“I noticed a bird struggling and being swept by the waves. It was moving and struggling to get back on its feet and the waves kept pushing the bird in and out,” Rebba said. “I thought it was a regular beach bird from a distance, but when I got closer it was something I never saw before in my life.”
The male Surf Scoter, a sea duck that is nicknamed “old skunkhead,” is not commonly seen in Ocean Beach because it’s pelagic, but is not a rare bird. Compared to most Northern American sea ducks, the Surf Scoter breeds exclusively in North America, mostly in Northern Canada and Alaska. Then, they take different migration routes to spend the winter in more temperate environments.
Rebba took photos of the bird and then asked members of the Facebook group Social Ocean Beach how he could help it. After a few minutes, he saw the message from Knysna Leigh that San Diego Humane Society was being informed and they were on their way.
“We stood there and cautioned surfers, runners, dog walkers to go around the bird until we got help,” Rebba said. “After 15 minutes, I saw San Diego Humane Society vehicle pull into the parking lot and then the officer come over, who was none other than Knysna Leigh.
“[Leigh] got the box prepared, put her gloves on, and picked up the bird with the dry towel, and put him safely in their box,” Rebba said.
Leigh brought the sea duck to SeaWorld Bird Rescue for rehabilitation. “I’m told that the bird is emaciated, but in guarded condition,” said SeaWorld spokesperson Terry Kelly.
“It was a great experience and I was glad I got the opportunity to help in the rescue of this unique bird. It was a great way to start the week,” Rebba said.