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Birds in the Boom
A nest is inadvertently launched
June 11, 2019

f a boat is on the hard for a while, creatures will find it a useful home. Wasps are frequent boat yard visitors. But in this case, it was a larger flying stowaway.

Heatherbell, a 43 ft Pan Oceanic sailboat, was launched last week at Sailcraft Service. She had spent more than a few calendars at the yard. Prior to the launch, boat owner (and TownDock publisher) Keith Smith conducted the usual checks to make sure the transition to water was a smooth one and that Heatherbell, once in the slings, wouldn’t have to be hauled again anytime soon. Seacocks, thru-hulls, zincs and stuffing boxes were checked.

Birds in the Boom
Heatherbell at town dock #1.

But one small issue went unnoticed. Or rather, there were three issues, tucked away inside the open ended boom of the sailboat. Ones that Smith didn’t hear until he’d moved his boat away from Sailcraft and docked in Oriental’s harbor.

Birds in the Boom
The birds were hidden at launch.
Birds in the Boom
A view inside the boom.

In the yard the noise of the boat lift, of sanders, grinders, and the sounds of other boat owners hard at work on their own vessels drowned out the small, sharp chirps coming from the boom. But at the town dock, the sound was clear: three small nestlings were telling anyone who would listen that they were hungry. Really hungry.

They had made the trip to town dock without their parents.

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Bird boom birthing 101: a careful extraction. (Photos courtesy of Rolf Anselm)

First, they had to be removed from the boom. You could see them, but hardware prevented getting at them. Part of the boom was unassembled to allow a clear path.

They were several feet inside the boom. A “volunteer” was procured to reach inside the boom and gently pull the nest aft. TownDock.net staff writer Allison DeWeese (donning blue painting gloves) was that volunteer. The nest, with chicks, slid out to a waiting cardboard box. They looked healthy, and were promptly “fed” some water.

Birds in the Boom
Waiting for dinner. Breakfast and lunch, too.

What now?

It wasn’t viable to return the birds to the yard; the safe home they’d known was no longer available and putting them in a nearby tree didn’t guarantee they’d be found and fed. Smith called Oriental Village Veterinary for advice. They suggested OWLS – Outerbanks WildLife Shelter in Newport, NC.

OWLS agreed they would take the birds in – as long as they were brought to the shelter.

Nestlings, waiting down below after departing the boom. They were ready for transport.

Tucked into the bottom of a box, the hungry, half-naked birds made the journey to Havelock by ferry, arriving at OWLS about an hour after they were pulled from the boom. Veterinary technicians tentatively identified the trio as mockingbirds, declaring them healthy if not hungry.

Birds in the Boom
Mockingbird: the adult version. (file photo)

A call to OWLS a few days later confirmed the three were doing well. They would be able to leave the nest within a week, without any complications from their ordeal.

Birds in the Boom
Outerbanks WildLife Service.

OWLS, the Outerbanks WildLife Shelter, is at 100 Wildlife Way in Newport, NC, is partially supported by donations, and offers in-depth guided tours on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday @ 2p for $3 a person. Call for availability. 252-240-1200.


TownDock.net returned to OWLS to check up on them a few weeks later.

One had already been released. OWLS staff was hand feeding the other two along with several other orphaned birds.

Andy Sauer, a staff member at OWLS, led a tour of the facility. Inside, there were several orphaned marsupials and birds under their care. In the outside pens were several larger birds that could not be released. Their injuries prevented them from being able to survive in the wild. They became lifelong residents of OWLS and help to educate the visitors and schools that come to see them.

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Other residents at the Outerbanks Wildlife Shelter.
An update on the birds.

Posted Tuesday June 11, 2019 by Allison DeWeese

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