Firemen Rescue Pelican

So last night I decided to go to one of my favorite places, the North Jetty in Nokomis, to see if the ‘green flash’ would appear at sunset.  Conditions were perfect…low humidity, blue sky, no clouds in sight.  Packed up a thermos of coffee and off I go.

When I arrive however, a crowd has gathered in the parking lot and a fire truck is on the scene. My first thought was someone became ill or was injured, but it quickly became apparent that something else was going on.  Everyone was looking up, at the top of a tall pine.


And there it was…a pelican, hanging upside-down by it’s foot (or feet, hard to tell), flapping it’s wings in an effort to free itself.  No doubt the pelican was dragging fishing line or netting, which became entangled when the bird went to roost.  It was a pitiful sight and looked pretty impossible…but the Nokomis Fire Dept. was on it.  It was a difficult rescue, as the bird was at the top of the tree.  It took the firemen several attempts to correctly position the truck and ladder..complicated by the fact that the truck with the bigger ladder was at the scene of a structure fire, so this shorter ladder would have to do.


After sunset (which I never did see, as the gulf is behind all the focus on the rescue) the firemen were successful in getting the ladder as close as possible…which still left about a 10 foot gap between the top rung and the bird.  In the dark, one of the firemen climbed the ladder with a long hooked pole.  It took him several minutes to grab the branches and pull the exhausted pelican to him.  Of course, the pelican rewarded him by trying to bite, but the fireman was undaunted.  He finally got a grip on the bird and brought him down, to the cheers and applause of the crowd.

Once on the ground, it quickly became apparent that none of the firemen knew how to handle a pelican.  There I go (having worked in the seabird hospital and knowing how) and suddenly I find myself kneeling on the ground behind the firetruck with a very weary and injured pelican in my arms.   The bird had a nasty 2-inch fishing lure imbedded in its leg.  The lure was trailing a few feet of line, which had caught in the tree branches.

We moved the bird away from the truck, and I held it in the relative calm darkness while the firemen attempted to find a wildlife rescuer who could take the bird to the hospital.  About 45 minutes later, I handed the pelican off to the rescuer from the Wildlife Center of Venice, who responded to the call and took the bird to their hospital.  I’ll check on its progress and report here how it’s doing.

Never did see the sunset, but well worth missing it.

Spring Count

I had a great time birding on Saturday morning for the Spring count.  My list for the day, from just before sunrise to about 2 PM.

60 species

Eastern Bluebird

Wild Turkey  4
Turkey Vulture  7
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2
Chuck-will’s-widow  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2
Red-headed Woodpecker  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  4
Downy Woodpecker  3
Northern Flicker  1
Pileated Woodpecker  6
Eastern Wood-Pewee  16
Eastern Phoebe  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  3
White-eyed Vireo  5
Red-eyed Vireo  30
Blue Jay  5

Nashville Warbler

American Crow  19
Cliff Swallow  6
Carolina Chickadee  12
Tufted Titmouse  8
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Carolina Wren  11
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  13
Eastern Bluebird  3
Swainson’s Thrush  2
Wood Thrush  16
American Robin  7
Gray Catbird  1
Brown Thrasher  4
European Starling  10
Ovenbird  24
Blue-winged Warbler  4
Black-and-white Warbler  5
Nashville Warbler  3
Common Yellowthroat  6
Hooded Warbler  24
American Redstart  5


Northern Parula  2
Magnolia Warbler  1
Blackburnian Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  2
Chestnut-sided Warbler  5
Pine Warbler  1
Yellow-throated Warbler  1
Prairie Warbler  6
Wilson’s Warbler  1
Yellow-breasted Chat  10
Eastern Towhee  9
Chipping Sparrow  7
Song Sparrow  8
Scarlet Tanager  5
Northern Cardinal  19
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  4
Indigo Bunting  18
Red-winged Blackbird  5
Brown-headed Cowbird  3
Baltimore Oriole  4
American Goldfinch  2

International Migratory Bird Day and Spring Counts

Northern parula warbler

Also known as International Bird Migration Day, or simply Bird Day –  the big event is tomorrow,  Saturday, May 12.  Celebrated  in the USA, Mexico, Central America, and Canada,  IMBD was created in 1993 by the Smithsonian Institute, in an effort to raise awareness about migratory birds and migration.  In some areas the date may vary, but most counts take place on the second Saturday in May.

The day is celebrated in different ways around the country, with most nature centers and environmental organizations hosting educational programs, bird walks, banding demonstrations, and bird-related activities.  It’s also the time in the USA when birders head out for the annual Spring Count, which is exactly what it sounds like.  Counting all the birds  you see and/or hear in a day.

