Last weekend our family went on a vacation with some friends at a beach cottage on a little island in the Gulf of Mexico, an idyllic paradise without cars, shops, and which you have to take a boat to get to since the bridge washed out in a hurricane decades ago, and the locals decided they were better off without it.
The first morning out, I broke out the running shoes (which I admit have gotten little use in the last few weeks - 2 birthdays and Halloween just about swamped me) and went for a predawn run on the beach. It looks like it takes a beach to keep me running. About a mile into the run, and having encountered not a soul, I came upon a least tern on the beach, caught on a fishing lure which was hooked through his chin and his wing. He was flapping desperately to free himself, and when he saw me approaching, ran into the surf, which tumbled him over and over, nearly drowning him. Overhead a flock of gulls - no terns - hovered, whether out of curiosity or cannabalism, I don't know. After a few minutes of fruitlessly trying to catch him with my hands, I tossed my t-shirt over him, which calmed him enough to let me pick him up. The hooks could not be removed without wire cutters, and he'd broken his own wing trying to free himself. Nothing for it but to walk back to the cottage and hope there was a wildlife rescuer in the phone book.
A half-mile back, I spotted a woman walking her dog on the beach. I'd found an injured tern; did she know where I might take him? Yes, there was a lady on the island, Susan, who did this sort of thing, and her husband Richard was a building contractor at those green-roofed buildings down the beach; when she was heading out to walk her dog she'd heard him already at work. I should be able to cross the dunes at the boardwalk and find him there.
Richard wasn't there, but his sister-in-law was, and after making a couple of phone calls, decided to drive the bird over to Susan. So we put him in a box, I retrieved my t-shirt, and he was on his way to help and healing.
I like to think that, if terns can pray, this little guy's pleas didn't go unanswered, whether or not he has realized that yet or ever does. A visiting jogger throwing a t-shirt over him, a dog-walker telling her where to go, a construction worker putting him in a dark box, even Susan clipping the hooks and transporting him to the mainland where they taped his wing and put him on meds to fight off infection, none of that probably feels like an answer to prayer.
I called Venice Wildlife this morning to check in on him, and he's doing well and his prognosis looks good. Good enough to soon be out in the wild again, flying.