Thursday, April 7, 2011

Grebe Expectations - Part 1 - Get the Duck Out of Here!

I was down in Lakeview last night.  Lakeview is a trendy, very busy, northside neighborhood that's busy with both pedestrian and auto traffic, pretty much 24/7.  There are a lot of dogs - to the point where many of the businesses on the main drag - Broadway - have doggy water bowls out in the summer and leash stations near the door.  Not a good place for wildlife to take a detour.

I got off the bus and was heading up the block when I see what I think is a small duck floundering right in the middle of very busy Broadway. A guy runs up and uses his dog to flush it on to the sidewalk, but by the way it was flying/floundering/waddling, I could tell it was either very young or pretty hurt. So I ran up to help. Or at least see if I could help.

By the time I got there it was across the sidewalk and flopping down a 6-step stairwell. Once it was down there a local guy got it cornered. Someone suggested getting a plastic bag to contain it in, but I said that might not be a good idea because some animals tend to eat plastic when it's 'offered.' I said a towel would be better.  All of a sudden I'm the wildlife expert on the block.

So another bystander, who I later learned was named Maggie got a small blanket from her car while I called 311 (non-emergency city help line). As I was waiting another bystander, named Meg, said she was also on hold with them. I got through first and asked for an animal control call. They took my details and said they'd dispatch someone. In the mean time it was becoming apparent that this bird was less than thrilled with the blanket being over its face, so I took it from the guy who had it and uncovered its face and held on to it.

We'd thought it was a duck. As I was talking to 311 I told them it wasn't a Mallard or a Wood and I didn't recognize it. Then it stuck its neck up and I was all, "Oh hi there. You are not a duck!" My initial thought with its neck shape and beak shape was that it was a very juvenile heron. The webbed feet weren't quite right for a heron, but I'm not exactly the heron-master, so, you know two out of three heron features...

So we had a crowd for a while, but after about 15 minutes of waiting for animal control most people moved on, which left me, Meg, her boyfriend Justin and Maggie. Eventually Maggie got her car so we could sit and wait, but our little avian friend wasn't entirely thrilled with the OMG!INSIDE! of it all. After half an hour Meg called 311 back and the person she got said, "Oh, we don't do bird calls," but she gave us the number for bird rescue. Bird rescue told us to put the bird in a box and drive it over to the Peggy Notebaert Museum, which was all of about 5 minutes away. Then they called over because it just so happened that one of their bird rescuers was teaching a class at the closed museum last night and let her know we were coming with a rescue. So Meg's on the phone with Bird Rescue and we're trying to give an update. "We think it's a young heron. She's been injured, but she's alert and calm, but not lethargic." I was waiting for them to ask us if we could take her pulse or something.

So, since I'd taken the bus, and was apparently in charge of bird control, Maggie drove us over to the museum where we delivered her to Annette of the bird rescue group here in Chicago. On the way over we named her. Gracie Barry.

Why? Because we found her on Barry Street and Broadway. And Gracie the Grebe (once we found out she wasn't a heron) sounded good.

So we brought her in, and gave the box to Annette. Since being put in the box she had buried herself in the blanket and was being very still. We were a little worried there for a while. But she looked in and went "OH you found a grebe!" at which time Gracie perked up like someone had called her name.

We showed Annette where Gracie had been injured by another animal - she had a chunk of feathers missing out of her neck and a patch on her back, but she didn't seem to be bleeding profusely or anything. Annette said she'd take care of her and bring her to the Willowbrook Wildlife Center for care and rehab.

We were so excited. We saved a grebe! It's not like they're uncommon animals or anything, but it was kind of exciting to do a hands on rescue of an injured animal.

While we were waiting for animal control, Justin took some shots with my phone camera.  I have to say, that for a phone camera, it does take some decent shots.



Today I went out to Willowbrook to do some follow up.  I'll have the whole write up tomorrow, but the short version is, she (we think 'she', but the truth is grebes don't have different color patterns or significant size differences between the genders, so we're mostly guessing) has been seen by a vet.  She did require a little surgery on the one wound and she's on pain killers and antibiotics.  She isn't eating yet, but that's to be expected.  They're hopeful she'll recover fully and be able to be released into the wild again.

But that's for tomorrow's post.

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