A story with a happy ending
The rescued Oriole
To the left, the rescue crew, Regina at the left
Baltimore Orioles use a wide variety of natural materials -- plant fibers, hemp, milkweed silk, grasses--to make their spectacular hanging nests. Those that choose to nest in Central Park often avail themselves of some of the man-made materials they find there as well: strips of paper, pieces of wool or string. Unfortunately careless kids and grownups who fish in the park's various waterbodies leave great quantities of fishing line behind, tangled up in bushes along the water's edge, and these beautiful birds often incorporate this dangerous material into their nests.
For the last three days Bill Stifel and Junko Suzuki, two devoted Central Park nature lovers-- have been watching an Oriole nestling struggling to take his first flight from a nest high in a Cottonwood near the tennis courts.
Two of his nest-mates had already fledged, and were frolicking around in the crown of the nest tree. But the last nestling seemed stuck. He [or she] would stand on the rim of the nest, flap his wings as if to take off, but nothing happened; some invisible force seemed to prevent him from flying. Though no fishing line could be seen by the anxious watchers below, it was almost certain that it was fishing line tangled around the young bird's leg that was keeping the bird from leaving. Though the parent birds continued to bring food to the struggling nestling, it was clear that without help this young bird was doomed.
Early this morning help arrived. Regina Alvarez, Woodlands Manager for the Central Park Conservancy, and a much beloved friend of the Central Park nature community, commandeered a bucket truck which was able to bring the nest and the baby bird down from its height to ground level. There Bill Stifel carefully cut out the fishing line that held the baby bird in place. As soon as the last bit of line was cut off off he went, [or off she went] up into the Cottonwood tree , a fledgling at last.
Just received an e-mail from Bill giving me a detailed report of the rescue. Here it is:
Well . . . things turned out better than I could have imagined.
Regina was absolutely the right person to contact. She had the bucket truck over there in a matter of minutes and without hesitation the crew squeezed the truck down in between the benches and the fence of the tennis courts, something Russell said they had never done before. I could not believe it could be done.
So with the truck in place Jim went up in the bucket and approached the nest. Not surprisingly the baby and mother went crazy. I believe the mother even struck Jim in the head and the baby was flapping wildly about. We had decided an attempt would be made to release the bird up at the nest, but that proved very difficult, so the whole nest was brought down. At a glance it was clear the bird would never have been able to free itself on its own. Numerous very fine fibers and tiny filament were wrapped around and around its ankle and toes and then twisted together into like a small rope that was anchored to the bottom of the inside of the nest. I'd brought along my magnify goggles and small scissors and while Jim, the man who brought the nest down, held the bird I slowly cut away the entangled fibers.
My hands were shaking so much that I am just really grateful that no one said anything and allowed me the privilege of freeing the bird's foot. Happily it appeared that no damage had been done to the foot by the constricting filaments. It did not appear to be monofilament in this case but other synthetic material. The inside of the nest is a jumble of fibers and filaments and what is sort of surprising is that the other two siblings were not also caught . You may have a look for yourself as the nest will be on display at the Belvedere Castle. Jim then took the bird back up into the Cottonwood tree, but just as he was placing it on a branch the small bird flew away to another part of the tree and was soon high up and reunited with its mother.
We all expressed great gratitude for the fine effort the crew had made and Regina reminded me to call whenever there was a problem, that they would drop whatever they were doing and be right over. I don't know all their last names, but there were four in all. In the picture are Regina, Russell, Kia and Jim.
Junko and I stayed around and after a period of silence eventually heard the young bird calling in a neighboring Maple tree and soon if flew into clear view in a London Plane tree where we were able to see its mother make numerous visits to feed it. The baby perched and groomed or sat quietly, but it also hopped about and flew just fine.