February 24, 2017
Red-throated and Ready to Go
- as seen by -Ken Huth
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is a worldwide leader in conservation. That includes conservation here at home in the United States. This past summer, I was fortunate enough to volunteer with the Adirondack Cooperative Loon Program which is supported by WCS and The Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) as well as a few other conservation groups. The loon program studies these iconic birds of northern lakes and ponds.
Here at WCS’s Bronx Zoo, I reached out to the BRI to let them know that we would be interested in a non-releasable loon – meaning a loon that was too badly injured to go back into the wild – and would likely be euthanized – for display in our exhibit. On an evening in December, I got the call. One of the wildlife veterinarians associated with BRI had a red-throated loon, Gavia stellata, with a drooping wing that appeared to be broken rendering it non-releasable. It was being held in the Saranac Lake Region of the Adirondacks about five hours away from the Bronx, so we met halfway for the hand-off.
We took a nice tour of eastern New York, the loon and I, on our three-hour journey back to the zoo. It was a cold, crisp day of about 18 degrees Fahrenheit. My avian co-pilot and I made our drive without the heat. Even though I would have appreciated it, the loon would not. These birds are prone to overheating so the best thing for her was for me to add another layer. We filled the time with light conversation and enjoyed the scenery the road provided. The loon mostly sat quietly just taking it all in.
Once back at the zoo, our veterinary staff examined the bird. It was determined that her wing was not broken, and that she could be returned to the wild. With the blessing of the wildlife veterinarian, the red-throated loon was released near City Island in New York, where it immediately swam off into the surf.
Though we are still waiting for a loon that will allow our guests to experience the grace and beauty of these birds, I couldn’t think of a better ending for this one.
Nikon D5, Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 Lens