Today was the first day in a long time I didn’t have anything pressing to do, so Danika and I packed up the kids and planned a full day of birding, mostly looking for Crossbills in Western Albany County. We had stopped at Dunkin Donuts to get some ‘supplies’, when my cell phone rang. It was a call from a former co-worker and someone who volunteers at the USS Slater in downtown Albany, Mike Collins. He told me there was a Snowy Owl “in the water”. I pressed him for more details, thinking he had a Ring-billed Gull. His description seemed to fit and he told me that the local Peregrine Falcons were harassing the bird constantly. I told him I would check it out.
He called me back a few minutes later to say that the Albany PD had come down and done nothing and a call to DEC went unanswered. They (at the Slater) had called Rensselaer County Animal Control and were awaiting a call back. He also told me the bird seemed to be ‘drifting’ in the water, not a good sign I thought.
I arrived at the small park on the Rensselaer side of the river, but was unable to locate the bird (I could see a white blob as we drove over the Dunn). Mike called me back to say the bird had stopped moving, and with that news my heart sank. However an adult Peregrine Falcon went by at that time and started bombing an area of shoreline I couldn’t see. So I figured the Owl was still alive.
We decided to change locations and headed over to the Slater parking lot (next to the U-Haul building in Albany). Once there, I could clearly make out via binoculars and scope that this was indeed a Snowy Owl, a heavily streaked youngster. However the bird looked awful, wings drooping and a general disheveled look. The Peregrine Falcons constantly bombed it and the Owl reacted with each pass, so I was able to confirm the bird was alive. At this point I called Corey Finger, who gave me Rich Guthrie’s cell phone number. I talked to Rich who passed the word to see what we could do to help the bird and then he headed up to check the bird out. A few moments later we could see the Animal control officer on the Rensselaer side, whom we tried to flag down to give a clue as to where the bird was (at this point the Owl had climbed up the shoreline a bit into some bushes). But he seemed oblivious.
About half and hour later, Rich arrived and confirmed that the bird did not look well. He headed across to the Renssealer side to see if he could help, while Danika and I stayed on the Albany side an acted as spotters. After about another half an hour of guiding Rich and the Animal control officer up and down the river bank and one last gasp escape attempt by the Owl (it tried to run away, not fly) Rich was able to literally reach down and pick the Owl up, where it was taken to the Animal control van and the plan was to get it to a rehabilitator as soon as possible.
Rich reported that the bird was, as guessed emaciated. I don’t think the bird would have survived much longer, but now at least it has a chance.
In addition to the Owl and Peregrine Falcons, there was also a Merlin, Mallards, Ring-billed and Great Black Backed Gulls.
I did end up spending the rest of the day birding and will have a seperate report later.
I also want to say a special thanks to Mike Collins and Rich Ireland from the USS Slater, without their efforts, this bird was sure to perish.