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You never know what you’ll get into

July 24, 2016
Kevin Williams, - Grundy County Conservation Director , Reinbeck Courier

In my over 36 years with Grundy County Conservation, I have answered many interesting calls. Just like humans, wildlife can get into some strange predicaments sometimes. I have rescued many deer over the years that were caught in fences, for instance. Baby skunks in window wells has been another not as common but several time occurrence. I even assisted with a deer rescue where the animal had fallen into a dry sand point water well. We kept dragging logs and boards and branches over to the edge throwing them into the pit until we had eventually raised the deer to a level where he could successfully jump out. However, last Wednesday afternoon's call was a first for me.

It seems that this Red-tailed Hawk was discovered sitting in the center of the larger of two circular, concrete sludge containment "tanks" at the waste treatment facility in Grundy Center. This thing is about fifty feet in diameter and there is a center cone-shaped hub where the bird was located out of the sludge but covered in it. So covered, in fact, that it wasn't immediately apparent just what kind of bird they were dealing with.

I understand that the bird tried to take flight but was unable to clear the outside edge, instead ending up back in the brink. It eventually "swam" its way around the edge to a ladder and latched hold of the lower rung with its talons. No amount of work with a scoop shovel or rake would persuade it to release the grip on the rung.

Article Photos

Red-tailed Hawk following its rescue and bath.
Photo submitted

Now here is where I enter the picture. Peering over the concrete wall at the bird (and the sludge) I confess that I questioned whether it had been a good decision to continue work instead of taking off early to get my much too tall yard grass clipped that afternoon!

I seem to remember about this time that one of the guys told me that when the waste had reached this tank in the treatment process it was pretty clean (or something like that). I was too busy envisioning myself falling into the brown mixture over a hawk.

Well, the plan was formulated. I borrowed a pair of heavy leather welding gloves. And then removed anything I could visualize falling into the "soup" first my glasses, then the cellphone from the belt clip. And finally my wallet and checkbook - just in case. Basically anything I didn't want to imagine in the sludge. They filled a large plastic container with water if I was successful to use on the bird and hopefully not me.

I leaned over the wall and reached down toward the sorry-looking specimen of a bird. It was at that point that I requested someone grab my ankles. In retrospect, I don't know if that was going to save me should I go tumbling on over but I felt better.

I am happy to report that things went extraordinarily well from that point.

With one hand on the head and the other on one of the feet, I lifted the bird up and over the wall. As I and it began to clear the wall, I do remember this clear picture in my mind of the hawk flapping its wings and the resulting goo that would come flying everywhere - but that didn't happen.

The next procedure was to do what I can best describe as a washing machine agitator motion several times in and out of the water which worked very well. I carried the bird over to a field edge and quickly examined it. Soaking wet cats and birds look similar to me both are pretty sorry-looking. It looked as OK as it could look under the circumstances. I dried it off a bit and left it to spread its wings in the hayfield to dry out. By the time we left, it was standing with outspread wings.

I did visit the sink inside to wash away some splatters and headed home to place my clothes in the washing machine. And do you know, my wife barely batted an eye when I related the story! I guess she has heard a lot of similar stories.

She never knows what I'll get into.



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