Ryan Jensen is used to helping stranded motorists. The former Marine who is also an artist often stops when he sees people in need. But a recent encounter involved a different kind of traveler.
Jensen was driving along a highway in Arcata, California, earlier this month when he saw a young woman who needed help.
"I was just driving along, looking for a place to paint and I see a girl parked on the side of the road with a bird sticking out of the front of her car and I decided to turn around and try to help her," Jensen tells MNN. "I had to see if the bird was OK."
Jensen pulled over and calmly assessed the situation, realizing that a red-tailed hawk had collided with Lynzee DeSantis's grill while she was driving down the road. The bird was alive but panicking.
Fortunately, Jensen has experience with birds and knew how to handle them.
"I rescued birds in the past — birds with fishing lines stuck in their throats, birds that have flown into windows. I have a soft spot for birds for sure," he says. As a child, he says, he drew birds obsessively and had many books on birds of prey. He once even found a hawk with a broken wing and took it in until it healed.
While DeSantis filmed the rescue, Jensen worked at freeing the hawk. He went to his car, hoping to find a towel he could use to cover the bird to calm it, but only found a hat. At one point, he used a paintbrush to gently pry the bird's head out from the car's grill. He was aware that the highly stressed bird could turn around and nail him with its sharp beak when freed, but he wasn't worried, he says.
"I knew the bird was under a lot of stress, so my main priority was to get the bird out. That took precedence at the time. I wasn't too concerned about my safety. I knew if I held it behind the wing and wrapped it in a towel, it couldn't turn around and bite me."
Although the nail-biting process only took about four minutes, it seems like an eternity on the video. But after the hawk was freed, the bird seemed stunned for a moment before flying away.
Jensen shrugs it off.
"I stop all the time when people are stuck on the side of the road. That's the kind of guy I am," he says. "I would like to see the world take care of its own a little bit better and help each other out."