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.

Howling Coyotes and Ignorant Neighbors


Sunning Coyote Photo by Richard Spencer

There are coyotes in them thar woods.  For the past few weeks now, the coyotes have been singing – their yips and howls echoing down the canyon walls of Lake Cumberland and causing our dogs to bolt out the pet door into the fenced yard, barking and bristling at the hoodoos in the woods.  I love it.

Not everyone around here thinks the same as I do though.  One of our neighbors stopped by last night to chat with my hubs, and talked about how the coyotes were getting out of hand.  Too many of them, killing off the deer.  Really?  Is that really the case, or are you just a less-than-adequate hunter?

If one is lucky enough to either stay up all night (hardly) or be a very light sleeper who sleeps with her window open a few inches, no matter how cold it is, so she can hear the night sounds outside – and if one really listens  to the wild, wonderful serenade, one would be able to discern there are maybe five or six voices in the two,  rarely three – groups that are singing.  Granted, there may be several groups that don’t all call at once, and there’s no way to really know how many are out there – but I don’t think we’re surrounded and outnumbered by a population “out of hand.”  It’s also important to remember that these are coyotes,  not wolves, not cougars…and they pose no threat.  They most assuredly are not taking down full-grown deer.  There are plenty of those around here too; they probably outnumber the coyotes.

It’s winter – so there are no newborn fawns, which coyotes will take if they can. But coyotes are omnivores, eating whatever they can find.   This bunch of canine ruffians are more likely to be feeding on mice and voles, rabbits,  flying squirrels, skunks, insects, groundhogs, carrion, nuts, chipmunks, and yes, feral cats – though around here there’s a tree about every two feet so any cat with half a brain could save itself.  There is no shortage of feral cats around here either.  If you really think about it, coyotes prey on many of the animals people complain about having around in the first place!

Some coyotes will prey on farm animals like chickens, sheep and goats when the opportunity is available to them, but this usually happens when wild food sources become scarce.


As a matter of fact, another neighbor, about half a mile away through the woods behind our house, has a goat farm – for several years now.  I asked her if the coyotes have been a problem – especially since they have goat kids every spring – and if she puts them in the barn at night to protect them.  Nope.  No coyote problems, not even an attempt.  The coyotes sing all around the goat farm, but apparently prefer rodents to ruminants.

We live in the Daniel Boone National Forest, for Pete’s sake!  Personally, I feel privileged to be able to hear the coyotes at night, and have been known to leap out of bed and bolt out the door with the dogs (though I use the people door) just to hear them singing.  In a world gone crazy, it’s actually one of the most reassuring sounds.  It tells me that, at least in this particular place, all is right with the world, and all is as it should be.

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.

Rough Green Snake


Green snake, NWS photos

I saw my first green snake yesterday.  Unfortunately, it was dead in the road.  Road kills on this road always disturb me, since this road has very low traffic and one shouldn’t be going more than 40 mph anyway, due to the narrowness, twists and turns.

Of course I didn’t have my camera along, so I had to go searching for a useable photo.  The snake I saw was a rough green snake; I’m not sure if this one is a rough or smooth or if there’s a huge difference, but it’s close enough.

How someone didn’t see this bright green animal in the road, I can’t guess.  Probably it was discounted as a bit of tree branch, or grass, or some green plant, because green it was.

Another possibility is that it was run over on purpose, because that’s actually something of a ‘sport’ around here, though normally directed toward copperheads.

This snake was absolutely beautiful, and it saddened me to think my first encounter had to be with a corpse.   I did stop to be sure the snake was indeed dead, and not just stunned or injured.  I left it where it lay – and on my return trip a few hours later it was gone.  I do believe some crow or other bird had a tasty lunch, as there were several crows scoping out the area when I saw the snake.

Not a needless death then, after all.

So Wrong…But So Nice

January Dandelion

This is so wrong – but so nice.  I dislike winter  and so there is no complaining coming from me about this unusual weather.  But I do wonder about the consequences.  For instance, will we have enough water this spring – without the snowmelt?  I don’t pretend to know all of the effects this non-winter may have on the environment,  but I’m certain there will some side effects.  I’m guessing we’re going to have a heavy bug season this spring and summer.

January Daffodils

My daffodils should be hibernating in the dirt under last fall’s leaf litter, instead of pushing up through, about ready to bloom.  It’s a little weird.  But nice.

Cats, Snakes, and Trash Cans

So last night I’m working peacefully on my laptop on the bed before calling it a night.  My hubs is working in the music studio so I’m alone in the house and everything is quiet – except for my two cats, Claudia and Max, who are softly playing with something in the kitchen. .probably one of their toys.  After a few minutes I realize they’ve walked their toy into the bedroom and are sitting in the doorway, staring intently at the floor.  Then it hits me – they don’t actually have any toys.  I can’t see the floor for the edge of the bed..but I figure I probably should check this out. Whatever it is, it’s probably not good.  Claudia has a litter of kittens in the laundry room, and she probably has brought them a mouse.  Probably.

I don’t want a poor mutilated mouse in the bedroom.  So I get up and walk around the edge of the bed to see what’s so interesting and … SNAKE!  The freakin’ cats are toying with a live, slitherin’ snake!

Photo Courtesy LearnNC site; and The Beach Ranch Post, Texas

Good thing I’m the naturalist-type and not a screamer.  Closer inspection revealed it was a harmless ring-necked snake, but since my naturalist tendencies end at picking up snakes, I opted for the bathroom trash can and a wooden spatula.  Of course, while I was fetching the utensils of release, Claudia chased the thing under the bed, which then required moving furniture around at midnight to find it.  I was at last able to scoop the snake into the can and take it outside, where I released it into the cover of the rose bushes.  It seemed grateful.

No pictures of course – never even crossed my mind at that hour, but in searching for a photo with permission to use, I found this one on the Learn NC website, which actually looked like a pretty cool site and I’ll have to check it out another time.  The snake in the photo may not be the exact type of ring neck, but you get the idea.

Anyway, I officially dislike cats now – at least for a while.  Except for maybe kittens.

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.

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