Saving a life on Womack Creek – March 3, 2018

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  The temperature at put-in was around mid-50 and during the paddle around 60.  There was little or no wind.  The tide was outgoing, but going upstream there was no appreciable current.  A perfect day for paddling and  boating — 7 boats on that creek, more than any we have ever seen since 2012.

Returning to put in, I saw a great blue heron floating under a bare overhanging tupelo branch downriver.  It did not attempt to fly away as I approached and I soon saw why.  It was caught up in a bush hook which extended from that branch into the water.  All along the creek we had seen new bush hook lines hanging — some which we had to avoid to prevent entanglement ourselves.  This might have been put up by the camper at Nick’s road campsite or a load of young men who took a long time going upriver and back.

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We both approached slowly.  Ed had the knife (I had lost mine which had been fastened to my PFD), but we approached slowly from different directions.  I thought I might have to hold the bird while he tried to extricate the hook.

The heron was amazingly docile as Ed brought his kayak alongside it to diagnose the problem.  The hook had caught the joint between the forewing and the backwing and was firmly imbedded.  There was no untoward movement by the bird, which amazed us.  However, when Ed tried to see if he could remove this barbed hook (he  has been fishing with barbless hooks for a long time), the bird thrashed around — it must have been painful.  Deciding that the barb was in too deep to remove without further damaging the bird’s flesh, he cut the line at the hook.

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The great blue, extricated from the line, swam slowly and then waded up to the bank and slowly disappeared into the woods.

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Hopefully, it will survive.  Hopefully it can fly.

In this same area last year, perhaps two years ago, we found a barred owl entangled in a bush line.  It had tried to fly away with whatever had lured it to the bush line and got entangled in the line.  It’s limp body had not yet decomposed so it was recent.  There used to be a pair of barred owls near the campground which lulled us to sleep at night when we camped there.  We camped there soon after this incident and could not hear the barred owls.

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