Sunday, May 12, 2019

A grebe story



I had a regularly scheduled meeting to attend in Minnesota.  I’m like the mayor of a small town except that it isn’t, it is just a campground and I’m called the president, but it might as well be one.  My job is like the mayor's and I do everything a mayor would.  It was an elected position, most-likely the only elected position I’ll ever have or for that matter, will ever stand for.  As meetings go, this one promised nothing special, unlike the one from the previous month where we had to budget added repairs to infrastructure damage caused by snow, rodents, and extreme weather.  Its scheduled date of May 10th promised to land me some spring migrants we don’t see farther west.  We arrived on Thursday the day after I had dental surgery in Watertown, South Dakota.  It was from an injury I sustained way back in my big year 2016.  It was something I received on St Paul Island and used to get an emergency seat on a full plane to get out of the island on my last visit there in October of that year. 
            In Minnesota, I had to supervise the spring repairs and building projects.  The electrician was still working on some severe damage to the wiring of the pool which required a complete rewiring and the next morning as I went out for a walk and spotted two new migrants for the year, a gray-cheeked thrush and quite a few, rose-breasted grosbeaks both in the trees and the place of the couple we went at into the southern hemisphere together.  It is always nice for people to have feeders

So, while I was walking my dog, I got an unexpected text from our ground’s supervisor, who hadn’t realized I was three blocks away.  I expected he was going to report more damage and more expenses but surprisingly, what I got was just another bird consult.  Well, it wasn’t just another one.  I get bird consultations all the time, in fact, this was the fourth one this week. “What kind of bird is this?”  Jim’s text said along with a picture of a bird. 
            I looked at the picture and never answered, I was walking down to the pool area in search of a rather odd bird to be seen on land.  I ran into Kelly; the assistant electrician and she was finishing up the wiring for our new sauna.  Her boss was ankle deep in wiring the pool shed.  She showed me the bird. There in the grass was a red-necked grebe.  Grebes have a problem on land, they cannot use their feet to get upward propulsion to take off, so it was stranded.  I wondered how this bird got there.  I looked at the alert and very scared bird.  It had some sort of neck injury and was bleeding.  Maybe it hit a tree?  I had no idea.  It was a bird that nests near my cabin and one that I expected to arrive any day on Enemy Swim Lake in South Dakota, but one I hadn’t seen yet in 2019, but even though it counted it was an odd deal.  Here I was looking at a bird that needed help.  I felt it was an omen that this bird would choose near to where I was walking my Springer spaniel to crash land.  I guess it came here for me to help it, that was all I could deduce so I had to do what I could.
            I thought about it for a moment and then began a very tiring set of texts, emails, and phone calls.  I tired federal, state, county and agencies I didn’t know who controlled them.  I wasn’t very easy to find an injured bird rehab center, or at least someone to even answer their telephone and give me some sort of direction.  It was Friday and 10 AM and it appeared everyone had gone home early for the Minnesota fishing opener.  I got answering machine after answering machine and the only humans I talked to, politely told me I was calling the wrong office.  The State office in Cambridge referred me to an office 40 miles farther away.  I called a Federal office in St. Cloud and they just said “sorry.”  One woman was only on her third day and she found some sort of a list and gave me a name.  Unfortunately, the call to this woman named only informed me that she had given up her license to rehab birds two years earlier to take care of her ailing mother.
            Luckily, the birders in Minnesota came through with lots of posts on Facebook and gave me the directions to a rehab center 35 miles away.  I got many leads from a Facebook message I posted.  They told me where to go.  The only problem was getting the bird there.  This grebe had a sharp bill, a long neck and would not take to getting into a box very easily.  My first problem was to get more protective clothes on.  I couldn’t have the bird poke me in an eye or cut my arm.
            Five minutes later, two electricians, my wife and I were trying to get the grebe safely secured without any of us losing an eye.  Two of us held boxes, and we had initially planned to throw a sheet on it.  Unfortunately, the bird had moved to the very center of the covered pool, a cover that had recently been damaged by either a running deer or a peg-leg pirate chasing a treasure.  It was hard to determine.  We were submitting a claim to the insurance company.  It is shocking how expensive pool covers are.  There was no way we could walk on that.  I was also worried the bird may fall into a hole as the bird was sitting near a good-sized hole.  One electrician used the pool skimmer encouraged the bird to get on to the edge of the pool, where I put the box on top of it and we got it in the correct way carefully and gently carried the bird to my waiting car.
            With my wife sitting beside it keeping the lid on top, we sped to Roseville and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota.  We could hear the bird move as we went around corners, so we knew it was still alive.  It took only 35 minutes and without any further events, we checked it in and dropped off the bird to the professionals.  

Certainly, it was the first red-necked grebe they’d have this year.  It had lost a lot of blood and it was severely hurt but at least I had got it there, its prognosis by remaining where we found it was zero.  It was all I could do; I had done a good deed.  Maybe it was just doing what another living creature should do?  I block traffic to get turtles of the road and removed toads stuck in our window box.  I don’t expect a reward for doing what one should do, but they say good deeds never go unpublished.  I hoped my punishment would not be too severe.  In the end I could only be a driver and could only say a little prayer for the poor grebe.  I hope it was enough.
            A year bird with a bit of a story, a red-necked grebe I won’t soon forget.

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