Wacker Chick Down

Well, fledging has begun here in Chicago and that means lots of running about.

I got a call from Mary about an hour and a half ago saying that one of the Wacker chicks was grounded by the Sears Tower. Since Mary had just turned into her driveway and was at least an hour and a half or more from the museum, she asked me if I could take care of it. She told me she’d been contacted by the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors and that one of their volunteers was on site.

I called the bird monitors and told them I was on my way. Turns out the monitor on site, also named Mary, works right across the street so she’d been over to take a look and said the baby seemed to be fine. Good!

I hadn’t brought the peregrine carrier (it hasn’t been a cat carrier for years now, so time for a name change), so I had to stop by home on my way to the Sears. It was a good thing, too. I don’t know WHAT possesses me sometimes, but this morning I walked out of the house with a pair of sandals on my feet – during peregrine fledging season. The last thing you want when you are trying to catch a feisty peregrine chick is to be wearing entirely unsuitable footwear. So, when I got home, I took a second to change into my old reliable work boots.

Bird monitor Mary called me on my cell as I was on my way over and said she’d be happy to come down and do what she could to help me capture the chick. I was thankful as all get-out for the offer. I’ve captured these guys before, but it can be a hell of a challenge and the LAST thing you want to do is accidentally flush a bird into busy downtown traffic.

Mary met me at the corner of Wacker and Adams and pointed up a ramp where she’d seen the chick. We spotted it very quickly. It had started to rain, so the chick was hunkered down against a wall in a prone position waiting it out. That was very bonus for us because I knew the chick would be much easier to catch!

We used the ole’ drop the sheet over the chick trick and it worked flawlessly. Right at the last minute, the chick popped up and opened it’s beak, glaring at us menacingly, but the sheet did the trick. I put my hands around her gently while Mary pulled the carrier closer. When I pulled her upwards to scoot her into the carrier, I met with great resistance. I peeked under the sheet and saw that it had one of its feet wrapped VERY tightly around the bars of the metal drain grate it’d been half laying atop. I managed to pry all but one talon off of the grate, but was at an awkward angle for the back talon. So, Mary scooted around and began working on it. Strong chick! We had to actually pull the grate up to get her talon unlocked!

The chick safely in the carrier, we headed to the Wacker building. Fred met us at the bottom to take us up to the nest. When we got to the top, I took a second to take good look at the chick to make absolutely sure it wasn’t injured and to record the leg band number. Turned out to be 10/E, one of the females. She was up on her feet, looking healthy and ready to do some damage. There was no blood anywhere and she was moving perfectly. I let bird monitor Mary take a quick picture and then opened the door to the ledge.

Two other chicks were on the ledge, huddled in the south corner. We’d had a report that one had fledged already, so that was the right count. I did not want to take ANY chance that I’d flush either of the other chicks off of the ledge, so I poked the front of the carrier out the door and after a few shakes, the downed chick popped out and was home.

I shut the door quickly and while I was packing up, Mary and Fred watched out the little window. Apparently, just after I released 10/E, Rahn came in with food and promptly started feeding her. Excellent! Mary got a couple of pictures of that, too, which should be a nice addition to her bird photos!

Now I am back at the museum, hoping that the rain will keep everyone on the ledges for the afternoon. Man, if only EVERY chick capture could go that smoothly! That was one for the books! Maybe bird monitor Mary is my lucky charm. I should take her with me every time!

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~ by Steph on June 16, 2009.