By Michael Cecil
When 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.