Megan Chisum

© Copyright 2023 by Megan Chisum

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Look, boys,” I said to my two sons as we were stopped at the light waiting to turn into our neighborhood. It was dark out. We were on our way home from my older son’s baseball game. It had been a long day, and I was tired.

What is that bird doing? I’ve never seen a seagull walking down the sidewalk so politely. What a strange sight!” Both boys sat up taller in their seats to get a better glimpse. As the light turned green, we rounded the corner and saw the reality of this peculiar moment. This was not just a gentlemanly seagull out for an evening stroll. This bird was injured.

Mom, we have to rescue him,” my older son, Bridger, pleaded. “Something is wrong with his wing. He needs us, mom.”

What are we going to do? Catch him and keep him in our garage? Fix his broken wing? I definitely do not know how to repair a broken seagull wing.” Even as I said these words, I knew that I was about to get in over my head. I knew that this long day was about to get longer. I knew we were about to save a bird.

My younger son, Lander, chimed in, “Maybe we can just keep him. He can be our new pet. We can name him.”

Joaquin,” Bridger spit the word out quickly and assuredly. By this time we were driving slowly down the street following the seagull.

You want to name this bird ‘Joaquin’?” I asked confusedly.

Yeah. Because you know, he’s WALK-ING. He’ll be Joaquin, the Walking Seagull.” Bridger smiled at his cleverness.

Fine. Let’s save Joaquin.” My boys cheered!

By the time I’d made this decision we’d passed our street, so I quickly turned back. “We need to grab a box from the garage. Boys, get your baseball bags out of the car and grab a box and a towel from the garage. I’m going to run in and get dad.”

With my husband now involved we jumped back in the car and drove slowly down the street where we’d left Joaquin. There he was, slowly walking down the sidewalk, his left wing dragging on the ground. Another car had pulled over, just ahead of where the seagull was walking.

I think this seagull’s injured,” the woman from the other car said as we got out. “I don’t know what to do. My name’s Brenda, by the way.”

Nice to meet you. I’m Megan. We brought a box,” I said. “Do you want to help us catch him? Maybe we can contact a wildlife rescue organization or something.”

She was happy to help. I told my boys to stand on the sidewalk behind him. I stood in the street ready to block traffic. Brenda stood on the sidewalk ahead of Joaquin and my husband began approaching him from behind with a towel.

I’m not sure what I was thinking. Did I really expect this wild bird to just climb into my husband’s arms, ready to be wrapped in a warm towel, grateful for help? Because that is not at all what happened. This seemingly docile bird was about to get captured by three grown humans and two excited boys.

After several minutes of chasing, swooping, and yelling, we finally had Joaquin wrapped in towel. I opened the box and my husband quickly put him in. We closed the flaps and all five of us looked at one another. Now what?

Brenda let me know that she could be available to help transport Joaquin the following day if needed. We exchanged numbers, and I promised to update her when I figured out what to do. We put the box in the car and drove home.

My husband found a big green storage bin in the garage and emptied it out. He laid towels along the bottom of the bin. And then he opened the box, tipped it a bit, and let Joaquin slowly slide into the bin. We covered the storage bin with a lid, leaving about two inches open on one side for air. At this point Joaquin was quite calm. I found out later that the best thing you can do for an injured bird is to put them into a box. The four walls make the bird feel safe from predators. We left him in our garage, and I went inside to start looking up wildlife rescues.

Several emails and phone calls later, I was stumped. It was late, nearly 10:00. Nobody was answering their phones or checking emails. I finally fell asleep wondering what I’d gotten myself into and what in the world I would do the next day.

When I got to school that morning, I showed my second graders pictures of Joaquin and told them the story of the rescue. They had a lot of questions, and many of them wanted Joaquin to be our new class pet. As we were discussing this, my phone rang. I don’t typically answer phone calls during class time, but I saw the caller was from one of the rescue organizations I had called the night before. I answered.

By the time the phone call was over, I had a plan. The woman who called me was a sea bird rescuer. She lived in Ventura and was willing to take Joaquin to a wildlife vet. As long as I could drive Joaquin to her that afternoon, she’d help. She couldn’t promise anything about his prognosis, but she was willing to try to save him. I was elated.

I’ve always been an animal lover. I’ve had pets my whole life. I lovingly feed the birds and squirrels in my back yard. And now I was harboring an injured seagull in my garage. In less than 24 hours I’d grown to love this wild bird, with his bright orange beak and sleek white feathers.

That afternoon I picked my boys up from school and told them what we had to do. When we got home, Bridger helped me get the bin into the car. The boys wanted him in the back seat, in the middle, so they could comfort him as we drove. We had a thirty minute drive to Ventura, and they wanted to make the most of our time with our seagull.

When we arrived, the rescuer was waiting for us in front of her house. Bridger helped me get the bin out of the car, and she opened up the lid. I was ready to pounce, towel in hand. But Joaquin didn’t try to fly away. With the ease of a professional, she picked him and looked him over. She examined his broken wing.

I told her we named him Joaquin. She smiled and let me know the seagull might be female. I asked if I could take one last photo of him, and she agreed. Then she put Joaquin into a crate in the back of her truck.

Will we be able to find out if he’s okay?” I asked. She said I could call her in a week or so, but she wasn’t certain she would know either. She explained that she was really just the liaison between people like me and vets who could help and heal. With that she thanked me for what we did. We watched her drive away with our boy (or girl), Joaquin.

It’s been nearly a year since the night we saw Joaquin walking down the sidewalk alone in the dark, and we still talk about him. We never found out his actual fate. We hope his wing was fixed. We hope he was sent to a lovely rehabilitation facility. We hope he was released into the wild and is back to stealing food from beachgoers, like all happy seagulls do. We hope all of the best things for Joaquin. What we know is that he changed us. He softened our hearts. He showed my boys how to be kind to the animals around us. He made us remember that we can always help, even if we don’t know how.

Megan Chisum is a teacher and mom to two sons in Thousand Oaks, California. She loves to spend her free time watching her boys play baseball, reading, and spotting dolphins off the beaches of southern California. 

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