By Kaz Skoczylas
The score was Green Bay Packers 7, Chicago Bears 0 in the NFL divisional playoff when the phone rang. It was my sister Wanda D’Agostino asking if I could respond to a call from someone who had reported an injured hawk by the side of a road.
As I neared the location, there was a police car and another car pulled over to the side near a five foot high snow bank at the edge of an open field. The caller, Ara, had noticed the injured hawk on the side of the road. As I exited my car, I saw the hawk now hopping away on the frozen snow, heading for the woods. While it did not break the crust of ice on the field, I was not so lucky. As I followed it, each step caused me to crunch down through the ice crust and into the three feet of snow below. Each step was getting harder and harder, especially carrying a pet carrier in which I hoped to place the injured bird.
After 10 minutes of walking and sinking and an occasional fall to a sitting position, I silently beseeched the hawk not to hop any further. My weight seemed to double in the ice/snow mixture and each step became more difficult than the last. As I was about to abandon any hope of catching the bird, Ara began to trudge through the snow between it and the woods. The hawk stopped hopping and I got a renewed hope of catching it.
A few more minutes and I was next to the injured bird. It opened its mouth in a sign of defiance, yet I had the feeling it knew I wasn’t there to harm it. Throwing a towel from the carrier over it, I gently lifted it up and placed it in the carrier. Now came the long trek back to the car and warmth.
Ara had joined me now and we began walking back toward the road and car. I asked her if she could carry the carrier and if I could follow in her footsteps. When she told me she was a hiker and a dancer, I knew providence had chosen the right person to report the injured hawk. I gladly followed her footsteps and slid down the snow drift onto the road.
After thanking Ara for her call and wait for assistance (about an hour total), we were off to Wanda’s house in East Hartford. I silently asked that the hawk not die in the car after all we had done to rescue it. It lay quietly after its ordeal.
Wanda determined it was a juvenile red-tailed hawk, probably hit by a car. She then took it to Bolton Veterinary Hospital where they placed a pin in his wing, hoping this would fix the break. There would be several weeks of care and many, many mice to eat before he could be returned to the wild. As of this writing, the hawk is recovering well and, with eating four or five mice a day, is gaining strength and weight. We will take him back to where he was found and release him within the next few weeks. Hopefully, he will remember two important things: stay away from moving cars, and not all people want to harm him. I look forward to seeing him released back into the wild in the early spring. We plan to record his release and post it here.
by Wanda D’Agostino
Victor interrupted our Sunday dinner by getting hit by a car on I-84 one day. The call came in just as I was sitting down. A man had seen the injured turkey vulture, and managed to catch him. However, the emergency vet he took him to could only offer him euthanasia because they didn’t deal with wildlife. The good samaritan who had rescued the bird said ‘no,’ and after several calls to the Humane Society and the DEP, he got my phone number.
I had never cared for a turkey vulture before, although I had spent numerous hours watching them soar gracefully over the Litchfield Hills while visiting friends in Northfield. However, a turkey vulture CLOSE UP was a lot different from those far-off shapes in the air. With a wing-span of over five feet, and a body very similar to a wild turkey, it was an impressive bird.
Our visit to Bolton Vet revealed suspected nerve damage in his right wing. Dr. Zyra said that sometimes nerves heal and I had high hopes that my vulture, now named Victor, would someday also soar above Litchfield Hills. I learned a lot about vultures that first week, especially their unique defense mechanism. Instead of talons they use projectile vomiting to protect themselves! It is not pleasant! I also discovered that Victor really likes chicken legs and road-kill squirrels.
I had Victor since March and although he still can’t fly, his wing is improving. I plan on keeping him until the fall to see if he can be released, but if not, Wendy at Sharon Audubon has guaranteed him a permanent home.
by Erin Owens
I first noticed Limpy Lou because he wasn’t the same as the dozens of pigeons that crowded around my taco cart in Bushnell Park in Hartford. While the other birds pranced around pecking up the crumbs I’d offer them, Limpy Lou hopped on this right leg, while his left leg extended out behind him, never touching the ground. His appetite, however, proved to be more than normal, and Limpy Lou was soon a regular customer, showing up at exactly a quarter to two each day. Over the next three years, Limpy Lou and I became good friends.
When he became ill in April 1997, I captured him and took him to Dr. Giddings. The vet said that what Limpy needed most was rest and good food. Two weeks later he was vastly improved and I released him back to the park, healthier than before.
In the winter of 1998, I decided to catch Limpy again and keep him caged during the cold weather, releasing him again in the spring. This pattern continued until 2001, when I realized Limpy was getting weaker and old age was not kind. I arranged with Kevin Gifford of Wickham Park East Hartford to have Limpy live out his final days in the comfort of their bird exhibit, keeping company with the fancy species of pigeons there. He died peacefully in March 2001.
Although ‘just a pigeon,’ Limpy Lou had such a big impact on my life. I have now written a children’s book about this special bird, with illustrations by local artist Rodney Bull. We hope to have the book published within the next few months as a lasting tribute to Limpy Lou.