Andrew and Alex are my Toronto Wildlife Centre Rescue Rockstars, as I spent the last day of 2012 as an "on call" rescue volunteer with them both in south Whitby.
The Centre had been alerted to the plight of a Common Loon (!!) that had been trapped for a week in a small bit of open water in a frozen man-made pond without enough runway to take off:
During Fall migration we see hundreds of Loons along the shores of Lake Ontario, but rarely are they seen this late in the season. Arriving ahead of Andrew and Alex, I observed the Loon from a distance as it slowly swam back and forth in its small area, occasionally snoozing, but not diving.
Loons are one of the most challenging birds to catch up as they are phenomenal divers and are able to stay under water for ten minutes at a time should they so choose, so I was intrigued to learn what the rescue strategy would be.
They soon arrived and after carefully assessing the situation, Alex donned his ice rescue suit...
...and the three of us headed down to the pond armed with assorted rescue and safety gear that included nets, lifelines, a dinghy and paddle, along with the standard drop sheets to cover the Loon up once captured. This was my first Loon rescue so I was eager to watch and learn and help wherever possible, so I followed Andrew and Alex's instructions every step of the way.
The Loon had already disappeared into the icy waters, but right before that, I admit to an eerie feeling when I heard its plaintive call that was so bizarre to hear with ice and snow on the ground! Alex slowly and carefully (hence the ice rescue suit!) made his way towards the open water with a large net:
Alex continued along the ice, while Andrew and I watched and waited from the shore:
The Loon kept resurfacing every so often, but was still underwater while Andrew helped Alex get the other end of the net in place...
What happened next was pure genius: the net was lowered down into the open water with some slack and then we all waited for the Loon to swim up into it when resurfacing! The first few times it evaded capture by wisely resurfacing into a net-free zone of the open water, but eventually an error in judgment resulted in its capture in the net.
Andrew and Alex swiftly pulled the captured Loon out of the water and once freed from the net, immediately brought it over to be covered up with the drop sheet. Already well aware of the Loons' best line of defence, its killer beak, I carried it up to the van where Alex helped me place it in the kennel cab which was immediately covered with a drop sheet as the Loon was randomly spearing its beak in self-defence.
The reality of nature is that not all of our wildlife rescues have a happy ending, and this was one of those instances, which is the reason for my delay in sharing my experience that day.
But I wait no longer, as I wish to recognize Andrew and Alex for their resourcefulness, initiative, caring and compassion towards wildlife each and every day.
I also wish to thank Andrew and Alex for the opportunity they gave me that day to help with the rescue, as it's my very small way of giving back to those creatures that have given me so much pleasure in nature.