The First of the Year

Margaret Pickell

 It won’t make prime time news, but the anticipation of what a rehabilitator’s first arrival of the New Year will be is just as exciting as the first baby born of the New Year. During the winter, several days may pass before our services are needed.  This winter robins were frequenting the area so I thought one of them would be my first patient, but it was not to be.

As our family was settling in for some ‘New Year’ conversation, the phone rang and on the other end was a family traveling from Louisiana to Portland, Texas. They were approaching Houston when a red-tailed hawk hit them. Yes, that was their statement.

Hawk in grill of carEvaluating the situation with the usual questions of injury and status, I suddenly realized exactly what ‘hit them’ meant. The hawk had crashed into the grill of their moving vehicle and remained there as we spoke. I immediately communicated to them that they should pull over and wait for our arrival. My husband and I rushed to the location and after some careful tugging, intricate manipulation, and maneuvering of the plastic grill the hapless passenger was freed at last. Amazingly, the hawk was still alive!

 Overcoming weeks of long-drawn-out physical recovery, heaven only knows what mental thoughts must have gone through the bird’s mind. It was very comforting   when the family would call to check on him regularly. The bird had two fractures in the wing. Unfortunately, even making all the progress that the red-tailed hawk was able to make, he is not fit to be returned to the wild.

But this isn’t the end of the story. An overwhelmingly positive aspect of this experience is that with his harrowing tale of survival he would make an excellent education / lecture ambassador. He is currently being evaluated to fulfill that role. A strong will to survive is a defined characteristic that many found in lesser circumstances cannot boast. I hope that this creature will spend many years educating thousands about the power and resiliency of nature.

The ending of this story is only possible due to the compassionate patience exhibited by the family. They took time out of their hectic evening heading home following a lengthy holiday vacation. Anxious to make time pass while traveling with small children can press many emotions to extremes, but this family spent an hour of their time tracking down phone numbers in a strange city,  on a holiday no less. The final sacrifice was accepting our request to stop and await our arrival. Many of the readers of this story have those special folks in your communities who take time from their daily schedules to lend a hand to our native wildlife.  2007

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