water and grabbed the bird. It was soaked and exhausted, unable to get its footing on the wet sand and roaring wind. I thought it might have a broken foot, but I wasn’t sure. The water-soaked creature let me carry it to the sand, where I set it down, talked to it in a soft voice, and put my hands around the bird to warm and revive it. I didn’t know if it understood what I was trying to convey, but it let me touch and hold it.
A young couple came down the beach and I called them over. “Do you have a cell phone?”
The young woman took out a phone. I didn’t know the number and they were only here visiting, but somehow she found the number for the Venice Animal Rescue and dialed it. They weren’t open until nine and it was only 8:30, so the couple had to leave to check out of their hotel. Before they left, the man moved the bird a little farther from the water and copied down the phone number of the rescue service in the sand for me.
Two little girls and their mother stopped by as I stood watch over the baby bird. “Is he hurt?“ the older one said.
I nodded. “I think so. I just called the Animal Rescue.”
They started down the shore. The older girl ran back and said. “Standing like that makes that bird feel safe and protected.”
Two young women came by. They both had tattoos on their arms and legs and were very helpful, too. The younger one called the number in the sand, but it was the wrong number. While she looked up another number and left a message for the Wildlife Rescue of Venice.
I refused to leave the baby bird alone on the shore. By then, my husband saw me on the shore and came to the beach to find out what had happened. I sent him back to the car to get his cell phone and I contemplated taking the bird home with us.
Many years ago, when I lived in the woods of upstate New York I was out jogging with my dog and found a small pinkish baby animal. Its eyes weren’t even open yet and I had to feed it with an eyedropper. I kept that animal in the pocket of my DJs at night and in the pocket of my shirt during the day to keep it warm and safe. It lived for four days and then died. I was hoping this bird would stay alive to break the jinx about saving animals that plagued me. As a nurse practitioner, I’d helped many people, but my record with animals wasn’t quite so sterling.
My husband suggested we take the bird up onto the pier. He told me that many pigeons nested under the pier and probably many of the baby birds had fallen out of the nests in the storm. H3 tried to feed the bird little pieces of bread, but it didn’t look interested. “They usually get their food predigested from the mouths of their mothers. This bird looks totally lost.You could take it up on the pier. Maybe its parents will find it and feed it.”
I didn’t have a better idea. I couldn’t think of a way to predigest its food. After we met one of my husband’s fishing friends, a warm and friendly woman he introduced me to as Missy. She said, “Its parents may be down at the other end of the pier. They usually come this way later.” She promised to watch out for the baby bird while she was there.
I still wasn’t comfortable with that, but had no other ideas. I poured some of our drinking water onto the wooden pier and the baby bird took two sips.I was worried it wouldn’t get enough food or water to survive.
As we walked off the pier, my husband’s phone rang. It was Peg, a volunteer with the Venice Wildlife Rescue team. She said she was on her way and would ge at the pier in five minutes. We went back to the bait shop on the pier to wait for Peg.
She arrived as advertised, a short woman with white hair who wore a navy blue Animal Rescue jacket. She held a tiny blanket in her hands and was amazed that the bird let me pick it up.
“You found the bird on the beach?” she asked as she covered the bird with the blanket and held it against her chest.
“No,” I said, “it was rolling around in the waves.”
“You know,” she said, “you saved this bird’s life. You’re a hero.”
We walked off the pier together. “You know, the bait shop has our phone number and also a place where you can give a donation.”
As we parted to go to our own cars, she said, “We’ll keep this fledgling unless we’re sure it doesn’t have diarrhea or any injuries. Once its wings are fully developed for flying, we’ll release it into the wild. Thank you for what you did.”
Update that afternoon: Don at the center told me “Your pigeon is quite thin, but otherwise healthy. We’re hydrating and feeding it. Call back in 3-4 days for an update.”
I had another dream that night, only this time, a happy dream. I held the bird I’d rescued in my arms and felt a deep sense of love and peace. I was a hero. I’d saved a tiny creature from death.
The next morning, I looked up the Wildlife Rescue on the internet. I saw pictures of raccoons, birds and some animals I didn’t recognize. Across the top were words like contact, history and the one that struck me—volunteer.
I knew I couldn’t just drop by and see the bird I’d rescued, who in my mind I’d named Walter Pigeon, after an old-time movie star my mother liked. Their address wasn’t even listed, but the history said it was located in a secluded spot. I didn’t think they wanted people dropping buy, gawking at the animals, trying to feed them crackers and peanuts and taking pictures of them. They were to be respected and cared for in a loving way. I liked that.
The next thing I knew, I was downloading the volunteer application. I started filling it out, then got a little nervous when they asked for my address and phone number.
What if I went there and a snake bit me or a rabid raccoon swiped me with its claws? I
Calmed myself down. The animals were in cages,Yes, I might have to clean the bottom of their homes, but they’d teach me a way to do that so I’d be safe.
I also got to choose what kind of jobs I’d like to do. I didn’t have a car, so I couldn’t drive to places where animals were in danger. I wanted to take care of animals anyway, so that didn’t bother me. Sure, I wanted to see Walter Pigeon, but I wanted to see the look in the eyes of other animals I helped. That’s what was so satisfying.
Stay tuned for part 2 of Wildlife Rescue.