An osprey that became entangled in a power line Tuesday is back tending to its chicks thanks to a birdwatcher and a Red Deer County lineman.
Georgie Edgar, who lives at Glennifer Lake Resort southwest of Red Deer, has been keeping an eye on a pair of ospreys nesting with their three chicks near the Dickson Dam.
When Edgar went for a visit on Tuesday, she discovered one of the adult birds was hanging from a live power line, its talon wrapped by baler twine which had become snagged on the line.
"You could hear the zipping of the energy, and it was upsetting me," Edgar told CBC News on Thursday.
She notified the Medicine River Wildlife Centre, which contacted FortisAlberta.
Red Deer County lineman Chris Wilson got the call. He's been working for the utility company for more than a decade and says it's not the first time he's heard of an osprey running into trouble with the strong twine used for hay bales.
"That's actually unfortunately common. They love baler twine, I think it holds their nest together," he said.
When Wilson arrived on the scene, the bird was hanging upside down and at risk of being electrocuted.
He de-energized the line, climbed the pole and steeled himself for the next hazards: a pair of sharp talons and a beak.
"It ended up kind of giving me a little nip on the arm; it wasn't a big deal," said Wilson who also farms in the area.
"I think you just get used to being around critters, but I'm not going to BS you; those feet, they looked pretty dangerous."
The osprey got into a bit of a flap as Wilson approached and did not care for the attempts to wrap it in a hoodie.
"You don't want to break its wing trying to save it," Wilson said. "To get its wings up against its body was a lot harder than I imagined, it really had some strength."
Fortunately Wilson was able to secure the bird and lower it down on a cable to Edgar and her friend Bing Fountain, a photographer who captured the ordeal in stunning detail.
Once Wilson and the bird were grounded, Edgar and Fountain helped him cut away the twine, spray antiseptic on a minor injury to the bird's leg before trying to set it free.
"The bird would not fly away, which was unfortunate because the babies were calling," Fountain said.
"We waited for about an hour hoping she'd fly away. By this time it's about 11 at night and Georgie called the Medicine River Wildlife Centre."
The centre's founder and executive director, Carol Kelly, believes the osprey, which turned out to be a male, was likely in shock.
"The stress was really affecting it so the decision was made by my staff member to take it in for the night," Kelly said.
A night at a fancy bird hotel seemed to do the trick.
"The next morning the release went beautifully," Kelly said. "Took off and was soaring up above the nest and back attending the nest with its mate and three chicks."
Edgar, who feared the worst when she first spotted the bird, was thrilled with the outcome and that she was able to hold the bird, although the odour left something to be desired.
"Really smelled of fish," she said.
The osprey is Alberta's only fish-eating hawk, Kelly said. "They are skilled fishermen."
Kelly said the osprey family will soon be able to head south thanks to the efforts of Edgar, Fountain and Wilson.
"They go down to South America and those chicks don't come back for two years," she said. "Then they come back to Alberta to perhaps find a mate and have young of their own."