V.I. National Park Ranger Laurel Brannick used a piece of garden hose to rescue a hawk from a water-filled vat at the Annaberg Planation ruins on Friday, October 24.
ANNABERG — “There’s a hawk trapped in the ruins at Annaberg,” a tourist told V.I. National Park Ranger Laurel Brannick on Friday, October 24.
Brannick and NPS volunteer Judy Buchholz had just finished leading the 7:30 a.m. Friday morning Francis Bay Bird Walk.
Brannick and Buchholz rushed up to Annaberg and looked around, but saw no trapped hawk. Buchholz used her iBird Pro app bird sound feature to play the red-tailed hawk bird call. There was no call back, but Buchholz heard some rustling. With that, Brannick looked around some more.
In the boiling house ruins was the red-tailed hawk drowning in the rain water-filled clarifier (a large iron bowl-like receptacle in masonry). The red-tailed hawk was soaking wet, weak, shivering and scared and could not get out of the pot.
Brannick saw a hose lying on the ground and gently lowered the hose in and the red-tailed hawk grabbed on to it with one claw. Brannick was able to pull the hawk out of the water. Hawks have strong beaks and claws that can tear a mouse or rat apart. Brannick wanted to be careful not to be mistaken for a mouse or rat.
Brannick and Buchholz found dish rags, a tablecloth and a large garbage can in Miss Olivia’s cook shack. Brannick wrapped the hawk’s wings in the dish towels so that bird would not flap around and injure itself. This way, the bird also be less likely to be distressed and claw or bite.
Brannick and Buchholz put the hawk in a garbage can. A tablecloth was put over the opening of the garbage can to lessen the stress on the hawk and transported it carefully to the Francis Bay trail head where 30 or so Gifft Hill students were waiting for Brannick to lead them on a Coast Weeks Cleanup.
The Gifft Hill students got an extra environmental lesson on the importance of being on the lookout for injured birds and alerting the proper authorities. The students were allowed a very quiet peek, one at a time, at the distressed hawk.
Bird Rehabilitator Takes Over
The next step was to call Phyllis Benton, the federally permitted migratory wild bird rehabilitator on St. John. As it happened, Benton was in the middle of another important task but dropped that as soon as she heard about the hawk and rushed to Francis Bay to pick up the bird.
Benton picked up the hawk and took it to her house. She looked it over carefully for any injuries and didn’t find any.
“The bird dried off and preened once in a large, soft-sided cage,” Benton said. “The hawk was well feathered and a good amount of meat on it. I don’t think it was very young.”
“The great news is I decided to release him/her after the feathers looked normal,” said Benton. “The bird took off flying to the north shore.”
Brannick was delighted with the way events turned out, she explained.
“I got several containers of frozen chicken liver at Starfish so I can keep it in reserve,” said Brannick. “I did offer some to the bird during the dry out/preening phase. Glad she did so well.”
“She did have some sticky flower buds on the underside of her wing, so maybe she was hunting and ended up in a bad spot,” Brannick said. “So glad she could fly. It was a happy ending!”
Anyone who finds an injured bird should call Benton at (340) 514-8435. If possible, leave the bird where it is and stay with it until Benton arrives. If the bird must be transported, try to wrap it in something and keep it secure. Do not leave the bird in a hot car or in a sunny area.