A few weeks ago, Winter Harbor lobsterman Jacob Knowles was out on the water when he and his crew spotted something moving in the ocean. It wasn’t a creature meant to be in water, however — it was a very wet and cold little finch, helplessly flapping about and on the verge of drowning.
Bangor Daily News birding columnist Bob Duchesne said that though the little bird was certainly bedraggled, making identification difficult, he nevertheless thinks it’s a female American Goldfinch.
Knowles, a fifth-generation lobsterman, fished the errant bird out of the water and brought it aboard his boat, filming the encounter the entire time and later posting it on TikTok. The video has since exploded on the social media platform, amassing 6 million views and counting, and garnering Knowles 165,000 new followers.
In the video, Knowles can be seen bringing the bird inside the boat, gently placing it next to the heater, and later feeding it potato chips and giving it water out of a soda bottle cap. After a little while, the bird perked up, eventually perching on Knowles’ head and finger. He let it go as they reached the shore, saying goodbye to his “little buddy.”
Knowles said in the video that when the winds turn northerly, little birds can get blown offshore and find themselves tossed in the water, their feathers too damp to fly.
Knowles’ TikTok features many videos of his life on the water, including his encounters with lots of animals — unlike a goldfinch — that belong in the ocean, like this “gnarly” monkfish.
Knowles is also running a contest this week to celebrate reaching more than 100,000 followers, in which he will ship five live lobsters to five winners anywhere in the U.S. — other than Hawaii — who like, comment and follow his page.
He’s not the first Maine lobsterman to go viral on social media. Stonington lobsterman Leroy Weed earlier this year became the star of a series of videos produced by the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries. Weed’s YouTube series, “Ask Leroy,” has garnered thousands of views over the summer and fall — despite the fact that Weed, 79, says he doesn’t have the internet and doesn’t care to, either.