Thursday, July 28, 2011

Catch and Release

On a recent brilliant blue-sky day in San Francisco, my husband, daughter and I set out to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. As we strolled the Crissy Field shoreline a half mile or so from Fort Point and the bridge, we came upon a Brown Pelican standing at the water’s edge. He looked at us, not moving. His passivity seemed a little odd to me. Then I saw that he had a large fishhook caught in his mouth with a length of fishing line dangling from it. A man passing by noticed it too. His name was Carlos—the stranger who becomes an instant friend when someone is in need. Carlos clambered down the seawall to get a closer look at the bird. He seemed to me to have an affinity for animals, as though he’d grown up on a ranch or a farm. Together we wondered, "What can we do for this poor thing?" While Carlos edged closer to the bird, my family and I went into The Warming Hut, a café/bookstore nearby, where the staff gave us an animal rescue number.
My husband and daughter finally got to a live operator who finally told them that they could help if we brought the bird to their rescue center 5 miles on the other side of the bridge. Not a good option. I went back to the breakwater and our bird. I found Carlos very close to the pelican. The pelican kept standing quietly, occasionally flapping his wings feebly, almost as if asking for help. Carlos finally reached out and grabbed him, but just as quickly cradled him in his arms, laying the bird’s head in his lap. I climbed down the seawall and tried to gently remove the large hook. It was really lodged in his tissue, wouldn’t budge. I used more force. Still no success. I worried about creating more damage than the hook. Then another passerby clambered down the rocks and offered to help. At last, the three of us managed to remove the hook. All the while, the pelican lay amazingly still, as though it sensed our intentions. A few moments later, it was standing again by the water’s edge, a bit dazed but ready to fly free.
- Wenda O'Reilly

Have you had a bird encounter? Share your story in the comment box below.

The Brown Pelican appears in
“My Bird World” – a fun new
iPad app. Play 4 games and
learn about birds.

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