Voice for the Voiceless

By Gretchen Lieff   |   August 12, 2021
A double-crested cormorant was rescued from Butterfly Beach

The double-crested cormorant, not a particularly lovable animal. But don’t tell that to the more than two dozen concerned and compassionate people who called the SB Wildlife Center from Butterfly Beach Tuesday evening and then the following morning.

The record number of calls about a large gangly black bird started with Montecito resident Daniel Feinberg, “There’s something wrong with a black shorebird on Butterfly Beach,” he said. Dan’s regular morning beach run came to a screeching halt when he spotted the bird. “He can’t fly and there’s something wrong with his leg — he’s frantically flapping his wings. He needs help.”

Ashley Plante lives in Carpinteria, but works as a preschool teacher in Goleta. She called from her daily Butterfly walk: “There’s something wrong with his little foot — I think he’s thirsty and he’s getting hot.” 

“There’s lots of dogs on the beach… A couple of them are getting close to a big black bird that can’t walk or fly. Can you please come help?” asked Cindy Rivera, who sounds frantic.

Calls continued to pour into the Center as I dial volunteer Susan Petty, who never hesitates.

“Morning Sue… Lots and lots of calls about a Cormorant in trouble at Butterfly.”

“I’m on it.”

An hour later a breathless Susan checks back: “I’ve been up and down the beach and no bird. Darn it.”

And then it happens… The other rescue line is ringing and it’s Victoria with news that gives me goosebumps, “I’ve got an injured cormorant in my garage on Golf Road in Montecito. My husband and I saw him down on Butterfly… We rushed back home to get a box and towel and went back to scoop him up. He’s big and very active. But he’s ok. Can somebody come get him?”

Susan is dispatched to Victoria’s home and in a short time the cormorant is safely at the Center being treated for dehydration and a badly injured leg.


Later in the day I wonder about all those people down at Butterfly, who took the time to care and to call. Usually calls come in one, or maybe two, at a time when an animal is in trouble and needs rescue. But in this case, a community reached out to help.

“I’ve been walking Butterfly for several months now since COVID, and I’ve met a lot of great people,” said Ashley, who moved here last year.

People are people: We can speak our needs and our minds — we are able to ask for help. 

Animals can’t speak.

They are voiceless. 

And we are here to listen and watch and to be their voices.

Thank you to the caring people of Butterfly Beach, whoever you are, a double-crested cormorant is alive and well because of you.


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