The call came in late on a Sunday afternoon. “There's a pelican on the beach with a broken leg, you have to help!” exclaimed the anguished beach-goer. I overheard as my fiance' talked to her mother and I listened non chalantly so as not to be accused of eaves dropping. Tania told me her Mom and Dad are watching a Pelican “flopping about on the beach " in obvious trouble. Having spent a summer of my youth studying Pelican Rescue and the young female interns associated with this effort, I felt prepared to offer my services to this humanitarian relief.
We jumped in the car and headed over to the scene. I brought along a towel to cover the wounded animal and a pair of wire snips in case there were any hooks involved as there usually are. When we arrived, the beach was calm and in the distance in the water was a lone pelican, not exactly distressed and corralled on the beach as I anticipated. At this point I was too far in to the rescue to turn back so I draped the towel over my shoulders and plunged into the sea to chase down the flailing bird. Injured birds can move pretty fast on the water. I swam out and the pelican swam farther out. Finally, feeling the fatigue of my shape and age, I swam around the bird and chased him toward shore so I could stand up and not drown or pass out. When I got close I draped the now cumbersome towel (why did I grab a big absorbent one?) over my head so I could sneak up on him. Sharks sneak up on pelicans not big guys with beach birkas breathing like the little engine that might. The Pelican got nervous and attacked me. After a few lunges, I was able to grab her by the bill and side stroke back towards the shore. She cooperated and was very helpful in dragging that towel that I now had placed over her head being careful not to sink her with the weight of the saturated cotton.
Having spent a summer of my youth studying Pelican Rescue and the young female interns associated with this effort, I felt prepared to offer my services to this humanitarian relief.
On shore, Tania and the Rodth family sprung into action and helped. Tania held the bird down while Tom and Nancy assisted me in removing a two treble hook lure from the Pelicans webbing. Several feet of monofilament had entangled the wings and legs and the bird possibly would have succumbed to the entrapment within a few days. Before release we noticed one older hook lodged in the skin in the neck area and operated to remove it.
Finished, we released the bird and I just sat there on the beach for a couple of minutes and rested. The Pelican actually just sat there with us looking as if we had fishy lolli pop treats for him to finish off his office visit. When I caught my breath, I picked her up and tossed her into the air. She spread out and flew over the ocean to the sounds of cheering from the onlookers that had gathered to witness the event. Just before she was out of sight, she turned and circled us, tipping one wing as to say thanks. It was suggested we should give the bird something to eat and I suggested, “If you want to help this bird give it a kick in the feathers, it is her familiarity with humans that got her into trouble to start with.” I am not advocating bird kicking but I think you get my point.