Look at that eye! Imagine, this Northern Gannet has a wingspan of five feet! And look at that beak!
Yep, we had the day all planned out. Read the Sunday Times, take walks, have a nice quiet lunch, watch birds. What? Watch birds?? Did we go wrong there? We watched bird, not birds–an injured Northern Gannet found walking on our busy one lane dirt road. A road thick with bikes, scooters, walkers, and dogs, lots of dogs. And, although the Northern Gannet is a huge bird (about a five foot wingspan), both dogs and bird would be hurt badly in a fight. I can vouch for that. This guy lunged at me, and I had to side step him quickly. He was injured, scared, tired, and probably in shock. I would've lunged too.
I tried using a big flannel sheet as a foil, which usually works with animals. I can help them negotiate their way back to safe territory by holding a blanket in my hands, like a toreador with a cape, and forcing them to walk the way I want, but not with this guy. He had his mind made up. He was doing it his way or no way. So he lashed out at me, and I danced a sideways jig while trying to get him into a big plastic box.
Jeff was on the phone talking with the sheriff's department, and then finally, finding out about Avian Haven, a group of caring, hard working people who save and care for over a thousand birds each year (1,571 in 2012). They are one of the largest rehabilitation practices in New England.
Sorry, I couldn't photograph the process of getting him into the box, but we did, and then Jeff slid a piece of cardboard under the box and lifted it enough to get the blanket underneath. We used the blanket as a sling and moved the frantic bird into our flat-floored trunk and folded down the back seat to give it air.
We drove an hour north and met up with the Avian Haven rescue man, Marc Payne. He is a dedicated bird lover who gives freely of his time and care, but believe me, Avian Haven could sure use some donations to help it keep doing its work.
Marc pulled on his protective gloves (he has many scars to show for his work), lifted the box, and reached inside.
He grabbed the Gannet's beak (smart move) and slipped the bird out of the box.
And he ran.
Tipped the Gannet upside down.
And tucked it into...
...a big dog kennel.
Look at those wild eyes.
This is a bird I've seen only a few times. Last summer I watched about 200 of them flying over John's Bay, diving and catching fish. They look enormous with their wings spread. You can see how powerful the huge beak must be. They can dive into the water from as far as 130 feet in the air, and then swim to a depth of 70 plus feet in pursuit of fish and squid. I never dreamed that we would have the chance to see one and look into its wild and beautiful eyes.
Well, there is always next Sunday.
Sending love across the miles,
p.s. Your tax-deductible donations enable the success of Avian Haven's mission of top-quality care for wild birds. Contribute on-line at www.avianhaven.org or by check to Avian Haven, 418 N. Palermo Rd., Freedom, ME 04941.