While out for a short visit to a local birding spot on the Winooski River this evening I got way more than I bargained for. As I descended the steep trail towards the river and a nearby marsh, I heard the distress calls of a Robin, and as I reached the sandy shore and rounded a corner, I saw a female Robin with its foot entangled in a big ball of fishing line.
Having experience working at bird banding stations, most recently at North Branch Nature Center, I felt confident that I could remedy the situation. Over the next 45 minutes, I worked to free her, first by restraining the bird using the “bander’s grip” and trying to tear the line. The line proved too tough to tear by hand; in fact, it tore my hand a bit! Without a way to break the line, I had to bring the line, bird, and all, back up to the parking area. There was line everywhere, wrapped up in trees, bushes, and sticks, and it was difficult to gather with one hand, and without putting tension on the line that could injure the bird. When I finally got all the line, I carried it (and the bird) back up the bank to the parking area.
I didn't have anything to cut the line in my car, so I knocked on the door of the nearest house. The homeowner came to the rescue with some small scissors, and I was eventually able to free the bird and release it unharmed. Her foot was wrapped tight, looking as if she had twisted and turned in the time after she became stuck and before I arrived. During the whole incident, a gang of Robins were crowded around us, squawking like mad. Upon her release, she flew a short distance and landed in the middle of the road. Shortly thereafter, a male landed next to her as if to console her. He stayed by her side, occasionally hopping, for several minutes while she sat still, and then they both flew off together.
Thankfully, this story had a happy ending, but the truth is that many animals get injured or killed by discarded fishing line, netting, plastic, and other litter. We should all not only take the responsibility to clean up after ourselves, but we should do our best to remove litter whenever we see it… if we do, we might just save a bird’s life.
Check back for pictures of the bird upon her release… they are being sent by the homeowner and will be posted to the blog shortly.