The Pine Cone's third story of the week

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Quick-thinking motorists save hawk stranded on Highway 1

By CHRIS COUNTS

Published: July 17, 2009

NOBODY IS quite sure how a red-shouldered hawk ended up in the middle of a Monterey Peninsula freeway last week, but thanks to the quick reactions of three motorists, the bird is presumably back where it belongs, flying high above Pebble Beach, Carmel Valley or the Big Sur Coast.

The hawk’s misadventure apparently began sometime during the afternoon of July 9, moments before Carmel Valley resident Frank Koucky saw the bird as he traveled south along Highway 1 near the Munras exit in Monterey.

“I was driving just past Del Monte Shopping Center, when I saw the hawk right in the road,” Koucky recalled. “I couldn’t tell if he’d been hit by a car. One of his wings was folded over and he was flopping around quite a bit. Other motorists were swerving in an effort to avoid him.”

Thinking quickly, Koucky pulled over, turned on his emergency lights and backed up a short distance along the shoulder to get as close as he could to the bird. Meanwhile, the driver of a Comcast truck blocked a lane of traffic to prevent the hawk from being run over by passing motorists. And another driver, watching the events unfold, blocked the onramp with his car, giving Koucky just enough cover to make a mad dash for the bird.

“I’ve handled raptors before, so I grabbed a T-shirt and I jumped through traffic,” said Koucky, who was traveling with his two sons, Jordan, 17, and Morgan, 10. “I threw the T-shirt over the hawk, and once his head was covered, he was safe and quiet. Then I got him into the car.”

Kousky contacted the SPCA Wildlife Center while his boys took turns holding the hawk.

“He was a beautiful bird, and he was completely alert,” Kousky added.

While the hawk seemed a bit banged up from his apparent crash-landing on the pavement, he was well enough to be released the next day.

“It looks like he made a real hard landing,” said Rosanna Layton, wildlife center supervisor. “He had some superficial scratches, probably from hitting the ground. He was a young adult, so maybe he needs a little more practice.”

According to Layton, the wildlife center takes in about 2,500 animals a year, roughly half of which are birds. She also said if anyone sees a bird in distress, they shouldn’t hesitate to callthe wildlife center at (831) 373-2631, ext. 227.