Introducing Toms River Avian Care: Sometimes Amateur Avian Ambulatory Adventures End In Shock & Awe

Poor Kitty. As the tide came in it was becoming clear this sweet gull might drown right there.
Poor Kitty. As the tide came in it was becoming clear this sweet gull might drown right there.

Readers already know that another poor, injured gull was found hiding in the Jetty today, once again, right after I said “Hey, I’m just going to walk over to that Jetty over there for a minute to see the birds.”  Cut to another Adventure of A Lifetime.

First off, thanks to all the readers who responded to the call for comments this afternoon. It being Sunday afternoon and all, it was difficult to find someone to actually help this gal. Our old standby, the Barnegat Animal clinic was closed. Stafford was closed. Popcorn Park was closed. But thanks to alert readers, we were tipped off that a mysterious “Don” somewhere  in Toms River was the man for this job, and super-special thanks to Osprey Hero Ben Wurst for tracking him down on a Sunday Evening.

Shock & Awe
Shock & Awe

When I first called Don and got his voicemail, I was encouraged. The message perfectly described my situation: “If you have an injured bird, get it in a box and keep it warm in a safe place and I’ll get back to you”. Bird in a box? Check! Warm? Check! Safe? Check! Right away, I felt that Don understood my situation, and that he was the man to solve this problem. But nothing could prepare me for what I was about to experience.

I knew Toms River Avian Care (TRAC) is one the only wildlife rehab centers in NJ licensed by both the state and the feds to care for endangered and non-threatened species alike.  That’s why I was a little confused when I reached the end of a long journey up the Parkway on a Sunday evening to a distant land called “Toms River” and found myself on a quiet little cul de sac in a beautifully upscale, picture perfect suburban neighborhood.  I assumed I must have been sent to Don’s house and he’d run the bird to his strip mall clinic or wild outpost in the Pine Barrens. But then he took me to the backyard.

In a humble greenhouse just off the swimming pool, on the beautifully landscaped grounds, Don check out "Kitty" and tossed her a few mice.
I KAN HAZ MOUSE???!??!??!!!!1111!

Don got right down to business and gave Kitty an exam in a picturesque garden shed in the backyard, just off the pool and nestled in the beautifully landscaped yard. Turns out Kitty had a busted leg, possibly from the surf. The soft tissue damage showed the injury was aging, and that Kitty was starving and dehydrated. Don said she probably would have lasted about another 36 hours in the wild. Good thing we brought her in. With some fluids, some rest, and some TLC, she’ll join the 30,000 birds that have been treated at TRAC (Don’s backyard) since 1980.

I did not want to waste Don’s incredibly precious time, and I was almost in tears watching his kindness… but I had to ask him a few questions because I felt I had just met that man I want to be when when I grow up.

That’s when Don said “Come over here, have a look at this….”

Shock & Awe
Shock & Awe
... and this...
… and this…
... and this...
… and this…
oh, and let's not forget this...
oh, and let’s not forget this.

I botched it. I have never seen so many of our most amazing birds gathered together in one place. I was fumbling with my lens cap, embarassed for wasting Don’s time, and so blown away that I forgot to undo all the beach settings on my camera. Walking through Don’s backyard was bird-overload: one amazing species after the next, almost all I’ve never seen and some I’ve never even heard of. I wish I had pulled off the photos that would have captured what I saw there tonight.

I wish everyone in the world could have seen the patient, focused ease with which Don treated Kitty, a humble Herring Gull, on a perfect Summer’s Sunday evening as if nothing else in the world mattered. I’m still in shock and I have a feeling it will be years before I fully comprehend the impact my visit to TRAC had on my brain.

For now, let it suffice to say that I just met an Angel, and the type of person I think almost anybody wished they had the courage to be, and certainly the guy I want to be when I grow up. Don & his family have obviously made enormous personal sacrifices over the years to make TRAC happen. What they’ve done for New Jersey wildlife is beyond comprehension. What an enormous impact. Don is a humble guy and was slow to even admit they accept donations. But they do. So if you’re ever feeling like doing something good for the local environment, please consider a tax deductible contribution to:

Toms River Avian Care

1916 Kenilworth Court

Toms River, NJ 08753

732.255.9270

Fortunately, I was smart enough to throw the video switch at least one during this brief, and overwhelming visit to one of the most special places down the Jersey Shore: