Source: The Kentucky Standard
By Denis House
January 6, 2021
For the past three years, Eric Nally has participated in the annual Christmas bird count, an event sponsored by the National Audubon Society.
A photographer living in Louisville, Nally, who is originally from Nelson County and graduated from Bethlehem High School, usually participates in the Jefferson County one, as he did again in 2020. But he also decided to take part in the Bernheim Christmas Bird Count at Bernheim Forest.
On Dec. 30, around 11:45 a.m., Nally was hiking a trail in his designated territory, looking to document any bird species that he spotted. He happened to glance into a creek bed, and that’s when he spotted it: A bald eagle.
Thinking it was dead, Nally said he went down into the creek bed to examine the national bird of the United States to try and determine if there was an obvious trauma that would have caused it’s death and to process who to report it to.
“That’s when I realized it was in fact breathing and its head would move,” Nally said.
Knowing that his presence might cause the injured bird more stress, Nally said he immediately backed out of the area and started trying to figure out whom to contact to rescue the eagle. He was also racing against Mother Nature.
“Not only was it obviously injured an in need of help but it was in a creek bed just before the rain was set to begin in the area, so I knew the creek would be full of water relatively soon,” Nally said.
One of the people he contacted gave him the number for Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky, a group in Louisville that specializes in taking care of injured birds or prey. Unfortunately, he couldn’t reach anyone there on the phone.
He had better luck with his next call, which was to Bill Napper, a volunteer naturalist at Bernheim Forest.
“Fortunately, he answered immediately,” Nally said. “I filled him in on the situation and he not only went to work getting (Bernheim employees) Wren Smith and Dan Pascucci en route to my location.” He added that even though Napper wasn’t on duty, he didn’t hesitate in getting help and even came to the location himself.
“Within a matter of minutes they were at the location of the eagle and ready to begin the rescue,” Nally said, adding that Smith and Pascucci were able to get in touch with someone at Raptor Rehabilitation who came and took the eagle away.
Nally said he was told the eagle had severe lead poisoning and abdomen trauma, and that Raptor Rehab was treating both. “Hopefully this eagle will pull through and recover,” Nally said. “It definitely had some fight left in it when the rescue efforts were underway.”
According to a post on Raptor Rehabilitation’s Facebook page, the eagle, which is believed to be around 4 years old, is receiving medications and treatment for severe internal trauma and lead poisoning.
“She is receiving medications and treatment for both the trauma and the lead toxicity in her blood. Her prognosis is guarded at this time,” the post said, adding that “lead poisoning is commonly seen in Bald Eagles which are known to scavenge on carrion and gut piles left by hunters, and eat fish that contain lead due to lead sinkers left in waterways. This type of poisoning causes neurological damage that can lead to seizures, blindness, emaciation, weakness, limb paralysis and death if left untreated.”
Nally is thankful for the quick assistance of the employees at Bernheim.
“I know a lot of people don’t completely realize the impact a place like Bernheim makes in the area but it’s not just a park,” Nally said. “It’s the people. They have top-notch employees and volunteers alike that want nothing but the best for everything in nature. In fact, they are some of the best in nature.” Nally said that along with Napper, Smith and Pascucci, Michael Callen, James Wheat and Brainard Palmer-Ball also provided assistance.
If you would like to donate to the care of this bird, please visit Raptor Rehab’s website at raptorrehab.org.