I went out to West Beach last night (I hate to admit this because I had decided to leave them alone.), looking for a Snowy Owl. And just at the end of the path was a seagull struggling, wrapped in fishing line. I called Chris Blane, who had another commitment but gave me good advice. Then I called Kim Gaffett, who left her dinner on the table to come and help. We caught the gull by wrapping it in a towel. We tried to cut the lines but we didn’t have the right clippers with us. We had to bring it back home. We discovered the fishing line was more like a fish net, actually, with a large open weave that had wrapped itself under the bird's wings and around its head, and particularly around its foot, where it was tangled and knotted, cutting off circulation and wearing right down to the bone. We tried to keep the gull’s head covered to keep it as calm as possible, and we turned it one way and another, working in little sections, carefully clipping, like clearing a thicket, until pieces fell away.
I wondered what the seagull thought of this, being abducted by aliens, squeezed in a towel, carried in a box and a car, clipped at and turned and handled. We talked to it softly, stroking it a little bit, and I wondered if that would even matter, if our human gestures of comfort could possibly mean anything to a bird. We felt under its wings, following with our fingers when the line cut under its feathers. I was amazed at its body heat, how it was soft and fragile and very warm. The gull seemed relatively calm under the circumstances, or was in shock, one or the other. When we finally got it free, Kim set it on the ground. It tried to fly. Its wings seemed fine but one leg dangled. It went a few feet and then set down, then it tried and failed again. We decided not to subject it to another capture and left it where it was for the night. I brought water and upon consideration, dog food. By then it was dark. It was cold and windy. A little sleet was falling. When I went to check it during the night and again before dawn, it hadn’t moved from its spot. I worried. I wondered how long it had been caught like that, how long it had been struggling, how long afraid, how long without water or food. I thought about how everything wants to live, and how good that is, how it’s life itself that wants that. I thought about the forces at work in the night to heal the gull and the other forces bearing down. I hoped the scales would tip in its favor.
I considered how it had flapped and struggled, how the wings seemed strong, and how maybe it just needed some peace and quiet. I hoped for time because I know that life always heals in slow motion. In the morning the gull was up and standing on one foot, delicately pecking at the dog food, sipping the water and looking around. It objected loudly when some ducks came by to get the food but it gave ample room to the crows. Some gulls came to visit. I went out with clean water and more food, and it seemed resigned to my presence, but then I went to take its picture. I wonder if it thought my camera was a gun, because that did it. It gathered its forces, spread its wings, caught the wind, and flew away. Bill said, “Good for you. After all, ‘What you do for the least of my creatures…’” I said, “No. Not the least of creatures.” I had come to love it a little bit. I said, “The best of creatures. Really. It is the best of creatures.”
Chris called and I saw Kim on the ferry this morning and I was happy to give them a good report. It’s only one bird but hope it’s OK.