Jan 28, 2012

'Bridled' grebe

Late Tuesday, we received a report of a Western grebe in Berkeley Aquatic Park with some type of plastic band through its mouth and around its neck. Surprisingly, the bird could still dive.

Sadly, as it turns out, the bird had been spotted in this condition on Saturday. Locals tried to rescue it, without success.

Diving birds are nearly impossible to capture by boat during daylight. To have the greatest chance of success, we would have to organize night operations.

It took quite a bit of doing, to say the least, but we managed to arrange a rescue for Thursday evening. Waterside Workshops, located at the North end of Aquatic Park, was a tremendous help, providing a selection of boats and boat operators. 

By late afternoon on Thursday, the bird was spotted in the lagoon. Somehow it had managed to get its mouth free, but the material was still wrapped around the bird's neck. It was observed diving repeatedly - presumably feeding, as it had probably gone without food for days. 

By 7:30 PM the team was assembled on scene. One of our lead responders, Lisa, Development Director for Golden Gate Audubon Society, was appointed Rescue Coordinator. She was joined by another East Bay responder, Rachel. Bob, who had originally reported the bird on Tuesday, was kind enough to pick up and charge the high power searchlights, and bring them to the boathouse.

After a briefing, the team searched the lagoon methodically, scanning for the injured bird. It was no where to be found. We learned, too late, that someone had been chasing after it, by boat - this may have driven it out of the area. The team will return Friday to have another look.

As a reminder, injured animals must not be chased after repeatedly. In fact, many strategies involve drawing an animal in close. 

There may be only one opportunity to attempt a capture of a wild animal. Therefore, rescuers must develop a capture plan that has the greatest chance of being successful, and take the time it takes to assemble everything they will need for the greatest chance of success.

You can read more about building successful capture plans in the new book by Rebecca Dmytryk, Wildlife Search and Rescue a Guide for First Responders - available from the author at a discounted rate, HERE

Thanks to Bob for these new images of the grebe, which show this may be a simple rubber band caught around the bird's neck. When it tries to preen the band, its bill gets caught.

GREBE RESCUE UPDATE 1-29-12 PM Responders could not find the bird today. Yesterday, however, a Western was spotted, and it had a peculiar dark patch on its neck. We believe the grebe manage to break the rubber band and is now free of it.

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