Seven birds and one sea turtle have come in during the first two days of 2012. I seem to have spent the entire day today (Jan. 2) rescuing odd birds in odd places. First was a double-crested cormorant in the dunes that took a lot of catching. Some cormorants are suffering from lingering red tide toxicity effects, and although they are uncoordinated, unsteady and disoriented, they can still dash into the sea more rapidly than I can dash anywhere. Huffing and puffing, I did manage to net it, but then found myself standing in front of a tailgate that needed two hands to open, yet my two hands were holding an angry cormorant with a very sharp bill. I managed to get it into one of the carriers but could not close the door, because the now really angry cormorant had regained its strike accuracy and was jabbing wherever it saw my fingers trying to close the latches. I do have some of this on video.
The next bird was a young red-tailed hawk and not so difficult to capture, because it could not stand or fly. It was on a farm in Gregory and took the rest of the morning to get. As soon as I got back, there was a call about a white bird with a red head in the King’s Crossing development. The homeowner thought it was a domestic turkey, but I thought it was something else. It had its legs tied up together with string, they said, and thought they might be able to catch it, take the string off and let it go.
It was a helmeted Guinea fowl, an ornamental bird originally from Africa but bred here as exotic bird pets. Despite being hobbled by string, it could still run very fast and had me huffing and puffing again, but I got it. I don’t know who tied the legs together, but it certainly didn’t look like an accidental entanglement.
In addition, with another cormorant found wandering around the University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI) grounds, 2012 could be following the trend of 2011: A record year for the ARK. Statistics for 2011 accompany this column.
Writing now as director of the ARK, I want to thank the ARK staff and volunteers for keeping us going on every day of 2011, including the holiday just passed, and all the people who have contributed financially to enable us to handle this number of animals in distress. We are the only wildlife rehabilitation facility in the Coastal Bend that does all three of the “Rs:” Rescue, rehabilitation and release of wildlife. So, thanks to the Friends of the ARK, Friends of Padre, the Parrotheads of Port Aransas, Luis Garcia and his artist friends, Kris Wimer, the Family Center IGA, Coffee Waves, Stripes, Bill Ellis Memorial Library, Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce-Tourist Bureau, A Celebration of Cranes, Sand- Fest, the South Jetty, UTMSI (including its maintenance, custodial, grounds and security crews), Mission Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve and especially all the people who contribute financially and by volunteering to our continued operation in 2012.
Happy New Year!
Tony Amos is a research fellow at UTMSI and director of the ARK.