Date: 4/12/17 8:17 pm
From: Sherri Smith <grackle...>
Subject: [birders] Loon down
Monday evening I came home to find a phone message that there was alone down in the median strip of US 23 south of Ann Arbor at mile 33. I gathered up my loon catching and handling stuff and fought my way thru traffic toward where he was reported. I drove on the left lane and pulled over onto the wide shoulder when I spotted him in a bathtub sized body of water, in big trouble. I put on my goggles and heavy gloves and grabbed my net. I had him hauled out of the water and was working to make him go in a big cat carrier a minute later. I bet hardly anyone even saw it. Loons are big, strong and fierce, glad to put out your eyes with their long sharp beak. On my way home I realized that he was not only dirty but probably slightly oiled from the highway. My informant (great eyes to have noticed that he wasn’t just a duck) that she saw him pulling himself thru the grass with his wings. He needed a bath. I recruited Keith Taylor and his wife Kris to help me and we headed off for one of the class rooms where I teach in the School of Art and Design. It has large sinks and doesn’t run out of hot water.

It took all three of us to wash him, Kris immobilized the very dangerous head, Keith held his body and I washed various parts of him in turn. We needed occasional help from amazed students who were there working. He did not make the loon call, but made plenty of nasty remarks about us. Then we had to rinse him at length to make him waterproof again. You can’t leave any trace of Dawn, detergent of rehabbers, in them. Their feathers , when detergent free, turn dry under running water. This is true of all birds, not just water birds. It was pretty dark when we took him out to Barton Pond and poured him out of the cat carrier. We could see his pretty long legs kicking off from the shallow bottom like a frog until he got into deeper water and could swim properly.

Why was he in the medium strip of the highway? We think the sudden hard rains of the day combined with on of those violent down drafts (like the one which pulled up big trees on Dexter St. a few years ago) forced him to the ground where he could be discovered by mere chance.

Sherri Smith

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