*Bird Attack At 120 Feet Up*
One day this spring we were down in the bottom of South Carolina on the coast doing some cellular telephone tower work. One of the sites was a monopole.
Two of us made the climb up to 120’ and rigged the pole. To rig means set up a load line so that the ground crew can hoist up tools and parts for us. Rigging has other meanings in tower work, but for this purpose it was just a load line. The person with me had about 2 months on the job.
At about 80’ there was a mesh deck with a hatch. I popped up through it and continued to 120’. The rope was with me and going through the hole. At 120’ I rigged a pulley to a bracket and then sent the end of the rope back to the ground. I then got out on the T-arm and had the ground crew hoist up a bucket of tools. The kid with me was still on the pole and was nervous about getting out on this T-arm with me. These antennas were mounted about 5’ off the side of the pole. I didn’t push him, I told him when he was ready to come on out.
Inner brackets of the T-arm
We had been up there maybe 10 minutes. There was enough time to get tools up there and for me to start removing weatherproofing.
Then all hell broke loose. I was standing on the 2” diameter pipe out there working and paying attention to my work and my other climber yelled “HOLY F&(K!!” and then started getting excited and panicking. I turned toward him and asked WTF was going on. He was all worked up and said that a bird had just swooped me with its talons out. I never heard it, I never saw it. It came between me and a mesh deck about 10’ above my head!!! When I started looking around I saw the bird coming in for another swoop. Oh crap, I do not want to be here. He’s jabbering that he wants to go down and questioning if he (company owner who was on site) would let us go down. I replied, I don’t care, go to the ground, go NOW! He was all but frozen there. I yelled at him 3 or 4 times to get down. Once he got himself together he asked “What about you?” I told him don’t worry about me, just get yourself on the ground. I was concerned about him plus the fact of when I was ready to descend I didn’t want him in the way since I would be hauling butt.
The guys on the ground including the company owner saw what was happening and started yelling on the radio for us to get down. The bird was identified as an Osprey and you don’t want to mess with it.
So there I was with a BIG Osprey swooping in on me and nowhere to run. I got on the radio and told the ground guys I was going to de-rig the tower. They thought I was nuts. I worked my way in to the pole and attached to one of the climbing pegs. I figured this was the safest place. Out on the arms I had absolutely no protection. At least hugging the pole the bird would have to get a good shot at me w/o hitting the pole.
I sent the tools back to the ground and told them to keep the end of the rope and tie it off. One of them got on the radio in a panic (why were they panicking, they were safe) telling me we’d get the rope snapped down. Uhhh… no that won’t happen because it’s coming up through the deck at 80’. So he’s telling me how we can get the rope back down. I started yelling at him telling him to get off the friggin’ radio and listen to me, which he finally did. I got on the radio and told them keep the end, do NOT send it back up to me, I will bring it back to the ground. I told them to keep an eye on the bird and yell when it was beginning another swoop. This would free me up to pay attention to what I was doing. He got back on the radio telling me the rope (1/2” diameter) would be too heavy for me yada yada, so once again I yelled back to the ground for him to get off the radio. I then got back on the radio and told them to do what I say and I can handle it. The only thing I wanted to be hearing was when the bird was getting ready for a swoop. This was the quickest way for me to get back on the ground again. So they finally did. Because of my tower experience I was 100% confident in descending with a double rope.
Meanwhile the bird was still swooping me and pulling off about 6’ away. I would throw my arm out and holler trying to make myself as big and intimidating as possible. I descended to the ground in probably 60 seconds. I was boogying right along, with my cable grab attached of course.
Once I was back on the ground and everything had calmed down, my other climber told me the bird missed me by maybe 2 or 3 feet on its first swoop. That’s a bit too close for comfort. Everybody was inquiring if I was all right. I wasn’t even shook up. With everything I’ve been through that wasn’t too bad. It could’ve easily killed me or at least seriously injured me yes, but getting freaked out isn’t going to fix anything.
No matter how bad the situation “Fear is not the enemy, panic is the enemy” Fear will not get you killed, panicking will.
So I’ll chock it up as bird 1, me 0.
All materials at this site not otherwise credited are Copyright © 1996 - 2008 Trip Williams. All rights reserved. May be reproduced for personal use only. Use of any material contained herein is subject to stated terms or written permission.