Many hands pluck a bufflehead duck from a tough tangle

  • By Sharon Wootton Herald Columnist
  • Friday, December 14, 2007 2:02pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The huge problems facing humans (global warming, prejudice, terrorists, corporate power, the price of fresh vegetables) can be so overwhelming that they immobilize us into inaction.

So it’s always nice to see a problem and quickly do something about it, even if the problem is as small as a bufflehead.

Recently a Pilchuck Audubon Society outing took birders to Clear Lake.

“Virginia Clark spotted a female bufflehead duck frantically trying to free herself from a tangle of fishing line in a low-hanging branch about 8 feet from shore,” reported Bob Sindelar.

Cell calls to local authorities came up empty, so Art Wait and Sindelar took off to find a boat while Sheila Sindelar spoke quietly to the helpless duck in an effort to calm the bufflehead.

Bob Sindelar and Wait found Scott Thompson at the Clear Lake Market. He volunteered to leave work and bring back his wife’s kayak.

A short time later, Thompson was paddling toward the “baffled, frightened and terrified duck. Seemingly sensing a compassionate soul, the duck quieted and allowed Scott to pick her up and clip her free of the line,” said Bob Sindelar.

But the bufflehead’s problems weren’t over because a fish hook pierced her neck. Bill Davey gently removed it then drove the duck and Margaret Bridge, who was applying a compress to the badly bleeding bird, to the nearest vet, Sindelar said.

The vet called a wildlife volunteer who met the trio in Mount Vernon. The bufflehead ended up in the Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Friday Harbor, many miles and a ferry ride from Clear Lake.

The injured bird was treated and given a warm-water bath but because she had lost some feathers where the hook had pierced her throat, she was no longer totally waterproof, Sindelar said.

So the bird was sent from Wolf Hollow to PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society) in Seattle, where they were better able to care for her in a wild-bird facility.

On Dec. 5, the female duck was released on the waterfront between North and South View parks in Everett, across from Jetty Island, where there was a nearby flock of buffleheads.

This time, a long chain of caring hands saved a life.

Speaker series: National Geographic Live! is a five-lecture series at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. Speakers include a cultural anthropologist, an underwater explorer, a herpetologist, a National Geographic editor and a photographer.

Since this series has sold out in the past, each speaker will appear twice. For more information, call 206-215-4747.

Fishy: The Seattle Aquarium is looking for volunteers who like to hang out with cool creatures and the folks who love to look at them. An orientation will be held Jan. 20. In the meantime, go to and click on the volunteer button at the bottom of the page. Or call 206-386-4342.

Nothing new: It might be easy for Whistler-Blackcomb’s employees to be a little blase about the ski resort’s No. 1 status in North America in Conde Nast Traveler magazine, since they’ve been at the top of one poll or another many times before.

Britain’s Telegraph Travel Awards ranked the British Columbia resort No. 3 in favorite ski resorts (the only North American resort to be named) in this year’s awards, behind two French resorts.

Storm damage: Several roads in the Olympic National Forest, including Hurricane Ridge Road, were closed following the recent record-breaking storm. Water damage and mud slides caused significant damage and closures to the Sol Duc, Hoh, Queets, North Shore, South Shore and Graves Creek roads. For current information, call 360-565-3131.

“Photographer’s Exposure Handbook”: Decent photography equipment doesn’t mean a thing, unless its owner can use it effectively and creatively. Jack Neubart’s focus is to share information on how to do that, using his experience and photographs to discuss digital and slide photography. His section on metering is invaluable to a beginner.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or

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