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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Catbird Rescue

Working at home on Monday, it was around noon when a tweet came in from Will Pollard. He was birding in Prospect Park and spotted a Gray Catbird caught on discarded fishing line and hanging from a tree. I made a few suggestions for who to contact, then went back to work. Another message came through a short time later that he couldn't get in touch with anyone. I stopped what I was doing, grabbed my bike and headed up to the park.

Will tried to contact Martin Woess, who works for the Prospect Park Alliance in their forestry division. As an animal advocate he also frequently receives calls to rescue pets or wild animals in distress. He helped me back in spring of 2010 when a bat became snared in discarded fishing line. I stopped at the park offices in the Litchfield Villa thinking they could locate him. They called his office extension but, given his job, I wasn't optimistic he would be at his desk. He wasn't, so I decided to pedal around the park looking for landscape management vehicles. I eventually spotted a large truck parked next to the Nethermead Meadow and stopped to talk to the guy sitting behind the wheel. Explaining that I was looking for Martin to help with a bird rescue, he calmly replied, "Why don't I just give him a call on the radio".

Martin was tied up with a group of volunteers doing a phragmite mitigation project on Prospect Lake. He'd have to wait until a break to meet us. I told them the location of the bird then headed off to meet Will to give him the news and see if there was anything we could do in the meantime.

The catbird was on the north side of the Peninsula along a narrow stretch of water that flows out of the Lullwater. Lots of fishermen frequent the water's edge around this wooded promontory that juts into Prospect Lake. Unfortunately, when casting their lines they often catch overhanging branches, then just cut the lines leaving the hooks and lengths of monofiliment behind. The list of animals trapped by this deadly refuse that I've helped rescue (or been unable to) is too long: Mute Swan, Brant, Canada Goose, Mallard, Double-crested Cormorant, Spotted Sandpiper, Herring Gull, American Crow, American Robin, Baltimore Oriole, Little Brown Bat and, now, Gray Catbird.

The bird was hanging pretty high up in a mature hackberry tree. The branch was out over the water, so it would have to be approached from above. Will and I looked on helplessly as the bird struggled. The lure had a pair of treble hooks, one of which was through the catbird's nostril. With no place to grab onto with his feet, the young bird was hanging from his bill. Blood was visible on its mouth. It was anyone's guess how long he had been there. Periodically his body would go limp and we worried it was too late to help. Within a few minutes Martin Woess and Peter Dorosh arrived to assess the situation. It was immediately clear that the situation was dire. Martin got on the radio and called in the park's professional tree climbers. Here is what happened next:

Update: Martin brought the catbird over to Sean Casey Animal Rescue. Sean looked it over and transported it to a vet. It is now with a wildlife rehabilitator recovering from a broken leg and mouth injuries.

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