Guest Post by Virginia Malmquist
Today started like any other day as an Eagle Watcher. Jerry and I checked in with Tanya in the morning for our safety check and went up to Milepost 100 with three other Eagle Watcher volunteers, Carl, Richard and Adele.
It was a relatively quiet day, with only about 50 visitors by 2 o’clock. Richard had made some cookies for everyone, two separate women from Detroit raved about the beauty here. But at that point, the day changed completely.
A woman came up to Jerry, clearly distressed and anxious. She told him there was an injured eagle up the road at milepost 101 by a little gray car. He hopped into our car (literally “hopped” – for those that don’t know Jerry, having one artificial leg means he hops when he’s hurrying), and got up to milepost 101.
He found the car and first saw an adult eagle, clearly dead on the road, then a large, four year old huddled against the Jersey barriers. A witness had seen the two eagles taloning down in a spiral and hitting the power line. Clearly the adult died on impact, but the immature was stunned, unable to fly, and had unknown injuries.
Meanwhile, back at MP 100, a man came up to me and told me the same news. I sent him and his wife up to help Jerry. He got there in time to help Jerry gently corner her (we started calling it her almost immediately – simply because she was very large as both youth and females are with eagles). She tried to get away from him and scraped him lightly with a talon but years of working at the Cougar Mountain Zoo with the birds have taught him some serious respect for talons and beaks He covered her with a sheet we had in the back of the car and she settled down immediately as soon as her head was covered. Jerry held her in his arms, again watching those talons and beak, but was now unable to drive and hold the bird at the same time. The wife was in tears, but she agreed to drive our car back to 100 and the husband brought back Jerry and both birds, one dead in the back, and the other in Jerry’s arms. A burnt smell came from both birds.
Now began an almost farcical journey to our final destination. We thanked the couple who had helped us, never having learned their names (may the goodness of the world treat them well)! Stopping at the Interpretive Center, Tanya agreed to find out where we should take the injured bird and phone us while we started down Highway 20. Several phone calls later between Sarah Mintz who lives in Sedro-Woolley but works at Sardis Wildlife Center in Ferndale, Tanya at the Interpretive Center, and voice mails left with Sarvey Wildlife Rescue Center in Arlington, we headed to Ferndale. It was raining hard until we hit Bow Hill where the storm hit in earnest. A near white out coincided with a call from Sarah saying Sardis wouldn’t open until tomorrow, so please, could we return to Sedro-Woolley and give her the bird to take care of through the night and she would take it to work with her in Ferndale in the morning. Fine, we headed back to S-W and met her in the parking lot of Bob’s just off I-5. The snow had returned to rain, but the winds were pushing 35-40 mph. Just stepping out of the car was difficult. We met Sarah there and handed off both birds, one hurting and the other gone, foolishly thinking we were done.
We headed back home, and just as we crested Bow Hill – again in white out conditions – a call came through from Sarvey’s in Arlington saying they could take her tonight and treat her right away, which is recommended when there’s been an electrocution. So once again, we returned to Sedro Woolley, and headed to pick up both birds at Sarah’s house.
Now we headed to Arlington. Sarvey’s is about 10 miles up into the hills above Arlington, which meant driving back into blizzard again. If you have any extra cash you can spare, I recommend you think about sending some their way. Up on a hill, all the folks who live there and volunteer there (on a Sunday night at 6:30) park down below and most folks walk up the unplowed road. Our four wheel drive made it up there, probably because we were both holding our breath. Kelly pronounced she was a he and gave him a check up. A small amount of blood was on the sheet we had covered him with and there were puncture wounds on each wing, possibly from talons, but possibly from the electricity. Feathers were singed on his wings and back, but the down feathers below were untouched. She treated him with anti-biotics for the puncture wounds, hydration, which is very important with electrocution, and something for the parasites that wild birds are prone to have. The wings don’t appear broken but it’s still possible that internal injuries could have occured when the electricity passed through. He will be x-rayed on Monday by their main medical person. Leslie, and their raptor specialist, who’s name is, get this, Kestrel Skyhawk, will check him out in a couple of days.
If he makes it, which looks quite hopeful at this point, we will be able to help release him back to milepost 101. They like to return the birds to their home territory to help improve success of the release. We finally headed home for the last time, returning once again over Bow Hill, again in a white out but feeling proud and glad to be Eagle Watchers.
We spoke with Sarvey Wildlife Rescue this evening to check up on the injured eagle. They have named him Volt to honor the source of his injury, or perhaps for the nature of his trial. They have kept him hydrated and examined him again. They believe the puncture wounds on both wings are talon injuries, and that the singed feathers represented his contact with the adult when he was shocked. He is doing well and we will continue to monitor him. The dead adult was completely examined and they found a piece of fish in his mouth, suggesting they may have been fighting over food. Also, they found electrical entry and exit wounds. Sarvey has done a wonderful job and I am impressed by their skill, knowledge and care. Many thanks to them.