I had a strange (and slightly wonderful) encounter yesterday. I decided to go down to the beach for a few moments to photograph the stormy sky. As I drove the access road, which runs along the top of a causeway, it was unusually high tide, with the normal marsh on either side of Back Creek where it empties into the Mousam River behind the dunes of our local beach was fully under water and the tide lapping high up on the causeway. I noticed what was obviously a fairly large bird right at the edge of the water, up against the causeway, not 6 feet from the road. My driving impression was that it was a Razorbill, and when I got the car parked and walked over to see, it was indeed a Razorbill. What it the world? What is a Razorbill doing behind the dunes, pressed up against a roadway? It seemed to be in relatively good shape. It stood and flapped both wings at one point, but when I approached it, instead of backing out into the water, it hopped out of the water altogether and came up the bank toward me, stopping right at my feet. Other than a slick of something brown on the chest I could see nothing wrong with it. Still, I called around trying to get help. I got an answering machine at both Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, which manages the marsh behind the beach, and the Wells Reserve (Estuarine Research Reserve, which is just down the road from Rachel Carson). I called the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Game Warden hot line, which is really for reporting wildlife violations. A lady answered and took my particulars and phone number and said someone would call. About 15 minutes later a Warden did call. He could not get anyone to me on Saturday afternoon. I expressed my concern that a dog was going to get the bird, as the beach is popular with dog walkers in the winter, and not everyone obeys the sign that says the dogs must be on a leash…or, more likely, that gulls would get it. He suggested that I either box the bird up and drive it an hour down the interstate to the Animal Rescue in York, where they might be able to help it, or that I move it to a more secluded spot out of the sight of any marauding dogs, and with some cover from gulls, and let it fend for itself. He said birds are often not really hurt…but just resting after some trauma, and will recover if left to their own devices…something I already knew from past encounters with apparently injured birds. My wife needed the car in just a few moments, so I did put a fabric shopping bag I had in the back seat of the car over the Razorbill and moved it to the shelter of some overhanging brush well off the road. Best I could do.
When I got home, of course, I did a bit of research, and discovered one concerning thing about stranded auks…they can not take flight from land. I worried I had put the bird too far from water, so this morning at first light I went back to the beach with heavy gloves and a box, intending a deeper intervention, perhaps even an attempt to clean the oil or whatever it was from the birds feathers, if it was still there. It was gone…and there was no sign of predication. I am taking that as good sign.
Of course I took a lot of photos while waiting for the Game Warden to call me back. As I said, the bird apparently had no fear of me, and I got closer than I ever hoped to get to a living Razorbill (close indeed since I actually had it in my hands when I moved it). That was certainly special.
The three photos above are from the Sony RX10iv, close-ups at 600mm and wide shot at 300mm. All in Program mode with my birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic.