Black Masked Booby Release

By Michael Cecil

1-1When I was out at the Wildlife Center on a Sunday in July, Pam DeFouw asked me when I might be returning to the Keys. Turned out they had a black masked booby that needed to be released near the Dry Tortugas. Several months earlier, he had been found washed up on the shore in Venice in very poor health. After many months he was nursed back to health and the nearest colony was determined to be near the Dry Tortugas. I thought about it for a minute and suggested I email some charter boats that operate near that area and went home and did just that, not really expecting to get any replies. Well, did I get a surprise; I sent seven emails and each one responded with a willingness to help. Capt. Greg Mercurio of the Yankee Capts Charters out of Key West responded within ve minutes! He was not only willing to take the bird, but me as well free of charge. I was to call the o ce when I was ready and I would be able to go on the next available trip. I contacted Pam the next morning; all the paperwork was in order. At 11:00 AM that morning I called to set up the trip and

low and behold, they had a ship leaving that night at 8:00 PM! They commented the only problem was that it was a three day trip; though this was certainly NOT a problem for me. I picked up “Bobby” the booby and headed for Key West arriving around 6:00 PM that evening. Although I had a sh in Bobby’s crate all day Monday, he didn’t eat. When I awoke before daylight the next morning and checked on him the sh was gone. I gave him four more sh and he ate them right up; I felt he knew he was going on a journey. As soon as it was daylight I got him ready for release and he gave me a nice bite on the hand as if to say goodbye. I tossed him o the top deck and watched as he ew to the east in search of freedom; then he made a sharp turn to the south and was headed to his destination, it was absolutely incredible. While watching him with binoculars until I couldn’t see him anymore I couldn’t help but feel great joy as he disappeared. This bird was near death and after great care and work by the rehab sta and all the volunteers at the Wildlife Center of Venice, he was given a second chance to once again become a free bird. I spent the next three days on the boat with a big smile and loads of satisfaction for being able to have helped in this birds’ journey back to the wild.

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Two Rare Birds and their Stories

1This summer the WCV received a peregrine falcon from Siesta Key and a crested caracara from Northeast Sarasota County near Myakka City. I got the call on the caracara after-hours from a couple that had discovered it in their back pasture struggling to free itself from a barbed wire fence on their property. I only have two volunteer rescuers that routinely take night calls for me. Fortunately Caron Gleason, the closer of the two was available. After a little coaching she was off and running. Once on scene she was able to cut the bird free with the help of the original caller, Wayne, leaving a deeply embedded piece attached to the underside of the bird’s wing. Caron put the caracara in the kennel and was again on the move to meet me at my flooded driveway at almost midnight to examine and hopefully dislodge what was left. Caron was not as lucky during this encounter as she was badly taloned in the hand by our not so enthusiastic patient, right through her driving gloves. To make matters worse, she’s a piano teacher. Once we got her free from the bird, we were able to dislodge the remaining barbed wire from the bird’s wing, although it was not easy. Caron then helped me wrap the hanging wing in a figure-8 wrap and put the bird away before she would allow me look at her own hand. You have to love the perseverance of our rescue team although I hoped her students forgive me for those weeks’ lessons. The caracara was released one month later to the day at the Old Miakka School by Caron and her mother, Bobbie Gleason.

The second rare bird was the peregrine falcon reported to be an injured hawk on Siesta Key’s very public beach. Longtime WCV rescuer Jan Steber responded to the call not far from his house. The bird had a broken wing and Jan quickly brought it to the center for treatment. Upon examination, I could tell that there was a fracture in either the radius or ulna just near the elbow and believed the fracture site to be self-splinting, but the proximity to the elbow was at high risk for calcification and compromised joint movement. This was all guess work based on what we could see and feel amidst a lot of swelling and bruising. 2
I carefully applied a figure-8 wrap to the body and administered anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers. I then made an appointment with Dr. Jack Landess at Nokomis Vet Clinic for X-ray and possible bone pinning for this very special bird that I personally haven’t seen in nearly a decade. Upon examination and X-ray, Dr. Jack verified my suspicions that the fracture was self- splinting and recommended leaving the wing in a figure-8 wrap for 2 weeks, instead of risking any surgery so close to the joint. Two weeks later we removed the wrap, extremely happy that the elbow and wrist still had a full range of motion, although understandably, its wing was still hanging a bit low. The peregrine was then moved to a 10’X10’ Eagle Scout Aviary to recover for a couple of weeks. Now being conditioned in our new Eagle Scout Flyway, the bird is flying beautifully, but the injured wing noticeably tires more quickly than the other. However, I feel with time that this small falcon, the fastest of all birds, will make a full recovery. Jan and I both are looking forward to that release. Caron already returned her crested caracara friend to the wild and now that her hand has healed she has a great story for the kids.

At the Wildlife Center of Venice (501c3 Non-Profit), we are committed to the preservation, rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife in our local community.  We service all of Sarasota and West Charlotte counties in the State of Florida. We work hard each day to uphold these values, but we need each and every one of you to help us in this noble cause.