Our very first day there, we were at the beach (of course!) and had a great Florida bird sighting. We have had brief, faraway glimpses of Northern Gannets in the past, skimming over the ocean. It was a species I had always hoped to see a little more in detail.
I was reading as Reier yelled at me to look in the water. There was a Northern Gannet! I started to take some photos, excited for the opportunity to see this great bird fairly close. However, the waves were four to six feet high due to the winds and a series of storms in the area.
It became clear very quickly that the bird might be in distress. It flapped and appeared to try to lift itself out of the water, but would barely get above it, and would fall back down. The waves were also crashing over the bird, and it was quite wet.
The right wing also looked as if it was not getting full extension. Reier and I felt we should try to find out if the bird was injured or just exhausted from all of its efforts in the waves.
Reier bravely went in and as carefully as possible got the bird on shore. Once there, I carefully folded the wings in and tucked the bird in a towel. We were aware of a great rehabilitation center not far away - Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter, FL. Reier had brought a Royal Tern in a few years ago that he had found injured on the beach. We called them and asked if it would be best to just dry the bird off, and leave it on the beach, or if it were better to bring it in for them to examine. We were told that since the bird was a migrant in the area, they definitely wanted to see it. (From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Birds of North America, there are only 6 well-established colonies in North America: 3 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Québec, and 3 in the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland.)
How does the story end? Well, the bird turned out to be fine. It was dehydrated so it was given fluids and fed. It also had internal and external parasites. The only sad part was that our phone number had gotten written down incorrectly, so we were called to be the taxi to take the bird back to where we found it, and they couldn't get a hold of us. But - we thank the nice folks at Busch for letting us know what happened, and appreciate the good work that they do.