Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How to spot a grebe in trouble...

Port Hueneme, California - November 25th, 2008
The second grebe I rescued this week, I knew was in trouble. By now I had learned that if a grebe is coming close to shore, something's wrong. I took this photo of him in the surf, and then rushed back to my condo to get a towel and a box to put the little guy in. It was clear he was too exhausted to swim back out to sea.
By the time I got back, the grebe was beached. I felt like I had to act quickly.
But in my haste, I made a mistake! As painful as it was to see this poor water bird trying to escape over land, I thought it important to try to get a photo of it as a reminder to myself and others what NOT to do when trying to save a beached grebe. A grebe's anatomy does not allow them to walk on land. They are an aquatic bird. In fact, even sitting on the sand is harmful to their delicate underbellies. The last place a grebe wants to be is on shore. The bird became frightened when I approached him. Seeing him try to hop on his aquatic legs over the sand to get away from me was heart wrenching! (Later, I had to forgive myself for this stupid mistake. )
I backed away, hoping he would stop. After three times of lifting himself up to try and get back to sea, he gave up again. He had exhausted himself further. This time I knew what to do. I removed my shoes, hiked up my pants, and waded out beyond him in the surf, to come at him from ocean side. He did not try to run this time. But be cautioned, grebes can take out an eye with their long beaks. It's best to throw a towel over them, and then gently lift them into a box.
The first thing you need to do is provide a donut-like cushion for them to sit upon in the box, and then get them as warm as possible. Here, the little guy is sleeping under our bathroom ceiling heat lamp. Later, I rendezvoused with a volunteer from Wildlife Care of Ventura, and made the hand-off. The little guy (or girl?) is still doing okay.

I will post again when I receive an update on both the grebes I rescued in the last week.

Again, here is the website for Wildlife Care of Ventura:

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