BARCELONA – A woman from Pittsburgh on vacation in Westfield took the initiative last week to rescue an injured eagle she saw floating in the water in Barcelona harbor.
Francesca D’Appolonia was alone Thursday night waiting for her parents to join her at their seaside home when she decided to explore the picturesque water. What she found was more than just a panoramic view of Lake Erie.
“The water was perfectly clear so I was like, ‘The water is beautiful, let me go down and take a look at it,'” D’Appolonia said in a phone interview. “When I did, there was something floating in the water, where I quickly found out it was an eagle.
D’Appolonia said she was not sure the young eagle was alive because he was floating in the water. She said that based on the appearance of the eagle’s wing, she knew she was hurt.
“Her right wing was in, and her left wing was extended and she clearly looked messed up,” she said. “I first called an exterminator in town and they told me to contact DEC.”
D’Appolonia then searched the Internet for local DEC agents and began leaving voicemail messages. She said her mother advised her to contact a neighbor, Steve Rudnicki, who might have an idea of what to do.
“Steve gave me a description of a house to go to – no name, no address – from someone else who could help,” Said D’Appolonia. “I got in my car, followed those kind of vague directions and knocked on a door.
After getting no response at home, she came back and checked the eagle and found it was still there. Upon her return, she got a call from Tim O’Day, director and founder of the Campbell Environmental Center in Erie County.
“Tim O’Day returned my phone call. I explained what was going on and we were deciding if this was a beginner or if it was really hurt and if it was worth going down because he was in Erie. she said. “I emailed him pictures of the eagle and he said, ‘Yeah, that eagle is in trouble. Let me get down there. ”
D’Appolonia said he discovered the eagle around 5 p.m. and O’Day arrived around 7:30 p.m. It was hours of “To rush” and trying to figure out what to do, she said.
“When Tim arrived, my neighbor… and his wife came too,” Said D’Appolonia. “So we were a team here.”
D’Appolonia said it was difficult to access the water where the eagle was located.
“You have to go down about 20 or 30 feet of shale rock,” she said. “It’s not easy access to get there. So I showed him how to get down the rock.
“I am not a spring chicken” O’Day added. “Going down this cliff was not an easy ordeal. It was Francesca who showed me how she got there.
After D’Appolonia’s tutorial, O’Day picked up the bird and held it back so it wouldn’t hurt it. After returning to shore, it became apparent that climbing the shale rock with an aggressive predatory bird would not be an easy ordeal.
O’Day said it was a “Group effort” to save the eagle. The strategy he originally had in mind to save the bird was replaced with Rudnicki’s strategy of using a pet carrier and rope to lower the box and retrieve it once the bird was placed. inside.
“Steve’s wife went to get the suitcase (from the vet transporter), and I went home to get a rope,” Said D’Appolonia. “We tied the rope to the carrier, lowered it, Tim put the eagle in the carrier, we raised the carrier and Tim very bravely climbed the shale rock and took him to an incubator for the evening. .
“It was one of the funniest rescues, and I’ve been doing it for 40 years,” O’Day said. “I walked 60 miles at night, had to go down a 12-meter cliff, swim in the lake to retrieve the bird, put it back in a crate, come back here (Campbell Environmental Center), put it in intensive care , run fluids on it, get rid of some of the parasites, and drive another 40 miles to a qualified vet to treat it. It was quite an effort.
O’Day said the eagle had a lot of pests on it. With an injured wing, numerous parasites and waterlogged feathers at the drop in temperatures, it is very likely that the bird died without intervention, he added.
“This is about their diligence in finding a bird floating in the water – which is unusual,” O’Day said. “If she didn’t take the steps she had taken, the bird would have died. It’s that simple.”
The area where the eagle was found is an important migration route for various birds. O’Day believes the injuries sustained by the eagle were the result of a conflict between him and another eagle. O’Day noted, according to Cornell statistics, that the eagle population has increased and that land disputes like this are sure to occur in greater numbers.
“We believe he was forced into the edge of the cliff, where he broke the wing while being chased by other eagles,” O’Day said.
The last O’Day heard from DEC officials working in coordination with Medical Care is that surgery was successfully performed on his injured wing.
D’Appolonia said she went to great lengths to save the Eagle as they have always been a constant in her Westfield vacation.
“I’ve been coming here since I was a baby,” she said. “Eagles are a big part of it. They nest along the coast here so we still see them, and after decades of seeing these eagles it’s still amazing. Seeing an injured person in the water was a call to action. I can’t help but try.
D’Appolonia said that throughout the race there was a lot of adrenaline. At the end of the day she was “out of print.” D’Appolonia said if someone stumbles upon an injured animal, use whatever resources are available if you want to take action to save it.
“I would say proceed with caution. If you’re not an expert, I wouldn’t go to the animal, ” she said. “Just use your resources. We are fortunate to live in the Internet age. It only took a search on Google. “