When not to get a flat tire

Last month Arthur and I were asked to release a couple of birds after they were rehabbed by Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation. It was a lovely Sunday morning when we drove out to the northwest suburbs to pick up the birds, a Lesser Scaup and an American Coot. We packed up the carriers and headed to the release site, Burnham Harbor in Chicago. The ride was uneventful until a couple of drivers in neighboring cars on the Kennedy indicated to us that we had a flat tire. We pulled off at the closest service station and were shocked to find the rear passenger tire completely flat. How could we not have felt that?! To avoid disturbing the birds too much, we elected to try filling up the tire and see if it would hold, rather than tearing up the back of our minivan in order to get the spare and tools out. Luckily the tire held… for the next ten minutes or so. Again we limped into a service station and filled the tire. We ended up stopping once more before finally rolling into Burnham Harbor with our fowl friends none the wiser.

The coot in particular was raring to go and was off flying as soon as I opened the carrier. Unfortunately we were a bit flabbergasted at the coot’s sudden departure; we aimed to document the release but only managed this photo immediately prior to the coot’s strong flight the hell away from us.

American Coot release
There’s a coot in there, really!

The scaup release was a bit more typical. I opened the carrier and the duck retreated to the back of the container. I gently lifted him out and placed him before the water. After a booty shake he was happily paddling in the water, not in any particular hurry at all but apparently delighted to be swimming free once again.

Lesser Scaup release
Moving the scaup from the carrier to freedom

Lesser Scaup release
Lesser Scaup shortly after release

Lesser Scaup release
Handsome, healthy Lesser Scaup just after release

With the birds safely released, the next order of business was changing the flat.

Changing the tire
Arthur changing the tire

This went off without a hitch, more or less, and with that out of the way we decided to see who else was out on the water. A Long-tailed Duck had been seen in Burnham Harbor, on and off, for several days prior to our visit. We found some other birders who let us know a female Long-tailed Duck was on the north side of the harbor. We couldn’t relocate her and decided to go back to the car to get the scope and check the birds on the south side. There we found lots of ducks, including Redhead, Common Goldeneye, lots of Lesser Scaup (some of which greeted our old charge shortly after his release), mergansers, plus this handsome fellow:

Long-tailed Duck
Lifer Long-tailed Duck

There was also a group of eight Horned Grebe, which was the most I’d ever seen at once.

Horned Grebes
Six of the eight Horned Grebes

Despite the flat tire it was a great morning out and we were thrilled to be able to release the rehabbed birds and score a lifer at the same time. Believe it or not, the next time we released birds for Flint Creek we were able to find another life bird on the same trip! Stay tuned for that story…

Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation is a non-profit, federally licensed rehab organization with locations in Chicago, Itasca and Barrington, Illinois. You can follow their blog here, follow them on Facebook here, and make donations online here.

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