It was a seal release that went swimmingly.
Birdie, a gray seal pup who was rescued April 17 in Far Rockaway, Queens, returned to her natural home Saturday morning during a release event under the Ponquogue Bridge in Hampton Bays.
The event was organized by the Riverhead Foundation, which nursed Birdie back to health after she arrived suffering from a swollen flipper and respiratory congestion.
The Riverhead Foundation is located within the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center in Riverhead. Rob DiGiovanni, the foundation's executive director and senior biologist, was pleased with the public turnout, which he said attracted locals from as far as Brooklyn and even included vacationers from Iowa.
He was especially happy with the circumstances around Birdie's recovery. He said a young girl by the name of Madison raised more than $400 to "adopt" Birdie by telling attendees of her birthday party to support the foundation in lieu of gifts.
"That's the most important part of what we do, to see children supporting our environment and what we do," DiGiovanni said.
Prior to the release, the foundation gave a presentation to everyone who attended about the organization's mission.
"We also point out to them that these are protected animals, so it’s important to stay at least 50 yards away from them while they’re in the wild," he added.
DiGiovanni encouraged the public to attend future releases.
"She went back into the water, she swam away, she’s back in her environment, so you would have to think she’s happy about that," he said. "I think the public was definitely happy to see her back in the water. It was a very worthwhile experience."