This is an email from the son of long time DOAS Board Director, Tom Salo about a particular adventure while on vacation in France this summer. Never underestimate the heroic capabilities of a serious birder!
My parents left this morning to go back home through Montreal, but I did want to share one exciting part of our vacation. After we got home from Brittany, my parents, the girls and Julie and I spent 2 nights in the Basque Pyrenees (a little town called Larrau) because my dad wanted to spend a little time at one of the most renowned bird migration sites in the Western Pyrenees as well as seeing a part of the Pyrenees that none of us had been to. On Weds we spent some time exploring the region and just before we were to go back to the home, we made a wrong turn and end up on a small road in a fairly steep gorge:
We were admiring the stream that flows through the gorge when my mother saw something struggling in the gorge – that something happened to be a young Griffon vulture, which can reach 4 feet long with over a 9-foot wingspan, that couldn’t pull itself out of the river. I don’t know much their growth schedule, but this one was mostly grown in any case!
Not really knowing what to do, Tom tried to find a phone number on the various documentation that we had accumulated, but we couldn’t find any so Plan B was executed: SAVE THE BIRD.The river was down about 50-60 feet off the road and it was pretty much a straight drop, but Tom hooked himself up with a couple of nylon tie-down straps we had in the car and shimmied down, wrapped the bird up in a shopping bag and came back up…and now we had a 20 lb, stinky, sopping wet bird and no idea what to do with it. We eventually got in touch with a rehabilitation center that was a 3 hour drive away and we arranged to meet up in St. Jean Pied de Port – a 1:15 one-way drive over a severe mountain pass in the pitch black to make the exchange in a darkened supermarket parking lot at 11pm. The woman who runs the center said it was the third juvenile vulture that had been pulled out of that stretch of river _this week_ (and she already had 2 other birds in her van from other locations in the W. Pyrenees from that day). The birds nest up on the cliffs above the gorge and the babies fall into the river on their first sorties from the nest.
This is the Youtube video of us pulling the bird – and then Tom – up out of the gorge, along with a few pictures of the proud ‘rescuer’ and ‘rescuee’.
Submitted by Kris Salo.
Epilogue: The baby bird was hungry and dehydrated. It recovered quickly at the rehab center and was released in early September with the other young Griffon Vultures.