We have a camp (cottage) on a secluded pond (lake.) I use the parentheses because in Maine a camp can be a pretty large cottage. Also, what we think of as a pond is a large lake in other parts of the world.
One day we decided to go for a canoe ride. It was a beautiful day on the pond, but then we saw a ruckus on the surface quite far away. We paddled faster. As we got closer we realized that it was a bird causing all of that commotion. A big osprey was flapping wildly on the surface and was obviously in distress.
If you see an osprey up close, they are pretty impressive. They have a wingspan that can stretch up to six feet. Their beak is formidable and their talons are made to shred fish. It was only after this ordeal that I read that they fend off predators with their talons and not their beaks. A little gem to keep in mind should you be in a similar situation!
I am not a person to leave an animal in distress. I am also not a person who will be torn to shreds if I can help it. What to do? I wasn’t going to leave him there and that was that, but I had no idea how I was going to make this work. Poor Bill thought I was out of my mind when I jumped out of the canoe.
Luckily I was pretty close to shore, maybe a little more than 50 feet. When I hit the water I tried to stand up, and I did, and then I fell back in. Luckily it was shallow but the rocks were covered in slime and my bare feet didn’t have a hope of gaining traction. You’ll just have to imagine my swimming and pushing against slimy rocks where I could. I would have given a lot of money to know what that injured osprey thought of my performance. It wasn’t exactly graceful, but it got me to the wooded and rocky shore. I looked around for anything that might help, and there it was, the branch of my dreams. That’s not a sentence that’s uttered all that often, but it should be. Branches are important and deserve to be dreamt of occasionally!
The amazing part of this story was the size and shape of this dreamy branch. That branch was big enough so that the osprey could get a good grip and it fit in the canoe perfectly. The T shape kept the branch from rolling when balancing it on the sides of the canoe. Just another tip to keep in mind; it’s always good to keep your wounded osprey upright. Once I got that perfect branch, I was in business. I did my slime/swim back to the canoe and tried to get the bird to perch on the branch. I finally succeeded much to my surprise. Bill was a little overwhelmed when he realized that I was trying to situate a big bird in the canoe for a trans-pond passage.
I managed to get the bird, who was clinging to the branch, steadied in the canoe. I climbed back in. To this day I don’t know how I did it without tipping us over, losing the bird, or injuring someone. Can you imagine the conversation in the emergency room? “I broke my something or other while trying to climb into a canoe while steadying an osprey on a branch in preparation for a trip across the pond. No, I do not run an osprey transportation service on a regular basis! Yes, I realize my feet are red and green because they have slime and blood on them. Some of those rocks were sharp! Yes, that’s my husband over there whose face is showing concern, amusement, shock, and disbelief …all at once. I am sure they would call the psychiatric unit to prepare them for an intake.”
Back to the story… We were about a half mile from camp and we paddled back as slowly and cautiously as we could. The last thing I wanted was for the bird to panic and fly out of the canoe and flop around again. Actually, the last thing I wanted was to be slashed by a distressed bird whose wingspan matched the height of my husband!
It took a while and we finally got back to camp. Then we were left with a new problem. What now? We had no phone at camp so Bill drove to the nearest place that did and made a few calls. No one dealt with wounded osprey. I can’t imagine why. I would think any animal lover would be more than happy to take an osprey in. Especially a wounded VERY angry and dangerous osprey. Alas, I was wrong. I was very, very wrong. We found no takers. Luckily the person whose phone Bill used had a big appliance box. I put the osprey in the big box and left him next to the camp. I don’t remember how I did it, but it must have been a spectacular example of osprey-moving engineering. All I cared about was that I managed to avoid the beak and the talons. In spite of the osprey’s demeanor, I was all worried about leaving him there. But we had to head home to continue the calling.
Someone somewhere had to be knowledgeable about birds of prey. Someone had to help him. I had visions of keeping a big bird who couldn’t fly supplied with fish for the rest of my life. It was bad enough having rock slime on my feet. Having fish slime on my hands for decades on end was just going too far in the slime department.
We finally found a bird rehab guy that lived fairly far away, but he was willing to take the bird and do what he could. We made a donation to the rehab center and hoped for the best. Later we found out that the osprey had a broken wrist. I didn’t even know birds had wrists! The things you learn when you attempt a crazy bird rescue!
The rehab place helped him as much as they could and set him free on the coast where other ospreys gather in the fall. We’ll never know if he made it or not, but we do know we did all we could to give him the best chance of success.
I still have that T-shaped branch in the porch at camp.
Every time I look at it I think about that beautiful bird. I also think about how thankful I am that I didn’t have to tell an ER doc why my feet looked like they were decorated for Christmas.