Bulletin 33 - November 1987: A Close Encounter of a Feathery Kind

A Close Encounter of a Feathery Kind

By Roger Brown

The telephone message came through into the office at about 11:30 am on Monday 11th May 1987. A large bird – possibly a falcon – had been found trapped in the capture netting around Helipad US 116 (Umm Shaif Khuff Gas Tower). The bird had been untangled in very weak condition and all attempts at feeding had failed. Could Abu Dhabi help?

I rapidly assessed the situation and agreed to help. Hugh Maclean – Umm Shaif Supercomplex Field Superintendent – made the necessary arrangements to have the bird transferred to the mainland while Mohamed al Nuaimi and Dick Parker, the original captors, packed it into a suitable box.

Meanwhile I contacted Dr. Ken Riddle, head of the UAE Falcon Hospital being set up for H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahayan. The package arrived at the ADMA-OPCO offices at about 2:15 and Dr. Riddle arrived a few minutes later. Gingerly we opened up the cardboard carton and found, to our surprise, not a falcon but an osprey. And the creature seemed to have recovered remarkably during the few hours since its capture and dispatch. The bird was carefully examined by Dr. Riddle and found to be in good condition. He gave it an intravenous injection in both wings in order to stabilize blood dehydration and to replenish electrolyte levels.

As the osprey was healthy we decided that the kindest action would be to release it as soon as possible since such species are virtually impossible to feed in captivity. Ospreys will not take live fish even thrown their way. They have to initiate the catch themselves.

The release was made from the ADMA-OPCO beach though our first attempt failed when the bird just stood staring at us after had set it down on a suitably firm surface. Not until it was tossed into the wind did its wings open out and off it flew.

Several days later, another osprey was sighted sitting on top of the Umm Shaif crane tower. Could this be the same bird that we had released in Abu Dhabi, now returned to ‘territorial waters’? We shall never know.

All who became involved in the rescue and subsequent release of the osprey – affectionately if a little dispassionately referred to us as ‘US 116’ after the well head tower on which it was found – wish to extend their appreciation for the time and effort put in by Dr. Ken Riddle, who, despite a very busy schedule, came out at short notice to examine the bird.

Various birds are observed on the offshore complexes from time to time. On 28th September 1987 a small (6” tall) owl was rescued from the USSC Water Injection area and released the following day after a rest. It appeared not to have suffered for its experience.


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