When I got to Bob’s house the other day, there was a tiny baby bird in a plastic container. Maybe not that tiny since it looked like a midge Phorusrhacos with outsized wings and big clawy feet. Definitely baby since it had quills instead of feathers.
“Where did the bird come from, Bob?” (“It was on the sidewalk. I guess it fell out of the nest. I couldn’t just leave it there.”) Ever the optimist, I said, “It’s going to die. You’re letting it die in A/C? Why?” (“I thought you might be able to find somebody who can take care of it.”)
The little creature was so pathetic that I didn’t figure it stood a chance in hell of surviving the morning. “Can’t we give it some water?” (“I don’t think so. We have to have a way to get the water down its throat and I’m afraid of hurting it.”) Every time it heard Bob’s voice, it would raise its little head, open its mouth, and look even more desperate if that’s possible. It couldn’t even make a noise. Just open and shut its beaky mouth in a silent screech for nourishment.
I Googled bird rehabilitation in Corpus Christi and found the Texas Parks and Wildlife list of animal rehabilitators in Nueces County. There was only one for birds and she didn’t answer the phone. We left a message and hoped that she’d call back. Like a bruise you can’t stop touching, we couldn’t leave the little bird alone and kept checking it.
Bobby came home from work a few hours later. (“What’s with the bird?”) “Your dad found it on the sidewalk.” (“You know it’s an urban myth that you can’t put birds back in their nest. Where’s his nest?”) Bob explained that the bird was close to the street and he had already tried to identify a nest. (“It’ll probably die.”) With that pronouncement, Bobby evacuated the living room and strolled down the hall to check out the latest war game on his Kinect.
Although I agreed with him, the look on Bob’s face made me investigate bird saviors further; I found one in Port Aransas. After a short conversation, Bob handed me the phone for directions to the animal rescue site.
On the way to Port A, conversation returned to the bird and his chances of survival. What if the bird guy said there was no point in even trying to keep the bird alive? I hoped he’d at least lie to us. Shine us on. Bob said he thought if the bird had survived this long, it would make it. We tossed around what kind of bird it was. Not a sparrow. Too big. Probably a grackle. Yuck. But Bob said that was a good thing in terms of survival. (“Those things rank with cockroaches.) It didn’t matter. Saving the bird was our mission and we were already on the ferry to Pt Aransas.
The address we got was at the UT Marina dock. The Animal Rescue Keep (ARK) is part of the UT Marine Science Institute. Tony Amos, the man who answered our phone call, is the director. He was as interested in our little bird, definitely a grackle, as if it were a rare creature and kept calling Bob a “good man” for saving the bird. He and Geri, a volunteer vet tech, started assessing our bird amid comments about what their plans were for the rest of the day. (Geri—rehome a couple of young possums; Tony—pick up a pelican with a broken wing in downtown Corpus Christi.)
The property looks like the Island of Misfit Birds with cranes, herons, gulls, and at least one raptor in various stages of recovery. They also will take sea turtles and mammals. Texas State Aquarium takes injured and sick dolphins, but dolphins were another client of the ARK before TSA facilities were up and running.
The small staff and volunteers handle about 1,300 animals each year. Sea turtles account for 300 of their clients since they suffer flipper damage and loss due to fishing and boat collision. The ARK surveys local beaches for stranded animals year round with a daily turtle patrol done along the beach during turtle nesting season.
More than 100 species of birds, 800 a year, arrive at the ARK. Many were hit by cars, flew into windows, collided with power lines or got trapped in buildings. Some just rest up for a few days; others have prolonged stays to permit bones to heal. Birds that have lost a leg or permanently damaged a wing are rehomed at another facility.
The ARK also handles terrestrial turtles and small mammals. Tony (aka Dr. Amos) appreciates the opportunity to educate the public about co-existing with wildlife. Their brochure reminds readers that trash, cig filters, plastic bags, monofilament line end up in the local bays, beaches, and Gulf of Mexico to the detriment of animals. Most of the animals admitted to the ARK are hurt as a result of human activity.
The ARK is the only facility in South Texas that will travel to rescue the animals they rehabilitate, journeying to Mustang and North Padre Island and many towns in the Coastal Bend. Tony encouraged Bob to consider volunteering since the ARK depends heavily on donations of time and money. About 8% of their operating funds come from UT but they are on their own for the remaining 92%. (The same number for animal rescue will accept time and money donations, by the way.)
Oh! And another by the way. Probably the more important for me, at least. I love the fact that Bob will stop what he’s doing to rescue a bird on the sidewalk. He could have walked on by, assumed that one of the bad cats in our neighborhood would get lunch on the wing. But he didn’t. How could I not love someone who does things like that!