NAPLES — A crane lifted Brian Beckner and the baby red-tailed hawk slowly into the treetops and back home Monday behind the seventh hole at La Playa golf course in North Naples.
Beckner, the La Playa superintendent, tethered to the lift, stepped up on a railing and with outstretched arms and gloved hands delivered the hawk the final few inches back to its nest 85 feet off the ground.
A member of the golf course crew saw the hawk fall out of the nest Friday, possibly pushed by a sibling, as the two outgrow the nest where they're learning to fly, Beckner said.
"They'll fight in the nest, just like any other sibling," Beckner said.
Hawks have fledged young from the nest for five years, but last year, one of the offspring also ended up falling from the nest. It died on the way to the Conservancy wildlife rehabilitation clinic, Beckner said.
"This year is a completely different account," he said.
The hawk spent the weekend at the Conservancy, where clinic workers declared it to be in good condition, rehydrated it and fed it. By Monday, the hawk was ready to go home.
As the donated crane from United Rentals motored higher, golfers putted on the green below while others sat in their golf carts with faces, smart phones and video cameras turned skyward.
"This is spectacular," said La Playa owner Steve Lockwood, who looked on with his wife, Fran. "You want alligators. You want hawks. You want all the natural stuff (on a golf course) you can get and you want to protect it. Hopefully this works."
With the crane nearing the nest, an adult hawk flew off, leaving the other young hawk in the nest shrilly squawking. Within minutes of the rescued hawk's return, the adult hawk was back at the nest feeding them. That's a good sign, wildlife rehabilitation specialist Jessica Bender said.
"There should not be a problem at all (with the bird reacclimating to the nest)," she said.
Beckner gave a thumbs up as he returned to the ground, carrying only the towel and black box that held the bird on the way up.