A Tangled Tale

By Louise Polli

In our Winter Newsletter, we introduced you to a budding relationship between the Landis Arboretum and the Audubon Society of the Capital Region. In this article, Audubon programs chair and past president John Loz shares a story with a local twist that illustrates just one example of the vital work his organization performs in conservation and stewardship. We are proud to partner with Audubon and bring you more information on our mutual areas of interest, as two birds of a feather . . . .

-- Louise Polli

When most people think of the Audubon Society, they no doubt think about looking for birds and keeping lists and perhaps putting out nesting boxes. The society’s members do just that, of course, but they also engage in any number of conservation efforts, ranging from invasive plant species removal from bird habitats to advocating for proper fishing line disposal.

Owl in the Tree
Look closely - there's an owl swinging in the breeze.

On one memorable occasion, Linda Brown, a wildlife rehabilitator, was alerted to a raptor tangled in a tree in the Town of Esperance. “We arrived at the Sloansville Boat Launch, and it was quite evident that there was a young juvenile owl, swinging in the breeze, ensnared in a tree by a fishing line,” she reported. “From the outset, we knew that this would be a difficult to impossible rescue. The tree hung out over the rapidly moving Cripplebush Creek by at least 20 feet . . . . .”

Fortunately, a group of researchers from Clarkson University were installing a hydrological monitoring system along the creek. They were equipped with machetes, scuba gear, and other tools of their trade – and they immediately volunteered to assist with the rescue.

Heroes of the day!

After several failed attempts to climb the tree, a grad student decided to lasso the branch and bring it closer to the tree. In the event that the branch broke in the process, another grad student was waiting in the water to catch the bird before it was swept away. The branch did break – but the bird fell into the arms of a researcher standing chest-high in the creek. “I can only say that we were jubilant and what looked like an impossible rescue turned into the miracle save of the year,” Linda said.

After a quick on-site examination, Linda and a fellow rehabber recognized that they had rescued a juvenile female Great Horned Owl. They took the bird to the Ballston Spa Veterinary Clinic, where it was determined that there were no fractures. Now dubbed “Swinger,” the owl was kept under observation for any other injury that might inhibit her flight.

After a nine-month rehabilitation to make sure that her wings were strong and functioning properly and to ascertain that she had fully recovered from an eye infection, “Swinger” was released at the Iroquois Indian Museum on the Society’s Bird Day 2015.

Although there was a good outcome to this event, prevention is important. Through its collaborative agreement with the DEC, our local Audubon Society has installed microfilament disposal containers at trout streams, boat launches, and other public fishing areas throughout the Capital Region. The organization’s first container was placed at the Sloansville Boat Launch, the site of “Swinger’s” near-fatal encounter.

The Audubon Society of the Capital Region is looking forward to increasing its conservation presence in Schoharie County by working closely with the Landis Arboretum to foster stewardship of the lands that support birds and other wildlife and our native plants.

Summer 2017

Volume 35 , Number 3

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