This count takes place throughout the country.  A Google search for spring bird count or International Bird Migration Day will lead you to many sources and resources for this event.

Since I’m not banding this year, I’ll be heading out before sunrise with millions of other birders to participate, and I’ll post my list here on Sunday.


Sometimes, I just have to wonder.  The butterfly and bird- frequented puddle at the ‘quarry’ down the road, which I mentioned in this post, is obviously a spring-fed puddle.  It’s there year round, rain or not.  There are springs and hidden streams very near – on a quiet day you can hear them bubbling under the rocks.  The cave opening in the quarry wall has enlarged itself many times over due to running water.  This puddle is not in anyone’s driveway, not where it can interfere with the comings and goings of Man.  It IS a puddle where I’ve spent literally hours, observing literally hundreds of butterflies and birds around it and in it,  drinking and bathing.

Well – the highway dept. came through a few weeks ago and patched the potholes in the road, even repaving a section that was particularly bad.  Very nice.  But did they have to put that last bit of leftover blacktop in this spring-fed puddle?  Really?

Tarred puddle

Of course, it may not matter in the long run that the puddle is now contaminated with tar.  Last spring, the power company came through and cleared and cut the vegetation under the power lines.  Understood – this is a necessary thing, and it keeps my power on during a storm.  But, they did this in May and June, at the height of the breeding season.  I can’t even imagine how many bird nests and young were destroyed.  They also trimmed the lines along the road just down from the spring, which were thick with milkweed, butterfly weed, and black-eyed Susans.  Not one plant survived to bloom last summer, and there weren’t many butterflies to be seen either.  One can only hope that the plants will recover and bloom this summer.

And this, mind you, takes place in a national forest.

I do think I will pay the ranger station a visit….

Banding – Not This Year

Sad to say, I won’t be banding here anymore unless I hit the lottery or KY changes the state permit fee.  Let me explain, very simply.  All master banders in the USA must have a federal permit.  Most states in the USA acknowledge that the federal permit is adequate and do not require  additional state permits.  Some states do require a state permit as well – in which case, a bander must obtain a state permit in order to band legally.  Those states that do require a state permit normally charge a permit fee of around $25 for the year.

A few years ago (2003, I think) when I first banded in KY, my state permit fee was $25.  Imagine my surprise last year when I applied for the permit again after being away for several years – and the permit fee was $250.00.  Now, technically, according to the KY regulations, the fee applied to banders who were receiving renumeration for banding, i.e. through a university or museum etc.  If the bander was banding for educational purposes, there was no fee for the state permit.  I didn’t fit into either category (like most banders, I am an independent, volunteer bander operating a small station).  After several emails and questions about regulations, the powers that be decided I had to go ahead and pay the $250 fee if I wanted to band birds in KY.

Since I had already ordered nets, bands, and obtained permission from the landowner of my site, and since I had some extra funds laying around, I paid the fee last year.

This year, KY has reduced its state permit fee to $100 – but it is still $75-100 more than most states.  This year, I don’t have a lot of extra cash laying around, and  I have to think about the long-term cost of this, year after year.  Just not feasible for me.  It becomes a matter of principle too – I don’t shop at stores that over-charge for products, so why should I have to do it here?  At some point you have to just say no more.

SO – no, there won’t be any more banding unless I win the lottery (in which case,  I probably would set this particular principle aside haha), or KY does away with  or reduces the state permit fee to $25.

It’s a shame really – this was a promising site and much good data could have come from this research, but oh well.  I will continue to observe and monitor and report.  It’s a little discouraging.  But my federal permit is good for years yet, and so I’ll just tuck the nets away, store my equipment, and wait and see.  The fee was reduced this year, so maybe it will change again in the future.

What I Learned Today

That you don’t watch a documentary on the Kentucky Bigfoot the night before you go banding alone before sunrise in a foggy misty field.  That squirrels cutting walnuts from trees are potentially dangerous monsters.  That howling coyotes and vocalizing barred owls are creepy when it’s dark and foggy.  That you have to have a sense of humor and real dedication to be doing this…or be a little bit nuts.

The day warmed quickly and more birds started moving after the fog lifted.  A new species for me was this lovely yellow-throated vireo.

Also banded a nice hermit thrush, easily separated from other thrushes by the noticeably reddish tail.

The colors are beginning to show and I’m enjoying the changes taking place in the field where I’m banding.  I set up the feeders at home and I’m getting the first regulars – Carolina chickadees, white and red breasted nuthatches, tufted titmice, and red-bellied woodpeckers.  Waiting for the goldfinches.  They are in the fields, but haven’t hit the feeders yet.

Bad Hair Day

A young male northern cardinal in molt, changing from the brown of adolescence to the brilliant red of maturity.

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