We called him ClemsPeli because the folks at Clem’s Marina were largely responsible for saving this brown pelican that otherwise would have died a lingering death, hanging by one wing from a high wire under the bridge at the John F. Kennedy Causeway.
It was such a satisfying rescue because when I first saw the bird hanging from this inaccessible place, I couldn’t imagine how we could get it. (See a video clip above.)
Hanging by a thread, the bird would fly off, using its one free wing, until the line brought it to a horrible halt, and it would swing to and fro, like an awful pendulum. It was pitiful to watch.
We got a truck from Corpus Christi Fire Station 15 to see if we could use their ladder, but the bird was far over the water, impossible to reach even with the ladder. Then came Clem’s Marina owner and operator, Sharon Gohkle, to the rescue. There’s an inbound shrimp boat, the Sea Horse, about to go under the bridge, she told me. Also, some of her workers were willing to climb the rigging and cut the bird down.
So, the bay shrimper, the Sea Horse, Capt. Terri Kotzur at the helm, nosed up to another boat docked at Clem’s, and we clambered aboard. The Sea Horse carefully maneuvered underneath the dangling bird (this was right in the middle of the busy Gulf Intracoastal Waterway), while Robert Tischler climbed to the top of a secured outrigger, Kevin Gordon climbed halfway up and I stationed myself below, net in hand, along with Denver Behrens for back up. As Robert made contact with the bird, holding its weight briefly, the wing remarkably became disentangled, and he lowered the bird to Kevin, who dropped it into the waiting net!
We took ClemsPeli to the ARK, where remarkably, on examination, he showed only some contusions on the wing and also showed he could still fly. With a couple of days R&R, ClemsPeli will be back where he belongs.
The Eleventh Duck
Sgt. Altan Guzeldere of the Corpus Christi Police Department was on duty later that day when a call came in about a family of ducks on South Padre Island Drive, near Weber Road. The parents were leading their brood down the freeway, unable to get the babies up over the median to safety. Traffic was stopped briefly, while sergeants Guzeldere, Gary Williams and Officer Bondstrychar tried unsuccessfully to catch the parents, but were able to get the babies.
Into a cardboard box they went, onto the back seat of Sgt. Guzeldere’s squad car. I met them at our “Animal Exchange Rendezvous” spot (the American Bank parking lot at Park Road 22 and State Hwy. 361), where the agile ducklings had hopped out of the box and were all over the car’s interior. They were all rounded up and put into the ARK rescue truck and, late at night, were hydrated (given water) and put on a heating pad to keep them warm. I was really worried about them because some were so tired, they lay down on their sides like little exhausted people flopping down in a bed. I was greatly relieved that all 10 were perky and upright on the morning of Monday, July 11.
Then I got the call that while Sgt. Guzeldere was on duty, around midnight, the Eleventh Duck emerged from the squad car’s dash! The duck has now joined his siblings in the ARK’s Duckery. There’s never a dull moment.
I want to personally thank Louis Sanchez, Friends of the ARK, Coffee Waves and all the artists who helped raise some much-needed funds for the ARK (now up to 768 birds, 215 sea turtles, some bunny rabbits and squirrels, and several land-based turtles and tortoises for this year, only half over) at the Art for the ARK event (see photo, this issue).
Tony Amos is a research fellow at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute and director of the ARK (Animal Rehabilitation Keep).