Sunday, March 6, 2011

Calling all Crows - Trickery in the Rookery

Catch and Release - Bird Style

True story.

Marie, her son and I went on a camping trip on Cottonwood Pass by Mt Yale (one of the Collegiate Peaks north of Salida and south of Leadville) and were fishing Chalk Creek above the Hot Springs.

While out scouting the back roads by Mt Princeton, we came across a big clear pond full of rises. Bigger rainbows were laying off the shore, some cruising around the pond, most watching. We quickly decided to get the fishing poles and test our luck.

Across the pond, a Raven was hopping along and doing short hop flights. The activity caught my attention and I noticed he seemed injured, so I decided to walk over to get a closer look. He let me get close, which was a sure sign something was up.

I sat down on the bank and he hopped closer like he was begging food. Close enough to where I could see mono wrapped tightly around both feet with several lead sinkers dangling from a few loose loops in the mono. Not a pretty sight.

Fast forward, I left and came back with some bread or bun and started baiting him with small pieces. He was hungry and definately in survival mode. Hanging out by the pond either catching injured fish, eating dead fish, maybe fish guts left around the pond, or inticing anglers like me to feed him, to keep from starving.

He was weak, if startled he would fly a short line over the water, but he never tried to cross it. I don't think he could get any elevation and he quickly landed. He didn't mind if you approached him again either.

I was likely not the first to try to catch him, but since I love crows and do enjoy a challenge,  I tried sitting and the 'toss him a snack' trick used on camp robbers, no luck. No way would he get in arms reach, he had already figured out human range. He would hop in, close enough to get outlying baits, but no way would he cross the line that ensured his escape should I try to move fast.

Finally, either he knew he got all the treats he was getting or he tired of the silly two legged feeder and flew a short distance away from the pond, landing on the floor of a small foot bridge, along one edge, but still within sight where he continued to scope me out.

Now it gets fun.

I slowly walked over to the far side of the bridge which was just tall enough to let me think I could sneak under it. He stayed put as we had our standoff and studied each other.  I was wearing a hat and put it on the bridge's bottom rail to try to keep his attention diverted, as I ducked under the bridge. I carefully and quietly crouch walked  the few steps under the bridge (raven still hunting) expecting him to figure out the diversion and take off.

Still crouching, I got positioned for a quick look and the big move. To my surprise I looked up to see the ravens hind parts within reach. He was still standing there, I guess studying my hat, or maybe recounting tales of the Lion and the Mouse. I grabbed his butt and tail feathers and things got way exciting real fast, other worldly exciting. A surprised raven is a big wild bird.

What a ruckus, wings flapping, feet raking, screaming, I held on and got his wings confined, holding him away from me as I brought him back to the big pond while being raven bit, cursed in raven talk, and getting literally chewed out.

Traded a hat for a raven - good deal! or was it?

Marie and Paul were laughing but in awe seeing me carrying him back to the pond . I sat down and took a look at the fish line wrapped tightly around his legs and feet, one so tight his toes were swollen, the other not so bad. Marie had a fingernail clippers on her and that was to be the surgical instrument.  Paul shed his shirt and wrapped it over Mr.Midnight's head and wings to better confine him, quiet him down and stop his biting my arms and hands. Paul had him kind of held, my adrenaline rush was subsiding and I moved around to start unraveling and snipping away the line with the fingernail clippers. They worked pretty good, maybe his foot was numb. 

With heart racing and wild with adrenalin, I was able to quickly get most line removed but had to dig and snip the tight wraps off which got him raking again. I finally felt the job was close enough to done and I pulled off the shirt as Paul let him loose to fly off and up this time.

Long story, but kind of has a point. Birds suffer slow deaths from carelessly discarded fishing line. Osprey, eagles, ravens, ducks, geese, all suffer injuries and can die slow deaths tangled in discarded line. Ask any Raptor Rescue about it.

Rescues are rare and are not the normal end. Gather up any discarded line you see and put it in a pocket until you can properly dispose of it.

Always on top her game, Marie got a few pictures of me trying to catch him, then with him in my hands and before the release to set him free started. She made into a 3 picture sequence picture frame. I still have the string and sinkers somewhere around. Just took digitals of the prints, kind of bleached out and flat but still evidence!

Noise on the Line!


Anonymous said...

Great post, John! Hooray for your efforts in helping the poor bird out. It is a message well received. Pick up the garbage and take it home and discard it correctly.

JM said...

Very cool of you to save the bird! I volunteered some at a Raptor Rescue center in the past and I totally agree with what you are saying. I've untangled more than my share of birds from someone else's discarded line.