Umpqua Valley Audubon Society

On Dec. 2nd, Matt Hunter offered a bird walk at Ford’s Pond and I was the only initial participant with Mark Hamm arriving later. We had not gone far along the pond’s southern edge from the parking lot, when Matt pointed out there was a 1st year male Bufflehead very close to shore in front of some willows in the water. By the time I got my binocs on him, we both realized something was amiss.
Watching him dive down, we could see he was entangled in fishing line as he was pulling on it underwater trying to free himself. After a couple of dives, he was coming up exhausted. We began thinking of ways we could free him.
Had to eliminate wading out to him as it was too deep and cold. Matt called Umpqua Wildlife Rescue and left a message.
We both had either a canoe or kayak at home but that would take at least an hour and a half to get back. Would he survive that long? Who lived nearby that had a canoe/kayak? Jim and Beth Houseman live next to the pond (Board members of Friends of Ford’s Pond) and I remembered Beth telling of great times birding while kayaking there. So Matt called Jim, and even though Jim and Beth had commitments, they offered us a kayak to borrow. Okay… at this point the morning definitely switched from being a bird walk to a bird rescue! As the pictures illustrate, Matt paddled out to him; we thought he might freak out but he didn’t. Matt grabbed him and cut the line then put him in the kayak to bring to shore. Matt held him while I examined him to determine the extent and removal of the fishing line. Luckily, the line was only wrapped around his neck and no where else. Once I got deep enough down in his feathers I was able to maneuver and untwist the line. It was fortunately only twisted 1-1/2 times and then easily came off. Matt released him from the pond edge and he joyfully via constant calls skimmed along the top of the water down beyond all the willows and then curved left finally coming to a rest in open water among other waterfowl. — in Melrose, Oregon.

Release – video courtesy of Stay Burleigh