North Fork Animal Welfare League executive director Gillian Pultz has seen animals get into all kinds of troubles in her more than two decades on the job, but the situation an osprey found himself in this afternoon might just be the strangest, she said.
The NFAWL received a call from shelter volunteer Judy Walsh and adopter Deborah Doty, who said that there was an osprey floundering around in the middle of Wickham Creek in Cutchogue. Pultz knew that if she called wildlife rescue it would take some time for them to arrive and figured she’d head down to see if there was anything she could do.
Thinking she’d have to use a boat to reach the bird, she’d asked Doty to bring out a kayak but by the time Pultz arrived the bird had made its way to the bank of the creek.
So Pultz headed over toward the osprey, finding herself nearly up to her knees in mud and muck, something that didn’t phase the experienced animal handler.
When she got closer to the bird she was struck nearly speechless.
“He had a chowder clam the size of my fist stuck to his foot. I was looking at it thinking to myself ‘What is going on here?’”
By this time, Tom Wacker, a resident who lives near the creek, had come out offering to help. Using a net Wacker brought down, the two of them managed to wrangle the osprey and were able to see that the giant clam had clamped itself onto one of the osprey’s toes, preventing the bird from taking flight.
“It was so bizarre,” said Pultz. “I’ve never heard of anything like this happening.”
As Pultz held the bird still, Wacker used a pair of scissors to pry open the clam and free the bird’s foot. Pultz examined the toes and found no lacerations, just a bit of swelling. She put the bird down and walked away to see if it was capable of flying and five minutes later, as she and Wacker watched from the shore, the osprey took off.
“It was incredible to see,” said Pultz. “He looked so majestic and wonderful flying away. We were all high-fiving each other, all of us were so glad.”
“I love happy endings,” she said.
Photos: Elizabeth Rolison for the North Fork Animal Welfare League