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Chimney-trapped Turkey Vulture
Lassoed from Rye Key Fireplace
Cedar Key, Florida
APRIL 1, 2015
 
 
The late Jack Tyson was frequently heard to exclaim “Only in Cedar Key” when he heard of the latest eccentricity that had happened in the town. Our Annual Visitors nowadays provide more weird happenings than he could have dreamed of, but we would like to share with other readers our latest home-grown adventure.
 
On Tuesday last we, sadly, decided that, after weeks of extensive market research, the ospreys are not going to nest on top of our chimney this year. On Thursday, however, there were definite rustlings inside the chimney that suggested the swifts might be back and preparing to rear another of the happy families that we have fostered over the years. But it’s not nearly time for the swifts, so what else could it be? A first sighting of a bit of wing indicated a bird that might possibly be a dove, but with some gymnastics and the help of a flashlight we eventually decided that the small naked red head and a beady eye identified our visitor as a somewhat sooty and uncomfortable turkey vulture.
Which raised a host of questions, such as: How on earth did it get there? Did it fall or was it pushed? Was it starting up a nest? Was it sick or damaged?
 
 
-----But, most important, was that the likely outcome was a whole bunch of mess. In that situation, the eventual (and, we suppose, obvious) solution to the problem was to call in the professionals, and on Monday morning Chief of Police Virgil Sandlin and Fire Chief Robert Robinson, accompanied by Norm Hodge from the Building Department, arrived on Rye Key with Cedar Key’s “Buzzard Patrol”.
 
You may imagine that the logistics involved in lifting a nearly eagle-sized bird with a wing spread of 6 ft and weight of 4-5 lbs up a narrow 15 ft high chimney are somewhat complex, and the rescue operation mounted by Cedar Key’s finest took over two hours of their time. More than that, the ingenuity that the team showed in seeking a solution to the problem (including the use of ropes, PVC pipe, rolled-up newspapers and an old sheet), the perseverance with which they carried out their task and, above all, the care they showed towards a bird that is usually treated with disdain, was – we use the word advisedly - heroic. Thanks again for a brilliantly executed job performed above and beyond the call of duty.
 
It almost seems an anticlimax to report that the rescue was completely successful; the buzzard slipped the noose that had been looped around its neck as soon as it emerged from the top of the chimney, and flew off, showing no obvious ill effects from its lengthy incarceration.
 
Linda and Colin Dale      
 
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