Firefighters recount ‘rescuing’ stuck bird

The firefighters approached like they would have done for a frightened cat on a roof.

But the osprey reacted like a diner during a leisurely meal when the waitress comes to clear the table for another customer.

It happened Aug. 24 in the parking lot behind Tyrone Ford, and it came to the attention of the Antis Township supervisors at a recent meeting when board member Tim Mercer asked Jack McCloskey, assistant chief of Excelsior Fire Department No. 1, about the “animal rescue” listed in his report.

It started when an employee at the dealership noticed the big bird standing on top of a utility pole, according to Sales Manager Rod Tibbott.

It continued as the bird remained for hours, periodically lifting its feet and spreading its wings, as workers gathered around the base of the pole to watch.

It looked like the bird was snared, maybe with a wire, and that it was trying and failing repeatedly to get away, Tibbott said in a phone interview.

So salesman Chip Shade called the Game Commission, which sent a wildlife conservation officer, who also thought the bird was trapped, Tibbott said.

The officer called the fire department, said Excelsior President Joe Whiteford.

Whiteford, his wife and son were on their way back from a veterans memorial ride in Cambria County, when he heard about it.

“My wife (Sherri) is a super, super eagle fanatic,” Whiteford said, adding that they often travel long distances to see those regal birds. “We’re going, we’re going,” Sherri told him, as they diverted toward the scene, at the request of McCloskey.

An osprey isn’t an eagle, but it’s close — Merriam-Webster calls it “a large fish-eating hawk (Pandion haliaetus) with long wings that is dark brown above and mostly pure white below.”

When they arrived, Sherri “thought it was the most awesome thing,” Whiteford said.

The wildlife conservation officer had gloves and a blanket, but needed a lift to the top of the approximately 40-foot pole — which had no wires attached, Whiteford said.

The department had brought an aerial truck, and Whiteford began extending the motorized ladder, which the officer was preparing to mount for the rescue.

But as the ladder crawled toward the top of the pole, the bird suddenly arose from its perch — with a foot-long fish in its claws, according to Whiteford.

The top of the pole was about the size of a dinner plate or an old-fashioned counter stool, and it had been serving the purposes of both for the osprey.

“He was just trying to eat,” Tibbott said.

The observers had misinterpreted the dance, which was not to break free, but to pull the meat off the bones, and the flapping, which was not to fly off, but to shoo away the observers, Tibbott theorized.

“Hey, this is my fish,” the bird was trying to tell them, he said.

“It was fun — it was funny,” said Whiteford of the experience. “We get into so much stuff.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.