SOUTH PORTLAND – The young osprey popped his head up out of the cardboard box Friday and quickly spread his wings to fly home.
“For goodness sake, don’t bump into anything,” said Nat Clifford of Cape Elizabeth. “Great wing span. Can you still see him? I lost him.”
Two weeks ago, the osprey attempted what was likely his first flight and landed, in the middle of the night, on the deck of the Acadian, an Irving Oil tanker docked at the Citgo Petroleum/Irving Oil terminal in South Portland.
Richard Small, the terminal operator who was on duty, worked relentlessly to find someone to rescue the seabird before the tanker was scheduled to ship out, at 4 that morning.
The tanker’s captain and crew protected the bird from falling off the deck into the water below.
They finally got in touch with Louise Poppema of Cumberland, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who worked with the crew to get the osprey safely off the tanker.
She said the bird likely tried to fly from its nest to a crane on the tanker and fumbled on the landing.
The osprey escaped serious injury, and X-rays showed it had no broken bones. Its light-colored feathers indicate that it’s a young bird.
“Nothing was physically wrong with the bird. He was probably startled out of his nest too soon and flubbed the landing and scared himself,” Poppema said.
The osprey was taken to Avian Haven, a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation center in Freedom, where a week passed before the bird tried to fly.
“We assumed the bird was banged up,” said Diane Winn, executive director of the rehabilitation center. “This week, he started flying more and more. Yesterday, he was zipping back and forth in one of our largest cages and we knew he was ready.”
Clifford, a volunteer for Avian, helped transport the osprey back to the Fore River for its release on Friday.
Bill Sousa, manager of the terminal, praised the crew members and Small, the terminal operator, for handling an unfamiliar situation and protecting the bird from harm.
“Richard did a great job for is,” Sousa said. “It’s a fantastic thing. This is what we do. We are very conscious about our environmental responsibilities.”

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