An Impossible, unbelievable Story……………But is it true?

The one-winged Pied-billed Grebe on the Neversink River today!

The one-winged Pied-billed Grebe on the Neversink River today!


In the fall of 2008, while making my regular observations at the Bashakill, I noticed a Pied-billed Grebe that hung out almost constantly near the bridge on Haven Road. I never saw it fly, nor did it seem to disappear for more than a few days at a time. In late December, we were having a terribly cold month with temps hovering at zero and below. There was almost no water open, and I continued to see the Grebe. Finally on December 28th, the water was frozen solid. As I leaned over the rail of the bridge, I gasped in disbelief and grief. Arlene was with me and I called her over. The Grebe was frozen in the ice. Only its head stuck out and that had an ice film all over it. I couldn’t believe it had died such a horrible death. As we looked at this horrible scene, I gasped again. I swore to Arlene I saw its eye blink! We didn’t know what to do. If it was still alive, how would we get it out of the ice that was too thin to walk on, but frozen an inch or so deep. I finally decided to get my tripod, hang over the bridge and break the ice. As I did this, Lance Verderame and a State Trooper came along, curious as to what we were doing. I explained the situation and before we knew it, more troopers arrived, one with a net. Once I broke the bird free, you guessed it! It disappeared under the ice! We were all frantic. Eventually, the bird resurfaced. How would we ever get it out of that small hole. Well (don’t try this at home!) I scared the bird out of the hole with my tripod and then using it for support spread out on the ice, slid out and snatched the bird up in the net. Oh the possibilities of a bad outcome, but they were averted! The Grebe had its left wing severed at about one inch, and was in the process of healing. We thanked the troopers and took the bird to Arlene’s ponds which remain open year round. We purchased bait fish and stocked the pond. The bird thrived! It ate continuously and became all but normal with the exception of the wing. It remained in the ponds, seemingly content, right through the next summer. Arlene called one day and said she hadn’t seen the bird in a few days. I went down and searched, but the bird was gone, never to return. The brook from Arlene’s Ponds flows directly into the Basher Kill, which flows directly into the BASHAKILL. We decided the bird should do fine, and we’d probably find it at the bridge next winter. That never happened. FAST FOREWARED:
In early June of this year, I spotted a Pied-billed Grebe on the Neversink River, about a mile east of Bridgeville. It was in breeding plumage and seemed fine, but I thought that it should be on a lake or marsh somewhere with a mate and young. A strange thought came to my mind. Could this be the grebe we rescued all those years ago? Of course not! I let it go. When I spotted the bird again a few weeks later, I mentioned it to Lance and Arlene. I said that when I saw the bird dive, I could only see one wing. Could this be the bird? Of course not. Today, I again spotted the grebe in the same tranquil stretch of the river. As I watched, The bird only 60 feet away, it raised up in the water and FLAPPED ITS SINGLE RIGHT WING!!!!!!! Is this theoretically possible? The Bashakill feeds into the Basher Kill once it passes Westbrookville. It then joins the Neversink river just before Godefroy, where the river turns north. It continues all the way to Bridgeville, under RT. 17 to this tranquil spot on the river. I estimate the distance by water to be nearly twenty miles. (yet coincidentally only 5 miles north of Arlene’s ponds) It is seven years since the bird disappeared from those ponds. Many areas of the Neversink River remain open all year long and provide habitat for many overwintering birds. Did it provide a safe haven for this grebe? As I stated above, this is an unbelievable story. There is no way to ever know for certain if it is the same bird, but every word of it is true! You can draw your own conclusion, I’ve drawn mine!

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8 Responses to An Impossible, unbelievable Story……………But is it true?

  1. kdudge says:

    I believe!!!!! What an awesome story.

  2. scott j baldinger says:

    I remember your incredible rescue back in 2008. I would love to believe this is the same bird. AMAZING !!
    Scotty

  3. Thanks Scott! It really is amazing!

  4. Ralph Tabor says:

    Amazing things happen John, I’m with you!!

  5. Thanks Ralph! Nice to hear from you! I missed you on my trips over to the grasslands this spring, hope to run into sometime soon. Enjoy your summer! John

  6. Aimee LaBarr says:

    Well, John, when the grebe flapped its wing I think it was saying Hi and Thanks for saving me!

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