Sunday, March 13, 2016

Is That a Bird In Your Pocket?

Yes, yes it is. The bird, a Long-tailed Duck, is in a pocket. And I put it there. But it is not my pocket.

It is Cliff Hence's pocket. It was fortunate that Cliff had such big pockets. Otherwise, it would have been difficult to carry the duck back to his car. But I'm getting ahead of the story here.

Yesterday, Patty led her first field trip for the DVOC, to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. Known for its overwintering waterfowl and its sometimes treacherous jetty.

Patty in Action on the Jetty

I slipped and fell on the jetty yesterday, scraping my knee and getting my jeans dirty. My camera was fortunately unharmed in the incident. But this story isn't about me ...

One of the main attractions of Barnegat at this time of year is this handsome fellow, a male Harlequin Duck.

Brant were also common in the inlet.

And there were a good number of loons, both Common like the one shown below, and Red-Throated, which were camera shy.

We had but three species of shorebird, Dunlin, Purple Sandpipers, and Rudy Turnstones. Here is shot of the latter.

But the stars of yesterday's show were the Long-tailed Ducks, there were large flocks throughout the inlet. We heard them calling all morning.

But the bird in the pocket did not want her starring role.

Cliff was first to spot the bird, struggling to get out from between the large stones that form the jetty.

As you can see, these ducks need to build up speed before takeoff. And our poor trapped duck had no room for a takeoff run. So she was trying to jump out, without success.

Worse yet, she was being pummeled against the rocks as the wave broke over the jetty.

Cliff had by then sat down on the rocks and was trying to lift the bird with his feet, but it was wary of us and kept out of range. Then fate smiled on the bird and washed it closer to Cliff. He quickly moved into the space between the rocks, trapping the bird in a smaller space from which he could retrieve it.

But when he tried to lift it up, he was surprised to find that he could not. It was hooked. And the hook was attached to fishing line that was snagged somewhere below. Fortunately I had a pocket knife and with the help of third birder we managed to cut the line. But we could not remove the hook from the bird.

So Cliff handed the bird to me and climbed up from between the rocks. I had called a local wildlife rehab center, Woodford Cedar Run and they had agreed to take the bird. So now we needed to get it there. And that's where Cliff's pocket came in. We put the bird in his pocket, which both calmed the bird and held it securely as we headed back down the jetty to the parking lot.

This jetty.

With all those slippery rocks. And we were all the way out at the end. Imagine needing to hold a duck, with both hands, and trying to negotiate this. Thanks to Cliff's Big Pockets we did not have to.

It took a while, but Cliff and I made it back to the cars. Cliff punched in Cedar Run's address to his GPS unit and was soon off. He later emailed that he had made it to Cedar Run and that the hook had been successfully removed. Cliff also posted a video of the bird struggling on his Facebook page.

It was a nice trip on a great morning to be out. And thanks to Cliff's efforts one that had a happy ending for one Long-tailed Duck.

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